Integration Evaluations For International Students Are A WIISE Decision

This article was originally published by Mark Wiltshear to accompany as an episode of the International Business from Finland podcast, on 5.5.2020. This was when the Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE) completed its first project, working with a group of international business students from SeAMK in Seinäjoki.



The International Business from Finland theme music was devised and created by Dodobones

Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship -hanke 2017-18

Mark Wiltshear sitting in a row, with other immigrant entrepreneurs, watching a man give a presentation.
Photo. Henna Leppinen, Suomen Yrittäjäopisto

In late-2018, I was approached by my friend, Jiuliano, to help him with the project he was running. Working on this project led further collaboration in an area in which I’ve developed a strong interest; helping other immigrants to Finland to network, settle and integrate into our new homeland. This is now developing into a potential new business venture, more of that at a later date.

Jiuliano was working with Suomen Yrittäjäopisto, managing the Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship project in our region, Etelä-Pohjanmaa. My work involved getting at least 100 immigrants in the area to complete a survey, then analyse the responses and present the results at the end of his project.

I completed the first part with a total of 102 responses (it would’ve been 103 but I forgot to do it myself!) and in analysing the results, a few clear themes became apparent

  • Only 4% currently identified their self as an entrepreneur
  • 62% said they were interested in starting their own business.
  • 70% said they ‘know nothing’, ‘know very little’, ‘need to know more’ or ‘don’t know what they need to know’

Something is preventing people with entrepreneurial skills from becoming active entrepreneurs in Finland. There is a lot of information about what to do and places from where to get that info. More could, however, be done to help people understand how to do it.

At the end of the project, I said to Jiuliano “It is clear what is required, but what is the next step? Who is going to DO something with this?” He replied simply “Maybe we do.”

So in early-2019, three of us, Jiuliano Prisada, Paul Fairchild and I started planning. How can we offer our experience, networks and knowledge as immigrant entrepreneurs to help others that have to moved to Finland for work, study or for family reasons. That is a wide selection of people, situations and experiences and we wanted to find a way to help all of them, if possible.

“The initial assessment offered by WIISE can be offered to immigrants in various situations: employees moving for work, families of migrating workers, international degree students and potential entrepreneurs.”

Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE)

The Conception of the Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE)

The Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration (1386/2010) emphasises the role of guidance and an integration evaluation as soon as the foreigner has moved to Finland. The persons eligible for an integration evaluation are foreigners who live in Finland: employees, graduate students, spouses and job seekers. The municipality organizes integration evaluations for immigrants who have lived in Finland less than three years and who are not registered at the employment office (TE-toimisto).

The integration evaluation is publicly-funded by KEHA-keskus (ELY-keskusten sekä TE-toimistojen kehittämis- ja hallintokeskus) and administered via Municipalities. You can read more about the alkukartoitus in Finnish or initial assessment in English. This is the starting point of our Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE). By carrying out an integration evaluation when someone moves to Etelä-Pohjanmaa, we create a personal action plan for each person, giving a checklist of suggestions, including activities and services whose goal is to help them integrate to the local community and settle into working life.

The Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE) Experience

Mark Wiltshear sitting around a low table coaching a young man and a young woman.
Photo: Nadia Haapanen TMI

The integration evaluations offered by WIISE is flexible enough to be offered to immigrants in various situations:

  • Employees moving for work within large companies
  • Families of these migrating workers – a happy homelife will help create a settled worklife
  • International students taking a full degree course (not short-term exchange)
  • International students at Aikuiskoulu (so long as they are not already a customer of the employment office (TE-toimisto)
  • Immigrants interested in becoming entrepreneurs

During the past five years, I have worked alongside several international degree students who are doing their compulsory work placement. By this time they are close to completing their degree and they are starting to consider ‘what’s next?’. During their studies, some have decided they want to stay in Finland; for the lifestyle, for a relationship etc. Having some guidance to prepare for life after school would be invaluable

Our process is tailored to each person or group and consists of:

  1. Individual initial interview
  2. Group workshop sessions
  3. Individual summary discussion
  4. Creating a personal integration plan

This will provide each person with a checklist of suggestions, activities and services whose goal is to help them, as a newcomer to life in Finland, to integrate to the local community and settle into working life.

Integration Evaluations: Putting The Theory Into Practice

In early-2020, the City of Seinäjoki had the vision to authorise a pilot programme. Where we could offer the integration evaluations to a group of International Business students from Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (SeAMK). This gave us an opportunity to put our ideas to practical effect. We visited SeAMK to introduce the concept to the students and we recruited 13 people to take part; male and female students from Vietnam, India, Iraq, Nepal and Bangladesh, who had been in Finland between 8 and 18 months. 

Over a period of four weeks, we held one-on-one and group meetings to help understand the individuals’ current situation and the areas they needed help in. At the end of this integration evaluation process, each person was given an individual action plan to help them prepare for life after studying. Things they could do NOW that would enable them to be more ready to work in Finland, to integrate into their local community and to learn more about their new homeland, so they can get more out of it.

Encouragingly, there are two distinct projects that have just started-up, both of which have aims that are aligned with WIISE:

  • The MONI-info service in Seinäjoki is an information service for immigrants, the perfect first point of contact area around now. We were very happy to involve Katja and Tanja from MONI-Info in the Integration Evaluations programme.
  • The Kokka kohti Etelä-Pohjanmaata project aims to improve immigrant employment in the Etelä-Pohjanmaa region and to increase awareness among the local companies and the students.

I think the final word should go to a couple of the students, who each completed a survey on the Integration Evaluation programme:

“This was a great experience. Mark, Jiuliano and Paul were really kind and enthusiastic. They put a lot of efforts into that program but it costed nothing, I really appreciate it. I learned more things both in study and life. Thank you. “

“I have learned about many sources for learning, working or doing job and also for starting your own business easily. Overall it was a very good experience for me.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can read more here about “What is WIISE?” and if you want to discuss implementing the integration evaluations for new immigrant workers in your area, reach out and we can discuss your requirements…

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