Text: Marko Kelahaara
The skills shortage is currently hitting our newsfeeds from all sides. Even this autumn, there has been a growing message from the business community that companies simply do not have enough skilled workers. Sometimes it’s nurses, sometimes it’s coders, sometimes it’s civil engineers. The continuing shortage of skills seems to be affecting more and more sectors and is not limited by geography. Perhaps most worryingly, the situation is not necessarily getting any better. The combination of a shrinking working-age population and persistently low birth rates will have various ramifications far into the future.
According to a report published by the Technology Industries of Finland in September, the sector will need 130 000 new skilled workers within ten years to fill the gap created by business growth and retirements. Around 75% of companies responding to a business survey published a little earlier by the Central Chamber of Commerce (in Finnish) felt there was an acute shortage of skilled labour, and almost exactly the same number saw the need for recruitment only increasing over the next 2 to 3 years. Around two out of three companies felt that the availability of skilled labour was a constraint on their growth and business development. Such figures suggest that, if the brakes were applied for a while during the COVID-19 pandemic, the companies are now back in full swing.
It is clear that the challenge at hand must be tackled with a wide range of instruments. However, I would highlight the better use of the potential of international talents living in Finland as one of the essential means. For example, there are currently around 20 000 international degree students in Finland, and were the government to achieve its goals, this number would multiply by the year 2030. We are talking about the young top talents in their fields who have already decided to make Finland their new home. For them, attraction has done its job, now we need retention. And the best way to hold on to these talents is to offer them enough relevant job opportunities.
The UNICOM (Uniting Companies and International University Talents) project, which was launched in spring 2021, also aims to create concrete links between highly skilled international talents and the private sector. The aim of the project is to find international doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers from the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi for industry placement positions lasting a few months in local SMEs in the Turku region. The needs of the companies will be prioritised, and in order to meet them, we will look for the talent that best matches the company. The aim is to get to know each other, side by side, with a low threshold. The best-case scenario is that things work so well that a longer-term partnership is formed.
This article was originally published on November 11, 2021 on the Turku Chamber of Commerce blog in Finnish.