Finland is emerging as a destination for international students seeking top-quality higher education opportunities. With a good reputation in education, the country is drawing diverse cohorts of students from various geographies and cultures. It is crucial to recognize and address the unique challenges faced by these students, particularly in launching their careers post-graduation. Supporting international students in their career development not only enhances their personal success but also contributes to the broader goals of fostering diversity, cultural exchange, and global innovation.
The importance of international workforce
Diversity in the workforce, global networking and enhancing competence are some of the key reasons why nations and employers are developing strategies to attract international workforce. Students often possess a blend of competencies equipped with cultural insights, linguistic abilities, and diverse educational backgrounds, which can significantly contribute to foster competitiveness creativity and innovation.
By nature of their backgrounds and experiences, international students develop extensive global networks during their education. These connections span across continents and can prove invaluable in establishing international collaborations and partnerships. These connections lead to increased cross-cultural understanding and cooperation, contributing to a more interconnected and harmonious global society.
Having a diverse workforce plays a crucial role in promoting cultural competence in the workplace. Employers benefit from multicultural employees who can understand and appreciate distinct cultural nuances and can be valuable assets in promoting intercultural communication and collaboration.
Having an integrated international workforce has also economic contributions to society. International students bring specialized skills and knowledge back to their home countries or choose to stay and contribute to the host country’s workforce. In either case, facilitating the career success of international students helps create a skilled and dynamic workforce, which in turn fuels economic growth and innovation.
The case of Finland
Finland has recognised the potential of international students coming over to Finland. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, for example, states that the availability of talent is one of the biggest obstacles to growth and internationalisation in companies and other organisations. Actions are taken to improve the number of international students staying in Finland with the help of Talent Boost action program coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In the Talent Boost program, the overall goal is to make Finland more attractive to international talent and to channel the expertise of international talent already in Finland to support the growth and internationalization of companies and innovation activities. This includes many smaller sub-projects such as Hei Life, Unicom, Mesh and Digimesh, all with slightly different methods and outputs but with the same main goal. (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment)
However, the journey of these international students in Finland presents multiple challenges concerning integration and career prospects. Language appears to be a significant obstacle (Moniheli 2023), and more traditional industries and organisations are still shy to employ international labour in large numbers. Ministry of Education and Culture reports (2021) that 59 % of international graduates found employment in Finland in 2022. The ratio was less than 50 % in 2021. Now the goal of the government is to raise the figure to 75 % by 2030.
The Integra project: helping international students boost their careers
Numerous services are available for the disposal of international students at Haaga-Helia to boost their careers. However, a closer look at the dropout rates in tuition fee paying students and their explanations of why reveals the fact that most students do not utilise these services, especially outside the Pasila Campus.
We recognised the need for a more effective support regime with a low threshold. We launched a two-year Integra project in January 2024 to help international students better integrate, advance in their studies, and get employed faster. The project is financed by Helia Säätiö.
The main objective of the project is to develop a sustainable support system with the active involvement of the students themselves. We utilise the existing mentoring and social integration services and test new methods ideated through the involvement of students and other stakeholders. The project also aims to establish effective communication channels, such as newsletters, websites, and social media platforms, to keep international students informed about relevant updates and events.
Ministry of Education and Culture. 2021. Education policy report of the Finnish Government.
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment International expertise and labour.
Moniheli. 2023. Työelämä.
Editing: Marianne Wegmüller