Plenty of foreigners study in central Finland, but finding work can be difficult. At the university, career guidance is insufficient and the importance of language skills not emphasized enough.
Hungarian Agnes Stojcsics is still amazed. After seven years at the university of Jyväskylä, plenty of volunteer work and one internship, she has finally found work as the new secretary of international affairs at the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä.
For a while there, finding work seemed hopeless.
“All the time you heard that finding work here is impossible or foreigners”, Stojcsics says.
Actually, it is far from easy. The University of Jyväskylä educates hundreds of foreigners every year, but staying in the area after graduation can be tricky. Saara Kiesiläinen from the Employment office of central Finland admits that jobs are hard to come by.
Muru Linjala from the Career services of the University of Jyväskylä says that the region has payed special attention to the employment of foreigners in the past few years. The financial situation, however, makes things difficult.
The most common problem for foreigners looking for work is the Finnish language. Elina Isännäinen from the International office of the University of Jyväskylä thinks that language requirements can be used by employers as an easy excuse to disregard foreign job applicants.
According to an internal evaluation of the international master’s degree programmes at the University of Jyväskylä, foreign students often do not study enough Finnish. Even if a student would wish to take as many courses as possible, during the two-year master programmes there is rarely enough time to do extra courses.
In addition, the Finnish courses offered in Jyväskylä are often insufficient. Saara Kiesiläinen from the employment office says that the courses they organize cannot provide students with language skills at the level required at work.
Stojcsics finds the same problem in the courses provided by the university.
“It would be good to have courses that go even further”, Isännäinen agrees.
Student counselling is also insufficient in many programmes at the university. According to the internal evaluation of the international master’s degree programmes, the programmes at the university of Jyväskylä do not support their students enough with matters regarding work and career. Students are mainly instructed to turn to the university Career services, which do not provide actual career guidance.
Also Kiesiläinen is familiar with the situation.
“There are plenty of people who come to us and have no idea how job seeking or unemployment benefits work in Finland, she describes.
“I have long been worried about people who study here.”
For foreigners unable to speak Finnish, even finding out about vacancies can be difficult. Vacancies are listed on various web pages, and even in the few portals translated in English, the job announcements are often written in Finnish. In central Finland, there is only one English search portal, pointpotential.fi.
And even if the announcements can be found, foreigners often lack the networks required in Finland. Many jobs never end up on the job boards.
According to the internal evaluation of the international master’s degree programmes, more than 80 percent of foreign degree students consider staying in Finland after graduation either as a sure or a possible alternative.
Many who stay in central Finland take matters in their own hand. Sanna Kiuru from Tuhansien järvien uusyrityskeskus says that interest for entrepreneurship has risen significantly among foreigners in the past few years.
“Jyväskylä is very international with regard to entrepreneurship, she says.
Up to half of foreign entrepreneurs in Jyväskylä are highly educated.