Finland and Helsinki rank in the top 10 in several studies measuring the quality of life and people’s satisfaction in their lives (e.g. Helliwell & al. 2019, Eurostat 2019, Kisi 2019). What was your reason to get interested in Finland? Would you like to build your life into the happiest country in the world?
This is what Finland and the Helsinki region are aiming at now. The message from the Finnish government and the cities is clearer than ever: we want you, international talents, and we want you to find an interesting job here, enjoying the good work-life balance with us.
To make this happen, we in higher education institutions must help our international degree students to get better connected with Finnish business and industry and our culture already during the studies. This means support for career development, cultural adjustment and learning Finnish in an integral manner, starting from day one of the studies.
Finland for life – why not?
The darkest days of December might not be the most encouraging time to discuss settling into Finland on a permanent basis. However, the fact is that Finland has a great deal to offer for international experts.
Not only the happiest country in the world (Helliwell & al. 2019), Finland is good for business too: it ranks in the top 3 in several key indicators for successful business life and professional development, including e.g. the best business environment in the world and the best skills of the workforce (Business Finland 2019a). Also expatriates place Finland high in several categories for a successful stay, particularly for family life and health and well-being (#1) as well as quality of life (#8) (Expat Insider 2019).
The Helsinki region does not fall far behind in the rankings either. It is valued for e.g. its start-up scene, intelligent communities, sustainability and investment environment (Helsinki Smart Region 2019).
If Finland starts sounding tempting, the first step after graduating is to get a job here. And that is where the challenge lies.
Improvements needed for better employability
The hard reality is that international graduates do face challenges in finding a job in Finland. The key barriers for employment tend to be the lack of professional networks and insufficient Finnish language skills. Also, there is a mismatch of communication channels: employers do not find international graduates, and international graduates do not find the vacancies. (Ministry of Education and Culture 2019.)
Employment rates one year after graduation indeed indicate that students of international backgrounds face more challenges in getting employed. In universities of applied sciences, 40% of graduates whose nationality is other than Finland are fully employed, whereas for graduates of Finnish nationality the same percentage stands at 80%. In the case of master’s degrees from universities, the respective percentages are 45% and 85%. (Vipunen 2019.)
Finland needs international talents
For Finland the hard reality is that our population is one of the fastest ageing in the world. We already now face a lack of competent workforce in several sectors. Finland and the Helsinki region need to attract more international students and experts and also help them build a career here (Ministry of Education and Culture 2019, Laakso 2019).
However, the support provided by Finnish authorities, services and higher education institutions is still far from ideal. We need to improve the processes as a whole, in collaboration – starting from the point of application to studies.
The Finnish government and ministries have introduced several measures to improve the situation in the past few years. For example, the Talent Boost programme provides networks, information and financial support for companies (Business Finland 2019b). In addition, the current Government Programme (2019) sets numerous targets aiming at improving international degree students’ employment. Also, the Ministry of Education and Culture (2019) has compiled a report listing practical recommendations to different stakeholders.
We have identified the challenging points; now we urgently need to start taking the concrete steps to develop the pathway to the Finnish job market.
Joint efforts for finding the solutions
Metropolia has started to develop the needed support models in two projects. The Talent Boost AIKO funded project International Talents Accelerating Growth gathers several key stakeholders in the capital region together to work on solutions: the cities of Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa, Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, Helsinki Marketing and Helsinki Business Hub. Also six institutions are part of the project: University of Helsinki, Aalto University, Hanken School of Economics and Haaga-Helia, Laurea and Metropolia universities of applied sciences. The city of Helsinki coordinates the project.
The project aims at developing the attraction and settling in of international talents in the Helsinki region and improving their employability. Specific measures are targeted at international degree students, e.g. matching and recruitment events and a mentoring program. A joint web portal and systematic business and industry collaboration models will also be developed for getting the talents and employers of the region better connected.
In another project, Metropolia develops a support model for international degree students’ career development and Finnish language learning. The goal is to build an integral career path, ultimately aiming at international students’ employment to Finland. The project is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the results will be shared with Finnish higher education institutions.
Set the targets for your professional development
All in all, a great deal of improvements still needs to be made by all parties involved, but the systematic work has started at different levels of Finnish society. What you, international talents, can do in the meanwhile, is to take a look at your language learning and network building already now.
Developing your professional competence requires a goal-oriented and active approach from you as well. Are you where you want to be with your professional competence? How can you build networks and what can your institution help you with? And stay tuned for the upcoming events and developments.
If we succeed together, it will be a win-win situation for everybody. An inspiring career development path for you is something that also inspires us in higher education. As the end result, we hope to hear: “Finland for life? Absolutely!”
Marika Antikainen, Project Manager at SIMHE services of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences ().
Business Finland 2019a. Finland’s rankings. https://www.businessfinland.fi/en/do-business-with-finland/invest-in-finland/why-invest-in-finland/finland-rankings/. Read on 28 November.
Business Finland 2019b. Talent Boost Finland. https://www.businessfinland.fi/en/for-finnish-customers/services/programs/talent-boost-finland/ Read on 28 November.
Eurostat 2019. How satisfied are people with their lives? https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/en/web/products-press-releases/-/3-07112019-AP European Commission. Published on 7 November 2019.
Expat Insider 2019. Expat Insider 2019: The Year of the Hidden Champions. https://www.internations.org/expat-insider/ Internations. Read on 28 November 2019.
Government Programme 2019. Inclusive and competent Finland – a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society. https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/rinne/government-programme Publications of the Finnish Government 2019:25. Published on 6 June 2019.
Helliwell, J., Layard, R. & Sachs, J. 2019. World Happiness Report. https://worldhappiness.report/ New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Helsinki Smart Region 2019. Why Finland and Why the Helsinki Region? https://helsinkismart.fi/about/top-rankings/ Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. Read on 28 November 2019.
Kisi 2019. Cities for the Best Work-Life Balance 2019. https://www.getkisi.com/work-life-balance Read on 28 November 2019.
Laakso, Seppo 2019. Ennakointikamari: Osaavan työvoiman kysyntä ja tarjonta Uudellamaalla. 9/2019. https://ennakointikamari.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Osaavan-ty%C3%B6voiman-kysynt%C3%A4-ja-tarjonta-Uudellamaalla-2019.pdf. Read on 28 November.
Ministry of Education and Culture 2019. Kansainvälisten korkeakouluopiskelijoiden maahantulo ja integroituminen sujuvaksi yhteistyöllä. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja 2019:31. https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/handle/10024/161788. Published on 16 September 2019.
Vipunen 2019. Vipunen – Education Statistics Finland. https://vipunen.fi/en-gb/. Ministry of Education and Culture and Finnish National Agency for Education. Read on 28 November 2019.