International experts to regional cities

Finland needs more international experts because the number of working-age people is decreasing. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland, the number of people working will decrease without immigration, which affects both the economic dependency ratio and the fiscal sustainability gap. MicroENTRE is participating in the SEUTUKAUPUNKIrekry project, led by Yrityssalo Oy, which promotes international recruitment and the attractiveness of labor-shortage sectors in regional cities.
kansainväliset nuoret poseeraavat rivissä

In Finland, more and more people are moving to the big cities. Population growth is taking place primarily in the largest cities and their surrounding municipalities. While the number of people speaking domestic languages in Finland has decreased since 2014, the number of people speaking foreign languages has quadrupled in this century. Population growth is thus entirely on the shoulders of immigration.

The majority of people speaking foreign languages also move to the capital region. Established networks, services and entertainment of large cities and broader labor markets attract both domestic and foreign working-age populations. According to a study by the Association of Finnish Municipalities, most municipalities are losing population, and there is a shortage of skilled labor in many sectors. This slows the growth and development of companies.

In the SEUTUKAUPUNKIrekry project solutions are sought for the labor shortage in regional cities in different sectors. Regional cities are the centers of their economic areas, but not official regional centers. The suburban city network extends nationwide from Kemijärvi to Raasepori and includes 57 cities. In suburban cities, there are over one million people, or about 15% of Finland's workforce. There is a shortage of experts in many sectors in the suburban city network, which the project aims to eliminate.

According to the the Association of Finnish Municipalities, only four regional cities had a net migration gain during 2017-2020. Migration loss and lack of workforce availability together pose a threat to many municipalities. If companies cannot find employees, they may see their future brighter in another operating environment and be forced to move. Growth that is taking place now or even maintaining existing operations may become an insurmountable obstacle. Therefore, suburban cities should invest in attracting and retaining international experts. The employment of internationally trained experts in regional cities and their educational institutions is also economically reasonable.

In the SEUTUKAUPUNKIrekry project, this demand is met, among other things, by developing a service package for international students that helps them adapt and settle in their study city in the long term. This model, which increases the attractiveness of regional cities, makes all city services related to studies and their advancement, work life, and career development, as well as leisure services easily accessible to students. The new model, whose name is still under development, brings together all services necessary for building a fulfilling life from the perspective of the student and future employee in regional cities. The goal is that, after completing their studies, the professional in their field can smoothly transition into working life in a city that they know inside and out and feel a sense of belonging to.

The main themes - studies, work life, leisure time - are divided into three phases in the model that describe the progress of studies chronologically. These phases are Advancement of Studies, the Main Study Phase, and the Final Study Phase and Graduation. The model offers appropriate services for the student at each stage easily and effortlessly. Services that can be highlighted as examples include mentoring programs at institutions (studies), entrepreneurship courses (work life), and sports and cultural services (leisure time). Each main theme includes several different services and models of action, the details of which are currently under development.
It is important to inform international students of the opportunities for work life and successful leisure time for their integration. Through the international student integration path in the SEUTUKAUPUNKIrekry project, the attractiveness of suburban cities increases both before and after studies. The goal is to launch the model in June 2023 and implement it in suburban cities during the fall semester.

The project is financed by the Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia with funding from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland.

Writer: Markus Rytinki, Project Researcher, University of Oulu, Kerttu Saalasti Institute, MicroENTRE Micro-entrepreneurship Center.