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Migrants to Finland should have better pre-work training

Finland's foreign workforce does not always arrive in the country with sufficient training. Practical skills can be gained vocationally, but it takes time, finds a University of Tampere study.

Image: Jan Hynnä / Yle

The doctoral study confirmed that when it comes to employment-based immigration, trainers and employers should always take into account the person as a whole, considering their wishes and feelings.

Parella Torrabadella Alba is a qualified Spanish nurse. However, in Finland, her competencies only allow her to work as a practicum nurse in health centre wards. This is quite a usual situation for foreigners working here, due to the strict language proficiency requirements for registered nurses.

Alba had been working on her language skills in Spain and has now spent half a year brushing up in Finland. Mastering the vocabulary and pronunciation is no easy task.  

“It’s difficult to remember everything. Kotiin - kotona, kahville, kahvila, kahvin,” Alba recites, then laughs heartily. A sense of humour and body language help her through a lot of the time.

Working methods also differ a lot between countries, explains Alba. For example, in Spain they tend to use intravenous treatment more often, she claims, while in Finland tablets seem to be more commonly used.

Training solutions often chosen for the wrong reasons

Master of Philosophy Pirjo Raunio has been researching training for immigrants as part of her doctoral studies. When various EU-funded projects seek employees, prior to relocating, language training is often purchased from educational institutions and private firms. Very often, the price of the training is the only factor considered.

Invitations to tender are extended, with the cheapest usually the most successful, regardless of the content or quality of the training.

“I would hope that people are not just seen as pawns, or merely in terms of fulfilling Finnish needs: in Finland we need workers, so we seek them out from other places,” says Raunio. “However, those who plan to move here think for themselves, of their families and their future. They have dreams, hopes and needs.”

Not just numbers

Raunio’s study shows that there is no point viewing employment-based immigration purely in terms of economic benefits. The newcomer must be able to enjoy themselves in the new country and get the most out of the workplace for things to run smoothly.

According to Raunio, employers should take on a more active role in the training of their new employees. The ideal situation would be that an employer is aware of the trainee’s background and level of training and can tailor educational materials towards more practical preparation for the job.

Job specific vocabulary and phrases and training material that contains real life scenarios, for example, would see employees better prepared for the job once they arrive.

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