Foreign graduates can substitute for the shrinking working-age population in Finland

A Post graduate research student Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi at LAMK university investigated in research paper how to improve the employability of foreign immigrant graduates from Finnish higher institution. Based on his research findings, Mr Claret identified the factors and obstacles that hinder international graduates tapping from the shrinking labour force in Finland. Some of the factors identified include the lack of Finnish language skills, little or no strong professional network, insufficient knowledge of the culture of the host country, Lack of career guidance at higher education institutions and employers’ lukewarm approach towards recruiting immigrants graduates.  The study proposed different recommendations and approaches that mitigate these challenges if utilised.

Finland, a social welfare state with a population of about 5.5 million, is estimated to have a shortage of labour in the next decades as the working-age population between (15-64)  has been shrinking since 2011. This rapid decrease in labour has resulted in an increased in age-related public expenditure leading to low productivity and low investments in recent years. This recent challenge induces a sudden surge in interest on this subject; therefore, Researchers and policymakers have since launched a different inquiry and research to study this problem and to quickly identify the best approach and solution to maintain the stable and competitive economy of the Finnish state. 

Finland, in the last three decades, has a high number of immigrants migration. Majority of the migrants enter Finland either based on family reunion or as international students. Most of these international students complete their bachelors and master’s degree program in universities or universities of applied science in Finland.  The Survey result obtained during the study shows that the majority of the international students that arrived between 2016-2018 motivated to come to Finland either due to the free tuition school,  quality of education, access to English-taught program or based on family ties.   Upon graduation, the majority of the foreign graduates stated that if they would have gained employment that they prefer to remain in Finland because of the safety and stability of the country. Alas, the rate of unemployment of the foreign graduate in Finland is alarming. Hence, Most of the foreign graduates move to other countries where job opportunities are enormous.  The few remaining graduates can be classified as either gainfully employed, or pursuing further studies or engage in unprofessional jobs or have either become an entrepreneur.

The Finnish policy on the integration of immigrants is one of the vital policy of the Finnish state. As the population of immigrants increases and society becoming diverse, the Act promotes the need for the immigrants to acquire knowledge and skills that they need to live in society and working life. Information from the survey reveals that foreign graduates do not benefit from such integration programs. Hence, the majority of students often do not have the opportunity of benefiting from acquiring some of the relevant skills and knowledge needed to work in society after graduation, especially acquiring Finnish language skill.  Some foreign graduates made a personal effort, however, to acquire this language skill and yet unable to gain employment. The Finnish employers are yet to open up to embrace the full potentials of the foreign graduates, especially now that the working-age population is shrinking.

Unstructured interview conducted during this study captures the sentiments and feelings of both the employers, the policymakers and other relevant stakeholders. Although most of the employers interviewed noted that they had not developed any strategy to employ foreign graduates instead, they have always announced their open position through different channels and expect whoever is qualified to apply and amongst the essential requirement includes the fluency in the Finnish language in most organisation. In their experience, most qualified foreign graduates lack language skills needed. The study finds out also that some employers are still reluctant in employing international graduates for no particular reasons. Surprisingly, all employers interviewed expressed the values and benefit of having a multicultural working environment and the urgent need to tap on the wealth of knowledge of the foreign graduates. The hindrances and obstacles need a different approach and a total overhaul and change of policy and approach.

Accordingly, the universities and higher institutions have equally maintained that the quality of education offered in their universities is topnotch, and both the international students and the Finnish students receive regular training and skills relevant to their discipline and well equipped to engage in any job-related functions. The study, although discovers that the Finnish language skill taught in the universities is not sufficient enough to sustain one in a Finnish working environment.  However, the foreign graduates argued that perfecting the language can be possible in the workspace if the opportunity is available.

Hence, the need for policymakers to develop intervention plans that address this challenge cannot be overemphasised. The significance of the thesis becomes evident. Hence the outcome of the study is a presentation of framework, a recommendation and guidance that if followed, will assist in improving the employability of international graduates in Finland

Conceptual Framework for the employability of foreign graduates in the Finnish labour market

The central goal of this study is to present a recommended approach in the development of a conceptual framework for the employability of foreign graduates in Finland. 

  1. Strategy

Compulsory Finnish language: All the universities should change the program curriculum and course structure to ensure that foreign graduates who did not pass a certain level of Finnish language at the admission are required to follow a part of studying a compulsory Finnish language for one year before continuing his/her program or ensure there are a maximum number of Finnish courses infused in the program and ensure that the Finnish level required to function is acquired before graduating from the university.

Internship: To ensure graduates and undergraduates develop the necessary skills and experience required in the corresponding field. The universities should open a channel of collaboration and communication with employers and companies and take the responsibility of matching foreign graduates with similar companies as foreign graduates hardly find internship place by themselves.

Career guidance: The higher education institution in Finland should begin to get involved to ensure that foreign graduates are not left out, especially now the tuition fee is imposed. Career advice should be provided to foreign graduates regularly and the universities should organize job fairs to invite the employers to have the chance of relating face to face with foreign graduates and create possible employment possibilities. students need to will all necessary social, technical and professional skills that they need to be successfully employed after graduation

 Create Alumni and Professional network: Effort should be made the universities to ensure Alumni have a strong network to enable them to build a professional and social network that can enhance the possibilities of getting employment.

Integration plan:  Although integration plan exists, the policymakers should develop policies that will encourage the full participation of foreign graduates in the integration plan. The policies should also encourage employers and job creators to make available companies. There is a need to ensure that vocation and language skills and knowledge transferred in this is benefited by foreign graduates. The policy should also encourage foreign graduates to become entrepreneurs

Resident Permit: The policymakers should relax the immigration rules and ensure that foreign graduates can quickly obtain the relevant resident permit after graduation to search for a job or create one. 

Employers Awareness: Efforts are being made to educate the Finnish employers that the world is becoming international, and English is becoming more relevant. A such, they should open up to enriching their workforce with divergent cultural personnel’s who can bring more values and skills to their organisation.

Performance management: The government should ensure that there are ways to monitor the progress of the foreign graduates and employers engagement to avoid the neglect of foreign graduates to contribute to the economy.

In this study, we argue that high-skilled international graduate is desirable given its economic benefits, and that international student mobility is an essential vehicle of high-skilled immigration. Given the benefits of the inflows of international students, we evaluate the scope of higher education policies to facilitate such inflows. Using simple statistical methods and a purpose-made data set, we find that among these policies it is mainly the quality of higher education as well as the availability of programs with English as the language of instruction that drives inflows of international students. We argue that in the short-run policies should increase the number of programs with Finnish as the language of instruction as most companies are prone to employing only job seekers with strong Finnish language skills.

Conceptual Framework for the employability of foreign graduates in the Finnish labour market

Conceptual framework

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
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