"Language is not a problem when you don’t make it a problem" – EK encourages organizations to hire international students

The most important thing EK learnt from having an international student trainee was that the language barrier is not as difficult to overcome as companies think. EK’s Mikko Vieltojärvi says international students bring fresh ideas and should be hired in Finland. For Anna Bogdan, EK’s traineeship was very valuable.

To remain competitive, Finland needs to attract and retain the best international talent to its workforce. The University of Helsinki is educating the brightest young minds from around the world, however many international students struggle to find work in Finland after graduation.

To combat this challenge, students are able to take part in traineeships alongside their studies. However, despite the opportunity for organisations to receive a 1 800e subsidy per trainee, even securing a traineeship can be a challenge for international students.

Anna Bogdan, however, is one of the lucky ones. After moving to Finland in 2019 to complete a Master’s in Global Politics and Communications, Anna started a three-month traineeship with the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK- Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto) in May 2021. Her story and the challenges she faced in finding work in Finland are typical of many of our international students.

The University of Helsinki is attracting the brightest international talent to Finland

Every year the University of Helsinki receives over 6 500 applications from 150 countries to study its International Master’s Programmes, however only 500 of the very best international students are accepted onto our programmes. Therefore if companies are looking for international talent, international students from the University of Helsinki are a great place to start.

Anna is a great representation of the outstanding international students we have at the University of Helsinki. Prior to coming to the university, Anna completed a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy at one of the top universities in the United States, Princeton University.

Like many of our students, when Anna started her studies at the University of Helsinki, she believed it was essential to complete a traineeship with an organisation in Finland in order to improve her future career prospects.

– I decided to apply for a traineeship as I wanted to build my professional working experience in Finland before applying for jobs here. Coming from a foreign country, I knew it was really important to learn more about Finland’s work culture, grow my professional networks and apply my expertise in a Finnish context.

Based on Anna’s expertise, you might think it was a relatively easy process to find a traineeship in Finland. However despite their experience and expertise, international students face significant barriers when looking for traineeships or work in Finland.

Finland wants international talent, but international students can’t find work

As Anna explained,

– I know a lot of international students who wanted to work in Finland but weren’t able to secure traineeships or jobs, so they had to leave the country.

Every year companies in Finland are therefore missing out on top international talents who can offer different perspectives and lived experience from outside of Finland, which could really help them to innovate and develop their work.

Thankfully for Anna, after months of applying, she was able to secure a traineeship with the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) as their first international staff member.

– When I found out I had been offered the traineeship I was so excited.

– Over the past three months I’ve been part of EK’s Competencies and Digitalisation Team and supporting their StayInFinland Campaign, which works with companies to highlight the talent of international students in Finland and promotes the recruitment of international students in Finland.

For EK, the reason for specifically recruiting an international student trainee was clear. As Senior Advisor at EK Mikko Vieltojärvi explained,

– As a Finnish speaking organisation and as part of our StayInFinland Campaign, we wanted to learn how to integrate a non-Finnish speaker into our community and then share our experiences with our member companies and other organisations.

Language is not as big of a barrier as companies think

Whilst the lack of Finnish language skills is often explained as one of the reasons why companies don’t hire international talent, as Mikko explained, EK discovered from their experience with Anna that this is not as big of a barrier as companies often think.

– The most important thing that we learnt from having Anna as our international student trainee was that the language barrier is not that much of a problem after all. Yes it required work from us, but it was definitely worth it!

– As a company, you don’t need to translate everything or change the language of your whole organisation into English to hire your first international student trainee.”

What is important however, is to adapt an international student trainee’s tasks and working environment accordingly, so they can succeed and fully support your organisation. As Mikko explained, these adaptations don’t need to be significant.

– For example, EK’s working language is Finnish but we changed the meeting language of our team into English for the summer. Even though most the documents and materials that we were dealing with were in Finnish, we discussed on those in English so that Anna could follow what was going on and participate the discussion.

Traineeships can help international students to succeed in Finland

Reflecting on her time with EK, completing a traineeship with a Finnish company has had a clear impact on Anna.

– As a result of the traineeship I feel much more connected to Finnish business and society. I’ve learnt a lot and I have more professional contacts who I can talk to get advice from in the future. I’m now applying for full-time jobs and I really hope I’ll be able to secure a long term position in Finland.

Whilst the situation for international students in Finland is slowly improving, more can be achieved through collaboration between universities and external organisations, to help international students secure traineeships and jobs in Finland.

As Anna explained,

– From my work with EK and the university’s careers services, we know so many companies are interested in hiring international talent, but are unsure of how to take the first steps in that process. This is where I think EK, the University of Helsinki’s programmes and international students can help.

Interested in internationalisation? Recruit an International Student Trainee!

Usually lasting 2-3 months, traineeships with international students are a fantastic low-risk way for companies to try their hand at internationalisation and understand how they can benefit from our international students’ expertise. Furthermore, through our Traineeship Subsidy, companies are also eligible to receive up to 1800 euros per student trainee to cover the costs associated to the traineeship.

Reflecting on their experience of recruiting Anna as an international student trainee, Mikko said

– I would definitely recommend every organization to consider hiring international students! We had nothing but good experiences with working with Anna as our trainee. Language is not a problem when you don’t make it a problem. International students are young and talented persons who have fresh ideas and dreams of building their life in Finland. There are no reasons why not to hire them!

Offering advice to other organisations considering recruiting an international student trainee, Mikko said

– An important feature of a successful traineeship is having meaningful tasks to complete. Therefore when thinking about recruiting an international student trainee, it is important to dedicate enough time to planning the tasks that you would like the trainee to do. However once you recruit a trainee, it is also important to be ready to adapt and support the trainee whenever needed.

If your organisation is interested in recruiting an international student trainee, the JobTeaser portal brings together companies with our students and graduates who are looking for work. By creating a company profile and creating a job advert in English you can specifically target international students at the University of Helsinki and meet your talent needs.

By hiring a student trainee, you can help international students to find long term employment in Finland and change their life forever.

Join our international students, as they help to create a fairer, more prosperous tomorrow – in Finland, in their home countries, and across the world.

Read more about hiring international student trainees here.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support our international students, our team is here to help.

Careers Services- Marika Jokioja marika.jokioja@helsinki.fi

Support International Students Campaign Overall- Adam Pratchett adam.pratchett@helsinki.fi

Join us and help international students to succeed in Finland

To solve the world’s biggest challenges, we need to bring the best international minds together. However many international students face additional barriers that limit their chances of success. With your support, we can break down the barriers international students face and help them to thrive during and after their time at university.

This is how you can help:

  1. Donate to the Global Scholarship Fund.
  2. Mentor our students.
  3. Recruit a student trainee.
  4. Commission a Master's Thesis.
  5. Hire our students.

Read more about how you can help