International students from Degree Programme of Business Management and Degree Programme of Hospitality Management at Laurea UAS are sharing their stories on their experiences in finding a job in closer to the level of their competence in Finland. This article is jointly written as part of the study implementation in Improving Your Study Skills and Finding Your Strengths in 2023.
In job advertisements qualification requirements are unrealistically high and scary not taking into consideration the sensible competence limitations of the students.
Immigrants constitute an increasingly integral part of Finland. By 2022, 508 000 people of the Finnish population was foreign-born. (Statistics Finland: Persons with Foreign Background.) The number of students with an immigrant or foreign background, who were not Finnish citizens, at Finnish higher education has increased significantly. The number having more than doubled in a decade, between 2010 (8 500 students) and 2020 (17 500 students) is indicating that Finland is known for its high-quality education and stability. (Finnish National Agency for Education.)
We know that Finland needs immigrant students to keep Finland going now and in the future.
Nowadays, the labour market in Finland demands a well-educated and skilled labour force. Higher education (HE) can provide a valuable opportunity for immigrants to participate more effectively in the labour market in Finland and help them in integration to the society. Immigration is crucial for business development and economic recovery where population loss, labour retirement, and shrinking labour force are problems. In Finland pull factors include high standard of living, education infrastructure for children and adult, safety, and security. Understanding the whole of life approach also to family wellbeing is important. Push factors include the increased inflation rate and cost of living, changed political atmosphere in Europe and there for Finland’s geographic location in Eastern Europe, as Russia’s neighbour. (Kurronen & Pyykkönen 2021; Metelinen 2023.)
I would like to have a job that allows me to combine family life and working life in a balanced way since my wife is very busy at work thus working late hours at night while I take care of the basic need of the kids. Studying in Laurea has helped me greatly in knowing and understanding some of my biggest professional weaknesses of the past.
Language Barriers in Companies and in Job Portals
The barriers appear in the application process, in job description and in job interviews. Firstly, a foreign name in the application can be a barrier for a student not having a chance to get an invitation to the job interview. It feels a fail. Secondly, the competence level requirement of Finnish language skills is a huge barrier. Due to lack of Finnish skills, the work opportunities are often cleaning and maintenance, mainly after hours, where spoken and written Finnish can’t be actively improved. Furthermore, the competence level of English skills can be insufficient in companies here in Finland. There for, there can be a situation, where there is not a commonly spoken and understood language in the company. Thirdly, in job portals, the description of the professional hands-on competence requirement for the open vacancy can be beyond real, and often in Finnish only. Due to different obstacles to learn and adapt oneself to Finnish working life rules can take time.
During my nine years in the cleaning industry, I developed essential work skills. Adapting to different environments, schedules, and tasks became natural to me. Problem-solving became a strength as I tackled challenges and found innovative solutions. Adapting to a new culture wasn’t easy, as Finland has its own values like personal space, punctuality, and equality.
The new government of Finland in 2023 is planning to tighten the criteria for people to study and work, or seek for asylum, in here. (Government Programme, Publication 2023:60; 10.3. Migration and Integration Policy). Students are a bit worried about the change in the political atmosphere in Finland. It increases the feeling of economic insecurity. Regardless that, there is hope for the future, graduating in HE, working and bringing up and educating their families in here.
The Finnish market job is rather difficult to enter for foreigners that don’t speak the language, but I am confident I will build a good life in Finland as soon as my kids are a bit older, and I can put into working practice all these new strengths that I have developed during my studies in Laurea. For the moment I am just grateful about the education I am getting in Finland and for being able to live in a great and safe country for my family.
Students Have Prior Learning and Working Life Competences
Identifying and assessing immigrants’ gained competences at HE is a tool for improving the studying conditions. Recognition of prior learning and experiences (RPL) of international students can help them recognize and demonstrate their competences and focus on their remaining studies. Most importantly, RPL can increase the openness of higher education and make access more flexible for alternative admission routes, shorten education time and enhance employability. (Kanervo, Kuosmanen & Kuparinen 2023, 46-50; Hukkanen, Kuosmanen & Kymäläinen 2023).
Highly educated adult immigrant students often have prior education, and work experience on different fields. Sadly, there are companies who do not recognize students’ professional competences and can’t provide them with work close to their skills. It can be a question of workplaces not knowing about immigrants’ different skills and abilities in relation to the working life requirements in Finland.
I have done my Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Banking, in Bangladesh in 2018. I wanted to try something which matches my personality, so I got admission into Hospitality Management and Service Design and moved to Finland to pursue my goal for higher education along with the dream to explore a different side of the world.
I am a degree graduate from Delhi University, I have an expertise in customer-relations and service, and I am a professional swimmer. And, I have a long professional career in hospitality management in a global company.
Development Ideas to Enhance Employment Opportunities
As the number of immigrant students increases, we hope that researchers in HE will conduct further studies to understand immigrant students’ educational adaptation experiences. The HE has a critical role in promoting social, academic, and economic integration to Finland. As students of foreign origin are enrolled in higher education, they require an educational response tailored to their needs.
Key Partners Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
The integration of immigrant students in HE to become active members of Finnish society requires cooperation between education organizers, with local labour market and business, and municipalities. Integration.fi website is promoting the inclusion to the society in their Partnership Programme, that brings together operators and increases cooperation. (Integration.) The key working life partners and HE could jointly become pioneers in building a programme where diversity of students and work force, including a concept of improving professional Finnish language, is seen as vital part of the recruitment process. For example, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, and Laurea’s Career Services, have developed a vast network with key partners. (Laurea Työelämäpalvelut.)
Develop dedicated career services tailored to the needs of international students. Provide information and resources on work permits, job search strategies, networking opportunities, and cultural considerations in the local job market. This support can assist international students in their career development and increase their employability.
Supporting Immigrant Students in HE
Given the importance of higher education for immigrant students and the potential obstacles to success in academic careers that immigrant students may face, is highly important. SIMHE focus on the factors that hinder immigrants’ university enrolment and integration, immigrant student’s needs and their performance compared with those of native students. (Finnish National Agency for Education. SIMHE.)
Inclusive education is one way to carry out equity and recognition of diversity in HE, and that in the workplaces. The recommended aim is to support studies of marginalized groups and prevent them from dropping out. The aim is that every student can find a steady workplace relevant to their competence. (Kanervo, Kuosmanen & Kuparinen 2023, 45–62; Hukkanen, Kuosmanen & Kymäläinen 2023; ToFIE.eu.)