International students finds difficult to find employment in Finland – mostly because of the language barrier but also because they lack of networks and opportunities in the local companies. There are about 20 000 international foreign Higher education (HEI) students in Finland and according to Faktaa Express (1A/2016). Finland wants to increase this number. Many HEI has established different activities to support learning Finnish language, networking with locals and finding a job – such as language clubs, friend family activity and hackathons where students can show their skills in multidisciplinary projects. These activities are important to give better understanding of the Finnish culture and business.
What helps international students to employ in Finland? Company representatives often say the students can work in English or in their mother tongue, but they need to understand at least the basics of Finnish and be willing to learn more. Being able to speak Finnish helps students to participate in the social events such as coffee breaks. HEIs also receives feedback that the foreign students should learn the Finnish business culture while they study; it would lower the step to employ international students.
What is job mentoring?
How to improve the transition to Finnish working life for international students? In South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk) we established a job mentor programme in which Finnish students help international students to understand better the Finnish society and working life.
Job mentoring is more like peer learning rather than mentoring. During the programme students first get to know each other. After getting familiar with backgrounds, they start to talk about their work experience in more detailed level. Students can share their CV’s and cover letters and think how they can express themselves better e.g. through practicing to make a video of themselves. Together they can improve their application letters and build up a LinkedIn profile. This programme not only helps international students, but gives Finnish students a chance to get perspective; place to improve language skills, motivation to self-development and valuable networks around the world.
The first job mentoring first pilot was in spring 2017 and after having positive feedback we decided to continue testing and developing the programme in autumn 2017. Why not to invite alumni and local entrepreneurs to become mentors to our students!
Project manager Anna Ollanketo
South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences – Xamk