The Kilkas project aims at promoting employment of foreign University of Applied Sciences (UAS) students. An important milestone to pursue a career in Finland after graduation for a foreign student are the practical trainings they do during their studies. And finding a practical training in Finland has been especially challenging for most of these students. The reasons for that are multiple: limited professional network, limited mastery of Finnish language, hesitancy of some Finnish companies to hire international students to name few of these challenges.

As a consequence we see many of our international students finding their practical trainings in other European countries such as Germany, France and Spain despite the majority of them don’t have a professional network nor speak the language of these countries. They simply reply to job offers they find on the internet, pass an interview and then do their practical trainings there. Many of these students will then continue their studies and/or professional life outside Finland despite completing their bachelor degrees here. One issue many have when searching for a practical training in Finland is the difficulty of getting an interview. After trying for some time finding a practical training in Finland, they start extending their search to other countries and seize other opportunities.

Yet there are many former foreign students who have a successful career in Finland. We will investigate what their stories are in order to understand the factors (like how did they get a 1st interview) which allowed them to pursue a career in Finland. This will bring up best practices we can share and implement within the kilkas project. We aim at developing new ways for our international students and our companies to meet and benefit from each other’s. This will hopefully open more opportunities for practical training.

Being hesitant to hire a student from China or Vietnam, even for a practical training, is natural. It is not an easy step to take for a company, especially SME’s. There are and there will always be challenges. We see these international students in our jobs on an everyday day basis. Some of them are brilliants and easy to work with, others are asking questions all the time to make sure they do the right thing, and some seem to be very shy and do not say much. So not so different from their Finnish counterparts after all.

We have been talking about the importance innovation and thinking outside the box for quite some time now. Having international staff with different views, opinions, ideas brings heterogeneity and add value to a business. It seems our European partners have well understood that and do not hesitate to offer practical trainings to foreign students and hire staff with a wider diversity of background and origin.

There are over 20 000 international students in Finland who are developing competences and skills that can benefit Finnish companies in many ways. A bit more than half work in Finland after getting their degree from a Finnish University of Applied Sciences (for bachelors and masters). (CIMO, 2014) Everybody agrees to say that this number should be higher. We strongly believe that our foreign students can bring a lot of added value for Finnish companies and society. That is something we will improve through this kilkas project.

Nicolas Le Grand
Turku University of Applied Sciences