Helping Migrating Workers Settle Into Everyday Life Is A WIISE Decision

In late-2018, I was approached by my friend, Jiuliano, to help him on 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.

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

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 initial assessment as soon as the foreigner has moved to Finland. The persons eligible for an initial assessment are the foreigners that live in Finland: employees, graduate students, spouses and job seekers. The municipality organizes initial assessments to immigrants that lived in Finland less than three years and which are not registered at the employment office (TE-toimisto).

The initial assessment 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 initial assessment 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 initial assessment 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.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can read more about Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE) If you want to discuss implementing the Initial Assessments for new immigrant workers in your area, reach out and we can discuss your requirements…

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