In New Competence for SMEs videos different companies describe their experiences of working with international talents. For more videos, see the New Competence playlist in Youtube.

New Competence for SMEs

There are more than 20,000 foreign degree students pursuing their studies at Finnish higher education institutions. They also complete traineeships in Finland and look for jobs in this country after graduating. Additionally, thousands of students come directly from foreign higher education and vocational institutions to do traineeships and work placements in Finland every year.

The Finnish National Agency for Education (until 2016, the CIMO) implemented a study and influence project titled New Competence for SMEs, which analysed how and why Finnish SMEs utilise these international talents and what obstacles there are to their utilisation. The project focused on SMEs, as these companies have created a large share of the new jobs in the Finnish enterprising sector in recent years.

The objective of the project was to lower companies’ threshold for recruiting international talents and to help educational institutions develop their cooperation with companies. The project outcomes can also be utilised to promote the employment of other international talents.

The project partners were the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, Hanken School of Economics, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Omnia, Talent Tampere, Saranen Consulting and Me2We.

While internationalisation is a key growth factor for SMEs, it is only one of the motives for recruiting an international talent

A survey was conducted as part of the New Competence project, to which 386 companies responded. Additionally, 25 companies were interviewed.

Finnish companies had a large variety of motives for recruiting international talents. The companies were divided into four categories based on their motives.



Companies aiming abroad

  • a student is needed to support the company’s internationalisation
  • the companies operate in international markets or, for example, are about to launch export activities
  • the students may do market research or contribute their local knowledge

Talent hunters

  • the companies are international, and the student’s background thus makes no difference
  • the student is expected to have special skills or an ability to develop, or to contribute new viewpoints to development work in which his/her education and/or cultural background is an advantage

Companies aiming for internationalisation at home

  • the student brings an extra pair of hands for the practical work or strengthens the competence needed to serve foreign customers
  • the company gains experience of a more international operating environment and a possibility for language immersion

Companies with a high sense of corporate social responsibility

  • offer short traineeships and work placements for students that come to them through educational institutions
  • carry their corporate social responsibility, which improves the company’s image in a way that is appreciated by the customers
  • this group includes a high share of companies that operate locally in the domestic market

Support material for educational institutions, higher education institutions and stakeholders

The study indicated that companies would like educational institutions to provide more information about international talents and the possibilities of working with them. Companies that did not have experience of foreign students as yet also felt they needed support for solving language problems and charting suitable tasks. The threshold for taking on students should also be lowered by dispelling fears related to bureaucracy.

To respond to these needs, different types of support materials were produced:

  • New Competence for SMEs slide set, which educational institutions can use when contacting companies and also edit to meet their specific needs. The set contains practical information about working with an international talent and the benefits gained from it.
  • New Competence for SMEs videos, in which different companies describe their experiences of working with international talents. The videos, which come with English subtitles, also include an interview with a student.
  • New Competence for SMEs: Summary of study results as a slide set that sums up the key results of the study.