Promoting the Employability and Careers of International Talents

Last year, the Board of the University of Turku accepted an encouraging International Programme for the years 2021-2030. One of our very ambitious goals is that every international student and doctoral candidate graduating from the University of Turku (UTU) is employed especially also in Finland into a position that corresponds to their degree and advances their research career.

In order to ensure the employability of our graduates and alumni, we at the University of Turku aim to launch an International Talent Programme which is developed and run closely with the regional business life, international talents themselves and other relevant actors.

Currently, we are piloting new processes and support mechanisms. We are also developing the tools that already exist to form a matrix of different but related services which our international students, doctoral candidates or post docs can use to build a strong and interesting career.

During the piloting process, we have already learned that there are several slightly different international talent programmes across the country. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the different interesting opportunities which are partly formed by the nature of local businesses.

Clearly, there is a very strong will to improve the opportunities for international talents educated by the Finnish higher Education Institutions to become part of the workforce and innovation actors in Finland.

Let me highlight a few aspects of the current processes in Turku region for you.

Industry placements at companies

Industry placements at companies for doctoral candidates and post-docs, Workplace coaching for international talents, Summer Trainee Campaigns for Master level students and support services for companies – all these opportunities are piloted by the ESR Course towards Finland – growth and competitiveness in growth centres from international talent funded UNICOM – Uniting Companies and International Talents project. UNICOM, coordinated by the University of Turku, responds to the lack of talents in companies located in Southwest Finland in pre-selected fields in technology, health care and cleantech.

The lack of talents in research, product development and business has been noticed particularly in the fields of robotics and automation, electric transportation and battery technology, diagnostics and biosciences as well as ICT. These needs could be met by the currently underutilised group of international doctoral candidates, postdoctoral researchers, and master’s students. Are there enough positions available in the local health sector or enough interested talents for the technology sector?

This is what we at UTU together with Åbo Akademi University (ÅA) and Turku Business Region seek to find out while also creating low-threshold joint opportunities for companies, international postdocs and doctoral candidates. For example, there are currently 15 companies in Southwest Finland assessing the applications of 26 UTU and ÅA doctoral candidates for 17 industrial placements this summer. Our international alumni and their cultural knowledge and expertise seem to be real assets especially for companies planning on exporting their products overseas.

Lowering the threshold for the next step

Industry placements and new tools to widen networks with the local innovation infrastructure are also meant to lower the threshold to find a company partner to, for example, participate in the national Post Docs in Companies, PoDoCo programme. This joint initiative of Finnish universities, industry and foundations aims to promote academic research supporting long-term competitiveness and strategic renewal of Finnish companies, and the employment of young doctors in industry. The call for PoDoCo grants is ongoing and for a researcher the programme offers a research period followed by a targeted research period lasting altogether 1-2 years.

Another similar funding call is Tandem Industry Academia by the Finnish Research Impact Foundation. This ongoing call is looking for 2-year projects in which a postdoc will work one year at an academic organisation and another in an industrial partner’s organisation.

Self-study and Career coaching

The University of Turku Career Services offer the possibility to apply for a short-term UNICOM Working Life Coach – programme and My Finnish Career Coaching.  International university degree students, doctoral candidates, PhD’s and post docs hear about working, career planning, job search and integration in Southwest Finland from highly educated and successful international alumni of Turku universities. In addition, the coaching and the programme offer an excellent opportunity to network as well as to get to know the area’s employers and working life.

The next application period for both the coaching and the programme is open from March 14 to April 3. We have also created a self-study package “How to Work in Finland”. The online self-study materials focus on identifying individual skills and ways to find a job in Finland.

Career after or together with academic life

Did you know that besides studying and doing research Turku is also a great place to start a company? Setting up a business in Finland and Turku is quick and easy and international companies can access the same benefits as Finnish companies. Turku Business Region, Boost Turku and other organisations offer services for those interested in entrepreneurial career.

Currently, we at UTU are also offering a special staff mentoring for international staff and post docs who wish to either make a career outside the campus or work closely with Finnish industry later in their career. This initiative is supported by the Ministry of Education funded HEI LIFE project (Higher Education Institutions’ Support for International Academics and Staff – Living, Integration, Family and Employment in Finland). Starting from mid-March, UTU together with International Working Women of Finland and Turku Talent Hub organisations will offer virtual Empower Wednesday sessions. These sessions are aimed at those interested in networking with businesses as well as enhancing the impact of their research and recognising and utilising academic skills in business. Now is the time to register also for those sessions!

Together with an international focus group, a guide book on guided peer group counselling is being finalised to support the Finnish HEIs to improve their internal staff training for international talents. Part of this task is to remodel the training for doctoral thesis supervisors on business collaboration in doctoral education. In addition, the alumni, working life and the young international talents of UTU are tied closer together by our international alumni activities as well as our extensive mentoring programme.

Turku Talent Hub reaching out

Finnish and other language courses are already offered at different levels for students, staff and researchers at UTU. Finnish or Swedish language skills will not be compulsory for all jobs in the future but a willingness to learn local languages might be a game changer for many prospective employees. SIMHE (Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education in Finland) offers guidance and counselling for emigrants interested in academic studies in Finland. Some of those services are open also for our university community. UTU SIMHE services include guidance and counselling for migrants who wish to know more about Finnish higher education and academic study options or those who are already making progress with their applications.

The University of Turku also collaborates closely with regional partners such as employment offices and integration training organisers, especially with the brand-new International House Turku (IHTurku) concept. IHTurku helps the newly-arrived in Turku to get started and settled in smoothly. The City of Turku offers you guidance on finding a job, networking, Finnish courses, finding a place to live and getting to know the services of the City. Do you need to know more about child care of free time activities for you and your family? Then check out the services offered by the City which are naturally also provided for those already settled in the campus life.

It will take some time and solutions to practical obstacles to make the services meet the demand but we will get there together as the Turku Talent hub – that is the plan!

This text was originally published at the University of Turku blog section here:

Irinja Paakkanen
Head of International Relations, Partnerships and Strategic Engagement
University of Turku