International competences important for companies

International competences are increasingly important for small and medium-sized enterprises, says Veli-Matti Lamppu. International experiences help people generate skills that are required in all workplaces: social skills, the ability to manage various challenges and intercultural understanding. Own initiative and courage. Language skills.

Photo: Samuli Siirala

Lamppu is the director responsible for competence and innovations at the Federation of Finnish Enterprises. A decade ago, he was one of the members of a working group considering the introduction of Europass to Finland. In Lamppu’s opinion, Europass has developed in a good direction over the ten years. "Europass provides an opportunity to describe competence in a concrete way," he says.

A competence-based approach already plays a stronger role in the recruitment process of companies. Degrees and certificates do not necessarily tell us enough about what the employee can do. According to Lamppu, entrepreneurs say that young jobseekers cannot always describe their competence well enough. "Europass is a handy tool for doing it," he says.

Internationality opens up opportunities

There are big differences between companies in how they take advantage of international competences. Lamppu talks about a transition phase. A clear division between large enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises will soon be a thing of the past, and so will a clear division between the private and public sectors.

Entrepreneurs expect high vocational or professional skills of their potential employees, but there may be a large number of well-qualified applicants. The ways to stand out from other job seekers may be less concrete - for example, skills acquired abroad.

"In a small company, the young employee who has gained international experience, for example, through an Erasmus exchange or traineeship, may be strategically important. That young employee may open up completely new business networks for the company,” Lamppu explains.

"Self-direction is also valued, and I believe that it develops through international experiences," he adds.

Traineeship with an open mind

Every year, a large number of students in higher education go to different European countries through the Erasmus exchange programme. Lamppu also encourages students to go abroad to work. “Students should see traineeships as something ambitious and think about whether a traineeship abroad could provide them with something that would benefit their career.”

Lamppu encourages students to take the same serious and ambitious attitude to traineeship that they take to their studies. "They should also keep an open mind regarding what kind of company to choose for their traineeship,” Lamppu says

Working in a well-known large corporation looks good on your CV, but working in a small company develops broad-based competence because the work tasks are often more versatile. In a large company, tasks are typically more specialised than in a small family business. "Traineeship in a small company can widen the perspective for looking for work in one’s own field," Lamppu says.

Although companies find international competences important, they do not necessarily know about the channels for internationalisation, such as the Erasmus programme, or the tools suited to describing international competences, such as Europass. Jobseekers therefore need to make an effort to describe their international experience themselves so that the potential employer will also be aware of the skills they have gained.

Entrepreneurship on the increase

Lamppu says that an entrepreneurial attitude is increasingly important for employees, too: an employee should also be able to understand business. At the same time, attitudes towards entrepreneurship among students in higher education have become significantly more positive. One reason for this is that working life has changed. More and more people are self-employed and perform work that they would previously have done as employees in the public or the private sector.

The attitudes to work have also changed. Lamppu points out that work has earlier been regarded as a value in itself, but especially the younger generations today call for the meaningfulness of work. The passionate growth entrepreneurs in the game industry have received a lot of publicity.

"This is a positive trend that will make entrepreneurship more attractive. People want to fulfil themselves through work, to reach for their dreams.”

Text: Juha Rudanko
Photo: Samuli Siirala

International experience improves skills that are valued in the job market.

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