The Vaasa region is planning for growth and will need immigrants to fulfill its potential. Many immigrants already play important roles in regional development.
As a part of Wasa Future Festival, a panel of immigrants already living in the region gathered on stage. The point of the discussions was to understand their experiences and ideas to help the region develop further.
The discussions identified three different areas and hurdles that are crucial to work with to attract and sustain more foreign experts.
The language barrier
The Vaasa region is strongly bilingual, with a large community of native Swedish-speakers. In total, the regional municipalities consist of about 45,2% Finnish speakers, 49,3% Swedish speakers, and 5,4% foreign-language speakers. There is significant local variation, but as a whole, the two official languages are remarkably balanced.
While it is possible to work and live in the region speaking only English, knowing either Finnish or Swedish, or both, can greatly aid integration. There is certainly room for improvement in how we teach languages both to the native population and to people coming here.
The big companies in the region already have many open positions for English-speaking experts. However, small companies have a huge potential for growth that has not been tapped into. At the moment, Finnish or Swedish is being required for many positions where one could perhaps manage without them.
When foreign experts get employed in the Vaasa region, many bring their spouses and children with them. This makes integrating families into society an important issue, including opportunities for work and education as well as social life.
Children should be integrated as early as possible. As with languages, this is a two-way street, and the diversity and knowledge that other cultures can provide is valuable.