Improving international services through cooperation 

When foreign residents and employees are received properly, the benefit is shared by all. NIHAK’s role is to bring the different actors in the region together. 

Today, there are hundreds non-native Finnish speakers living in the Nivala-Haapajärvi region. Some of them have settled in the area for study, work or family reasons. Some have been forced to leave their country because of war. 

NIHAK’s Head of Business Services, Kimmo Niskanen, says that the attitudes of employers have changed a lot in the past year, and companies are increasingly ready to recruit foreign employees. 

–The number of people of working age is constantly on the decline, and in some sectors, there is already a persistent shortage of labor. Experiences with the Ukrainians have shown that language skills are not a threshold issue in every position. 

Currently, an estimated 150 Ukrainians live in the area, many of whom have fled the Russian invasion. In the spring of 2022, the municipalities faced an issue with not having the processes ready to receive them. NIHAK quickly took control of the situation in cooperation with the municipalities and the third sector. As early on as March 2022, NIHAK recruited Ukrainian Nataliia Dikhtiarenko as a project worker. She began to find out what was needed to help the new arrivals. 

–There was a lot to do. We had to start with basic issues and share information on services such as health care, day care and schools. We had to tell them where to get language training and how to use bank services and official services. NIHAK has also helped Ukrainians to find their first jobs, mentions Dikhtiarenko. 

In the summer, the City of Nivala hired a contact person to help Ukrainians that move to Nivala and also to act as an interpreter. The work done in the region to receive and employ Ukrainians has generated a lot of positive publicity. 

NIHAK has been working with employers in international recruitment for years. At the same time, we have learned that support is needed in the early stages for a wide range of everyday matters. 

–You need to identify the kind of help that’s needed at each stage, and who can best provide it. This requires cooperation across sectors, explains Ari Alakangas, Head of International Services. 

He demonstrates by dividing the day into three parts: one-third work, one-third leisure, hobbies and use of services, and one-third rest. 

–The first is the domain of employers, the second of the third sector and the third of the municipalities. With the Ukrainians, we started from the latter two in order to meet the basic requirements. NIHAK plays a key role in bringing different actors together. 

The residents of the area also have an important role to play in helping those who move to the area to become part of the community. 

–What’s important are the smallest things and encounters, as well as an interested and open attitude,” says Alakangas. 

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