The movement for movement

How do you attract talent, and how do you enable talent? “It’s two branches of the same issue, working at the same time,” explains Marja Nyrhinen, whose job title, ‘City of Tampere coordinator of talent attraction and migration’ really says it all. “We have to strengthen the brand of Tampere and attract talent to companies working here.”

Tampere has worked for many years to attract international experts to settle and work there, work that it’s now backing up with a brand-new city strategy. According to the theory of ‘knowledge spillover,’ this is not just good for local companies, but for local employees as well, as knowledge begets knowledge.

Tradition of trade

You have to hear what’s happening in the world

The city puts its attitude down to its long tradition as a city of trade, more specifically of export. “For strong business with global customers,” says Nyrhinen, “you have to hear what’s happening in the world – people coming to work from other countries always helps.” It’s more recent history as the site of Nokia research centres has also had a hand in forming this attitude. “If you want innovation, having people with different backgrounds helps a lot.”

This attitude is backed up by research. For example, a study by McKinsey found that from a pool of more than 300, the most ethnically and racially diverse companies were 35% more likely to have higher profits than other companies in their field.

The city wants to grow its economy by sharing these insights with employers, and even has “a person who is contacting employers and trying to help them understand how much they would benefit from having internationals and skilled internationals working for them.” This is sometimes the first time that business owners have encountered these ideas.

Talent on display

“You would be surprised how much you still meet people that don’t understand that having internationals is an opportunity instead of a threat. So there is a lot of opinion building in this part,” Nyrhinen says. One resource for this opinion building is the ‘Talent CV Gallery’. Here, prospective employees create profiles and post job interviews with themselves to attract potential employers.

One of the pools of international talent that Tampere is tapping into has already been lured to the city – the international students that come to study in Tampere’s universities. The city, in collaboration with the universities, is helping students to get recruited, preparing innovative ways to convince them to stay long term. A programme called ‘Hidden Gems’ is also in place to help find jobs for the spouses of experts moving to Tampere to work at the university.

In migration, gender is an important point to consider, and the city also works with organisations that facilitate gender segregated socialising, from regular meeting groups to sports training.

The other side of the coin

The other side of this coin is seeing that if migrants in Tampere do not have their potentials recognised and an opportunity to work, then not only the migrants, but society as a whole will suffer. “We need to change the attitudes of the company and the employers’ side and get more skills for the migrants who are looking for a job,” Nyrhinen says.

According to Nyrhinen, the Tampere Skills Centre is where the city works with migrants to give support and guidance for work and study to migrants, “our central aim is to help them speed up their path to employment.” One of the programmes in operation at the centre connects young migrant entrepreneurs with retired local entrepreneurs and students. It is inspired by a programme in Rotterdam that Tampere had the chance to adapt and adopt during the Eurocities project ‘Cities Grow’.

Personal coaching is a very effective way to unlock people’s skills, Nyrhinen says, “We are trying to find the skills that the person already has and then trying to work on those skills to get him or her forward. We give guidance in 18 different languages for any question you have in daily life, form permits, to housing, to employment. You can come with all kinds of papers, and someone can tell you in your own language what to do next.”

This skills centre is a new venture. Only a year old, it is a collaborative venture between the city, the city-run vocational service and the state owned labour office. This one-stop-shop approach means that “we can be more effective, so that people don’t have to go from one office to the other, they get all the services in the same place,” Nyrhinen explains.

Got skills?

When people from outside the EU arrive, they may not be in possession of their diplomas and certificates. If they are, the equivalence of these qualifications with similar European ones may not always be clear.

The vocational institute tries to find out where people stand in terms of education, from basic tests in language and mathematics, to skills mapping based on people’s stated interest. Once the skill level is established, training is given to align the individual’s existing skills with the requirements of the local and national context.

Nyrhinen is proud of this process: “If somebody says, ‘I have been repairing cars in Iran,’ we ask a mechanic if he or she could test this person, and get to know if there are skills still needed. If somebody comes saying, I have been building houses in Morocco, we have to see what skills are still needed. If there are differences between houses in Morocco and Finland, you need to get that somewhere, plus the language training. Then you can go and start as a trainee in a workplace, if we can find one.”

This is largely for vocational labour. “We’re talking about vocations that don’t need so many licences. If you are talking about nurses, doctors, engineers, where you have to prove your knowledge, not just in practice but also in theory, it is much more difficult. If you have the certificates from another country then we can send them to the ministry of education to get it acknowledged.”

However, there are some exceptions, “we have had cases where we have had doctors from Afghanistan, they have had a training in Finland and also some tests, and got the acknowledgement that they can be doctors in Finland, but that’s a long path because you need the language skills, not just the professional skills.”

A lot of potential

When it comes to refugees, Nyrhinen says, people often fail to perceive the degree of skills and potential that new arrivals can be in possession of. “There is a lot of potential in that group. We’re not just talking about basic skills. You can have headmasters and teachers fleeing from their country who can be very fast learners and even help others who have been fleeing from the same county.”

Nyrhinen wishes that all Tampere’s other employers could have the same experience that she is enjoying in her department. “We have an employee from Namibia who started off here as a trainee and is now a coordinator. At the same time he is getting a second university degree in Sweden. There’s also a lady from Nepal who arrived only four years ago and already speaks Finnish fluently, as well as Nepalese, Hindi and English.” Being surrounded by such talent and enthusiasm is inspiring for her and her team.

The city is now getting started with another EU funded international Eurocities migration project, ‘CONNECTION’, in which it will pair up with Antwerp, Sofia and Madrid to explore migrant integration best practices. “What you always get from international cooperation,” says Nyrhinen, “is new ideas for your own work, even if you are acting as a role model.”

She sees cities and city cooperation as central for European integration. “There has always been discussion between the local and the national level. As we say at Eurocities ‘integration is always happening at the local level’ but we also have to have a say in what is happing at a national level and even an EU level. The local level is the expert in integration, and the experts need to be heard if there is going to be effective policy.”

However, despite the impressive position of Tampere on the international stage, Nyrhinen remains reticent about receiving praise. “It’s always an individual’s own responsibility, it’s not the city that has been successful here, ultimately it is up to the person themselves.” 

Anthony Colclough Eurocities Writer