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How should integration training evolve in the future? The import of labour is already a topical issue in many sectors in Finland, because our country needs to quickly increase the number of people of working age in order to keep society running.
According to an estimate by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, 2035 will be a critical year in terms of availability of labour.
The import of labour changes the requirements for integration training. The wave of immigration in 2015 brought many asylum seekers to Finland, but going forward, an increasing number of the new arrivals will be going straight into work. The integration requirements will change from an emphasis on applying for work to quickly learning the language and adapting to Finnish society. The current procedure is that the integration training that is offered to unemployed immigrants by the employment and economic development administration ends as soon as the participant finds employment.
But is a short integration course enough if and when a new arrival already has a job? In my vision, the integration training should continue despite and during employment. Of course, society’s responsibility ends here, but the immigrant could continue voluntary integration training with professional guidance. The integration process should also continue after the first, intensive phase for those immigrants who already have a job on arrival. This kind of long-term integration approach would support genuine integration, which studies suggest is a long process.
In cases of work-based immigration, as well as integration we must also pay attention to the family that moves with the employee and help them create a worthwhile future in Finland. The employee’s partner also needs a way to access language studies and eventually enter working life, while the children need daycare and school places. Therefore, integrating the employed adult is only one piece of the puzzle – we want the newcomers, who have been given a good start and who are working, to stay in Finland permanently.
I think it is important to acknowledge the different backgrounds of the people who move to Finland. At the moment it is often challenging for them to find work that matches the education and work experience gained in their country of origin. The further education opportunities that are offered to adult immigrants should support the use of existing skills and knowledge. For example, the ability of people with a university education to find work in their own field could be improved in different ways, because otherwise the skills they bring will be wasted.
As work-based immigration increases we will also need education paths to either complement the new arrivals’ skills, or to retrain them if their professional skills do not meet the requirements of Finnish working life. An immigrant’s first job in Finland might not be in their own field or match their long experience. Finding the first job here is still a big thing. Being able to work in a new language will motivate the employee, and it can be an empowering experience. This is the first step on a new career path in Finland.
This #ExpertsAtWork blog post was written by Kristel Kivisik, who has been working with integration training since the 90s and heads the immigration services at Spring House.