Photo: Satu Haavisto

New Competence - the view of international job seekers

There are more than 20,000 foreign degree students studying at Finnish higher education institutions, completing traineeships, and thereafter looking for jobs. Additionally, thousands of students come directly from foreign higher education and vocational institutions to do traineeships and work placements in Finland every year.

The Finnish National Agency for Education (until 2016, CIMO) together with Owal Group implemented a study and influence project titled New Competence for SMEs (Small and Medium size Enterprises). Finnish SMEs were asked if they utilise these international talents, how they do that and why, and what obstacles there are for their utilisation.

Most companies that had hired an international talent saw numerous advantages, not only for their business, but also for work place development. Many companies felt that they would be interested, but did not have enough information of how to work with or even approach people from other cultures. Some also felt they needed support to solve language problems and in giving suitable tasks.

So where are these international talents hiding? What is their interest in working in Finland or in SMEs? And what do they think about language problems - is it a problem?

Coming up: a series of stories

Oppimo team continued the project by giving voice to international students. The team members interviewed 9 foreigners who have experience in looking for work in Finland. How did they end up living here? How do they see the Finnish employment market? How do they see their future in Finland?

It is always hard to approach a job market in a foreign country. According to Sitra’s statistics, only 20% of positions are filled through open calls. This is causing difficulties for natives, and can be almost impossible for foreigners.

From interviews it was seen that access to networks, often in order to get employed, is hidden in the labyrinth of the society. Anyways, networking is the key to everything. Networks make you feel like home. Some of the international talents that were interviewed also commented that the language is not a problem. Finnish people master the English language, and the companies that want to increase markets globally need English speakers.

Finnish National Agency for Education has now started together with Oppimo a social media campaign as a part of the New Competence project. The main purpose is to increase the visibility of talented international students and graduates in Finland. The stories of these talented people will be published on the Finnish National Agency for Education Facebook page ( Stay tuned for some #newcompetence!

Text: Sini Makkonen, Kata Pääkkönen, Daria Tarkhova and Reetta Yrttiaho
Oppimo Team Members

Oppimo gathers together university students from various backgrounds and improves their working life skills through peer learning and project work with companies and other organisations.