The Uniting Companies and International University Talents (UNICOM) Project Has Launched – Focus on Supporting the Careers of International Talents
The UNICOM project aims to increase the current labour market’s appeal and openness to highly educated international talents already living in Southwest Finland. The ESF-funded project is coordinated by the University of Turku. The UNICOM project responds to the lack of talents in companies in three pre-selected fields (Health, Tech and Clean).
The two-year UNICOM project, funded by Leverage from the EU, began in March 2021. UNICOM is part of the ESF-funded Course towards Finland – growth and competitiveness in growth centres from international talent project. The Course towards Finland project aims to secure the growth of companies by advancing the settling of international talents in the Finnish labour market.
The UNICOM project aims to give international talents tools to develop their working life skills and to facilitate the integration of international talents to Finnish working life by bridging the gap between talents looking for companies and companies looking for talents. UNICOM develops models and tools that support the employment of international talents to both SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and different sectors of society. Positive experiences and a clear career path will also further support the recruitment of international talents to universities and the industry.
– There has long been a need to strengthen the encounters between international talents and Finnish SMEs. The UNICOM project aims to find practical tools to solve this challenge. We are delighted that several companies have already expressed their interest in the project. I would also encourage companies that have not yet recruited international talents to join. This is a great opportunity to lower the recruitment threshold of internationals, through, for example, exploring the use of the short industry placements, the chair of the UNICOM project steering committee and CEO of CYF Digital Susanna Lahtinen says.
In Autumn 2020, the Ministry of Education and Culture appointed a working group to discuss questions related to careers in research. In their final report published in Spring 2021 (”Tohtorit yhteiskuntaa uudistamassa – monipuolistuvat tutkijanurat”, loosely translated PhDs Reforming Society – Diversifying Research Careers), the working group highlighted that universities should facilitate active and flexible mobility between universities and the industry sector. The UNICOM project responds to these challenges, which are also based on the needs of the companies.
– The key task of the working group was to examine how the mobility of doctorate holders to careers outside of academia can be increased, and to propose measures that enhance the use of skills gained during doctoral training. The working group focused on how to efficiently make use of the competences held by doctors both within industry and in society in general. Especially, internationalisation and supporting international researchers are more important than ever before, says the University of Turku Vice Rector Kalle-Antti Suominen, who was a member of the working group.
International talents have a significant impact on the competitiveness of both the Turku region and the whole of Southwest Finland area. The UNICOM initiative also connects to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland funded Talent Boost programme. The goal of Talent Boost is to make the process of moving and settling in Finland more streamlined and welcoming. As part of the Talent Boost programme, the English language services of Turku and Salo regions are developed and service experiences are improved. With this, the project supports the development of a multifaceted International Talent Programme service package.
The University of Turku coordinates the UNICOM project. Turku Science Park Ltd. is in charge of the project’s company services, and they also work together with the City of Turku in coordinating the region’s Talent Hub operations. The University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University are in charge of services aimed at international talents. Other partners include the regional business development company of Salo, Yrityssalo Ltd., Southwest Finland TE Office/EURES, Turku Chamber of Commerce and SME’s from the selected fields located in Southwest Finland.
The actions of the UNICOM project will be piloted and developed in cooperation with partner companies, which have already committed themselves to the project during the application phase. The actions are divided into three work packages:
- Industry placements for doctoral candidates and post-docs,
- Workplace coaching for international talents, and
- Campaigns and support services for companies.
In addition to the actions focusing on doctoral candidates and post docs, the UNICOM project also supports international master’s students through developing a working life coach concept and by providing training with a focus on identifying personal strengths and skills. These actions targeted towards master’s students are provided by the University of Turku Career Services, and the actions targeted to the international doctoral candidates and post docs are implemented by the University of Turku Research Career Unit.