Employers in Vaasa work together to support international spouses' career development

Each year, hundreds of international experts and students arrive in the Vaasa region, and very often they bring along their family members. It has become apparent that the well-being and employment of their spouses play a big part in convincing the newly arrived talents to stay in the region. To support their employability, the university piloted a career programme for spouses in strong collaboration with companies in the region.

Altogether 12 international spouses participated in the Career Club, eight-week intensive career development programme for Vaasa Spouse Programme members that ended in January. The pilot round was facilitated by experts from several organisations such as Wärtsilä, ABB, Danfoss, Startia, Hitachi Energy, Kempower, and Yes Communications. 

– We are grateful to all the collaborating companies and organisations that have joined us in this project. Together, we can help the newly arrived families find their place in the Vaasa region and bring employers and talented individuals together says Project Manager Lukumanu Iddrisu from the University of Vaasa.  

Gaining insights into the Finnish job market

– Through the career club, I have acquired a set of practical assets to build a stronger online presence, and be more prepared to navigate professional scenarios, says Ivonne Carlos, one of the participants.

For her, the most important outcomes have been enhancing her skills through workshops, gaining insights into the Finnish job market and understanding better the HR process and skills in demand.

Ivonne, originally from Mexico, moved to Vaasa with her family from the United States in 2020. She has a master’s degree in literature and 15 years of experience in the cultural and artistic field.

Demo CV review and interview session was held at Danfoss.

– It seemed important to me to better understand the work culture in Vaasa, see more closely the work options in the city and use the opportunity for networking, of course. One should always be learning things to be more prepared, Ivonne explains the reasons she joined the career club.

During the eight-week journey, participants have learned about working life in Finland, HR processes, entrepreneurship and personal branding. In addition, the career club included hands-on practical activities, such as a demo CV review and interview session and a project-based workshop.

– I really appreciated the session on career mapping and goal setting. It left me with a much clearer vision of where I want to go in my career. The Personal branding session gave me concrete and very useful tips to optimize my LinkedIn, which I have been doing. It also inspired me to look into online courses to learn more about it. And I cannot fail to mention the very good Demo CV review and interview session, that was really enriching and I learned new interesting things which I have successfully incorporated into my professional toolkit.

A second round of the successful pilot is already planned to take place in April 2024.

“The valuable skills international talents bring to the table must be harnessed”

Although Ivonne finds the career club useful for her career development, she also thinks a shift is needed in the Finnish job-market to improve her and other internationals' career possibilities here.

– It would be beneficial for employers to foster a more receptive atmosphere towards international professionals. Welcoming internationals with openness and willingness to leverage their diverse professional knowledge and experience would contribute significantly to the growth and success of both individuals and the city, creating a mutually rewarding scenario. The valuable skills international talents bring to the table must be harnessed.

Various employers from the Vaasa region already see the importance of supporting international talents and their families and show this by taking part in initiatives such as the Vaasa Spouse Programme. To the employers, the programme provides at least two significant benefits: Firstly, it helps the employers find potential employees from the pool of skilled international individuals already residing in the Vaasa region. Secondly, it helps those already employing international employees integrate them better in the Vaasa region.

HR Manager Heli Pakkanen thinks it is important to help international spouses create their own professional networks.

– For Wärtsilä, our diverse and multicultural work community is a major asset. In today’s world, many industries cannot ensure sufficient labour availability without immigration. Many of our experts have moved to Finland, including Vaasa, primarily because of the employment and career opportunities we offer. The employment of their spouses is highly important for both their general well-being and the durability of their employment. Huge potential can also be unlocked by tapping into the knowledge and expertise these spouses have previously acquired in their chosen field. Sometimes we cannot employ both spouses, but by taking part in the spouse programme, we hope to promote the work opportunities available at Wärtsilä and get in touch with new, motivated experts. By participating in this activity, we can also do our part in helping the spouses create their own professional networks. We want to get to know people possibly interested in our employment opportunities, plus share information about the local work culture, says HR Manager Heli Pakkanen from Wärtsilä.

Spouses visited Wärtsilä for a project-based workshop.

Vaasa Spouse Programme: social and professional networking

While newly arrived employees and students can integrate into the pre-existing social and professional networks of their workplace or school, their spouses usually have to create such networks from nothing. The Vaasa Spouse Programme was launched precisely to solve this problem, that is, to answer the spouses’ social and professional networking needs.

The programme is aimed at the spouses of international students and employees from all the higher education institutions and organisations in the Vaasa region. In February 2024, over 200 spouses have joined the Vaasa Spouse Programme. In addition to career-related activities, the programme includes social activities and family events.

The programme was created in collaboration with the City of Vaasa, the Talent Coastline Employment project, the Pohjanmaa regional office of the TE Services, and the ELY Centre.

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