It is a fact that many sectors would urgently need a greater number of skilled workers, and at the same time it is difficult for international skilled labour to find employment in Finland. One response to this situation is the national Talent Boost programme. In implementing the programme, the University of Jyväskylä is involved in building the Talent Hub ecosystem in the city. It is a local service model designed to enhance provision so that foreign-born people in the region can feel that they genuinely belong to Finnish society and are able to achieve their professional career goals in the region.

“The quality of life is high in Finland. Basic needs such as clean air and water, as well as education and health care, are available to everyone”, says Janaleh Välimäki whose roots are in the Philippines. She holds a Master of Science (Economics and Business Administration) degree from the University of Jyväskylä and is now working in an international company in Helsinki.

Milan Bratu, a Master-level student of Information Technology at JYU thinks along the same lines, and he also would like to stay at work in Finland after his graduation.

“Everything is so well organised, natural surroundings are nearby, and Finns are friendly and respectful”, says Bratu, who moved to Jyväskylä from the Netherlands in 2020.

Talent Boost programme promotes staying in Finland

Many of the foreign-born JYU students would like to stay in Finland, tells Marja-Leena Laakso, Vice Rector in charge of education.

Marja-Leena Laakso

Marja-Leena Laakso

“The stable and safe Finnish society and especially the equitable and high-quality education system are enormous assets. The biggest reasons for leaving have to do with one’s own or the spouse’s employment, and a crucial underlying factor is language proficiency”, Laakso states.

According to Laakso, support for students’ working life connections alongside with language proficiency and cultural skills and knowledge makes up an important service palette. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland and the Ministry of Education and Culture launched the Talent Boost programme in 2017 to enhance possibilities for international skilled labour in Finland. The related Talent Hub model is now being constructed and implemented in Jyväskylä and the Central Finland region.

Talent Boost aims at making Finland an internationally attractive place for working, studying, research, and investments. Another goal is that employers would be in a position and motivated to recruit, more than before, such international skilled labour whose expertise can enhance the internationalisation and innovative modernisation of Finnish organisations.

Talent Hub assembles and coordinates the services of regional providers

At the local level, the aims of Talent Boost are promoted by Talent Hub activities. This means cooperation between regional actors – such as agencies, educational institutions, and companies – in order to make Jyväskylä and Central Finland a more enticing place to come and stay.

While Finland is already an interesting and attractive place, opportunities for migrants need to be further clarified and developed. Foreign professionals want to know why Central Finland is worth settling in and what kind of career opportunities it could offer. In addition, combining family life with an international study or work career is a relevant issue for many, and services related to all aspects of life must be available in a clear and comprehensible way.

Michael Ormshaw

Michael Ormshaw

Talent Hub activities are coordinated by Project Manager Michael Ormshaw from the University of Jyväskylä. His task is to develop a uniform operational model – or ecosystem – inclusive of not only the JYU International Services, but also the relevant services of the city and regional agencies and organisations, in collaboration with industry bodies and businesses. By doing so, bringing the actors together as partners and stakeholders, and ensuring a comprehensive service model for the customers.

Currently, the University has its own suite of international services and support for students and staff, and this is mirrored in other organisations, institutions, and agencies in the city. In developing the Talent Hub service model, the key factor will be to bring these support services and initiatives together and align them in an efficient, accessible, and clear way, so that the services complement each other, and the service partners continue to work together in the long-term development and operation of the programme.

“Our objective is to make Jyväskylä a highly attractive place in the eyes of international experts and their families. A place to come for not only studies and research, but also for work, and a place to settle in and live, perhaps permanently. This also supports a larger cultural change of inclusivity, and broadening diversity in society, which leads to benefits for everybody in the region”, Ormshaw describes.

“Here you genuinely feel that everything and anything is possible.”

According to Ormshaw, it may not be greatly necessary to initially increase the services of the region. However, it is important to improve the visibility of what the various agencies and partners already have to offer, and to coordinate the current package of services available. Then, further collaborative development can take place to build upon the existing services, led by the needs and expectations of the international population in the region.

“Jyväskylä is already a very enticing and attractive place to come for studies, work, and living. This is a beautiful, peaceful, safe, and clean place; not too big nor too small, but also a young, dynamic, and innovative city full of vitality and opportunity. I find Jyväskylä is an inspiring place: here you genuinely feel that everything and anything is possible.”

The connection between education and working life needs to be reinforced

In higher education institutions, aspects of internationality are part of daily life and people of different nationalities study and work alongside each other every day, but the situation is different in other workplaces and wider Finnish society. Therefore, it is easy to come to Finland via the educational route but staying here after your studies are completed is difficult. In other words, we educate international professionals, but they do not have equal opportunities for employment and thus integration in Finnish society.

This calls for working on attitudes as well as basic services, since according to Vice Rector Laakso, employment may sometimes be hindered by attitudes toward experts coming from abroad. Therefore, education and training should support respect for cultural diversity and our skills to live and communicate in multicultural, multilingual communities. The threshold between academia and work life is lowered by means of the Talent Hub ecosystem as well, with close cooperation between different parties enhancing international students’ and researchers’ connections to the world of work and promoting their employment opportunities and their particular area of expertise.

“This takes the whole village to accomplish. The University of Jyväskylä has a lot to offer here and must therefore actively build connections to the surrounding society”, Laakso summarises.

“To attract and keep international professionals, we must offer an ecosystem in which they can be aspirational and realistically reach their goals. A place in which their knowledge and skills are valued, and where they feel secure that they are an accepted and appreciated part of Finnish society and workplaces”, Project Manager Ormshaw points out.

According to Ormshaw, the international diversification of the workplace is expected to increase innovation activities and internationalisation in organisations, which in turn would promote economic growth and investments in Finland, as well as improve Finland’s international position in long term.

Why Finland?

JYU alumna Janaleh Välimäki came originally to Finland for further studies in the field of marketing and business. Master-level studies at Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics offered her an interesting opportunity to live abroad and get networked internationally. Although the Finnish quality of life impressed her, an even more important thing to Välimäki was to find employment.

“The most important reason for me to stay in Finland was having a meaningful job. I was lucky as I could do small projects as well as my Master’s thesis at JYU in cooperation with some Finnish companies. Moreover, I got a trainee position related to my field, which eventually led to a permanent job”, Välimäki tells.

“The most important reason for me to stay in Finland was having a meaningful job.”

Talent Hub Project Manager Michael Ormshaw confirms the notion that staying in Finland often requires both financial security and a meaningful job, as it is not only about paying the bills, but work is also part of one’s identity – without appropriate and suitable work, an important part of a person’s identity is missing.

“By strengthening the connections between education and the corporate world, we can create clear channels and pathways to working life and possible careers in Central Finland. Evidence shows that providing meaningful workplace experience and opportunities as early as possible in the life of a newcomer to Finland enhances the work prospects for that individual in the long term”, he states.

British-born Ormshaw belongs also himself to the international experts group: He was in Finland as an exchange student in the beginning of the millennium and knew already back then that Finland would be his home in the future.

“Finland as a nation and society is in line with my own approach to life, my priorities, principles and values. When I add this to the beautiful nature and the annual cycle of the four seasons, there really is no better place to live. But, for a skilled professional, a rewarding and meaningful life here is only possible if work and career opportunities are available and match one’s vocational goals, aspirations, and professional requirements.”

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Talent Boost programme


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