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Google setting up tech training hub in Helsinki

Courses in digital skills will be offered to thousands of the city's unemployed as well as operators of SMEs.

Entrance to Google's server farm facility in Hamina, Finland. Image: Sasu Mäkinen / Lehtikuva

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori announced on Tuesday that he has signed an agreement with US tech giant Google's President of EMEA Business & Operations, Matt Brittin, to set up a technology educational centre in the city.

Vapaavuori said the shared goal is to get 10,000 unemployed residents, as well as small business operators, into the study programme.

"We're helping jobseekers and entrepreneurs in Helsinki to improve their digital skills. It can advance their careers and possibly make it easier for them to get jobs," he said.

The exact location of the planned education centre remains unclear, but Vapaavuori confirmed that it will be in the centre of the city.

Google will fund the educational effort, while the city's role will be promoting the various courses offered, setting up staff as well as determining who will be able to take part in the courses.

Google has trained 10 million people around the world at similar tech education centres in Europe, the Middle East and Africa over the past four years.

10m students so far

The company's project was first rolled out in Spain, a country with a large proportion of unemployed young people.

Brittin - one of Google's top executives and lead spokesperson for the company about digital skills in Europe - came to Helsinki for the announcement and said he's pleased with the results of the firm's educational efforts.

He said that 45 percent of those who'd taken Google courses had received promotions, founded new companies or expanded their existing businesses.

"Half of [those who took part] were women. In the tech sector the proportion of women is usually around 25 percent. This shows there's a demand," Brittin said.

"Finnish residents make purchases and manage their banking online, but small companies are still lagging in digitalisation," he said, noting that improved digital skills will help local firms grow.

Google employs some 300-400 people in Finland. The tech giant recently announced plans to invest 600 million euros at its server farm in Hamina, which Brittin said was one of the highest-quality data facilities in Europe.