The internationalization of the continually improving economy poses challenges to Finnish business life. Higher education institutions respond to these challenges by training professional experts who possess the skills required in an international work environment in addition to field-specific know-how.
Finnish higher education institutions offer an even broader range of international study programs. Modern work life requires experts in different fields who have the ability to work in an international environment. For example, the forest industry today is highly international, says Associate Professor Mike Starr from the Department of Forest Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Starr specializes in soil science and forest ecology and is also responsible for the department’s international Master’s Degree Program.
Starr believes that adapting Finnish business life to the global economy requires international contacts. International students are thus an important resource that should be utilized more extensively than they are now. In order to achieve this, education focuses on the skills required in an international work environment, such as interaction and problem-solving skills.
Careful student selections strive to attract the best skills to Finland, says Starr. The aim is for students to be able to cope both in their studies and at work after graduation. These students have a lot to offer employers. “They possess good language skills and have often acquired work experience in Finland. Their international background also brings perspective to teamwork. This is extremely fruitful,” Starr argues.
Yijing Zhang, a graduate from the Master’s Degree Program coordinated by Starr, agrees. “We international students understand a number of different cultures, are familiar with the working methods of various countries, and know how interaction works. This enhances work,” says Zhang. She also highlights the team working and performance skills acquired during the study program. “We are strong, confident personalities who can interact with both employers and other foreign employees.”
Zhang sees that the potential of international personnel goes far beyond their own home country. “We have experience from living in new environments and are able to adapt to them. An international employee can be sent to a third country and will quickly be able to begin work there.”
Finland has succeeded in internationalization in many ways, according to Zhang and Starr. This is true particularly for education. High-quality, versatile, and flexible education opportunities in English; the lack of tuition fees; and the good infrastructure of higher education institutions from libraries to IT services are the main attractions that bring the best students to Finland. Employers should provide opportunities that would also make them stay.
“Large, international companies in particular could offer more opportunities to international experts in, for instance, their offices around the world,” observes Zhang. “International experts would be an extremely good investment for these companies.”
Zhang herself continues to study in the Department of Forest Sciences and enjoys living in Finland. She particularly appreciates the nature, the peaceful living environment, and the high quality of life. “If international students like me had more job opportunities in Finland, staying here would certainly be our first choice.”