My Oulu: At the Skills Centre each customer is seen as an individual
The Oulu Skills Centre, or Oske, is a centralized service for jobseekers with an immigrant background in Oulu. At Oske, the customer receives multi-professional support and counselling for identifying their own skills and for promoting their working life and studies.
The Oulu Skills Centre is a project of the City of Oulu, which is implemented together with Educational Consortium, Osao. The goal of the project, launched in 2020, is to find employment for customers with an immigrant background. The project began when a need was identified in Oulu for similar activity, which had already been started in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
The aim is to speed up employment and strengthen the interaction between the customer and the employer.
"We are also trying to influence the receptivity of working life and, of course, to be involved in diversifying the work community," says Anna-Mari Mäkelä, who is responsible for the project's business cooperation.
The customer can be referred to the service, for example, through the municipal employment trial or an expert from the TE Office.
The charting phase focuses on the strengths
After registration, it is time for a two-week charting phase, in which the customer's school and work background, previous skills and the customer's own wishes regarding employment are determined. Mathematics and Finnish language skills, digital skills as well as working life competences and resources are also charted. The charting phase is carried out at Osao.
An individual path is tailored to each customer for schooling or working life. Together with the employee, the customer gets to make an individual portfolio, in which they can present their skills or interests. According to counselling expert Lenita Pihlaja, the aim is to design the portfolio in such a way that it strengthens the customer's view of their own skills.
“Sometimes you come across portfolios focused on the customer’s weaknesses, which in turn can weaken their self-confidence. What is great about this activity is that instead of weaknesses, we focus on the customer's strengths and their development”, says the project manager, Priyanka Sood.
The career path depends on the customer's previous competences and wishes. For some, the path means participating in on-the-job learning, while others may find themselves in higher education. Much depends on the customer's starting point, i.e. whether they need to develop their Finnish language skills or their own professional competences. There is no shortcut to different educations, but they are normally applied for through joint application processes.
Customer counselling at the core of the activity
The counselling does not end at the end of the charting phase, but if necessary, the project worker can be with the client at the workplace in order to monitor how things start rolling there.
Titta Ylimäki, who is responsible for customer counselling, reminds that the employers may equally need support if they have no previous experience of an employee with an immigrant background.
It is possible for the customer to receive language support at their workplace and, if necessary, a Finnish language teacher arrives at the workplace to be there with the customer. In this way, the aim is to organize the orientation as well as possible and to enable the customer to stay in their current workplace.
The project workers hope that the employers would contact the Skills Centre at a low threshold if they have any interest in the activity. In this way, employers also avoid the heavy recruitment phase.
“There can also be such work tasks customised at workplaces through which the employee can familiarise themselves with the work”, says Sanna Määttä, who is responsible for the training cooperation.
The activity is needed in Oulu
In April, an employment counselling service was established, where information on Oske's activities and employment-related matters is available in different languages. Counselling is given at both the TE Office and BusinessAsema.
“A degree completed in the former home country does not always give professional qualifications in Finland. In this case, it is important to explain to the customer what it is all about and to be involved in finding out whether it is possible to complete the degree so that the customer is able to enter working life”, emphasises Dlovan Ishaya, advisor from the employment counselling.
Our wish would be to get all employment counselling centralised under the same roof and to ensure that the customer's previous training would not be invalidated, but that instead it could be clarified whether the training could be supplemented, for example, by additional studies. This would shorten the client’s journey to employment.
"The long-term goal is not to talk about employing an immigrant, but about employing a person, but at the moment, we still need this path to make it happen," says career coach Saija Taivalmäki.
There is great hope that this activity will continue in the future. At present, project funding has to be applied for annually, and activities cannot be planned for the long term. The project employees emphasise that there is a need for the activity in Oulu based on the mere fact that in Oske, customer counselling is more long-term than in many other places.