COMPETENCE Connect Project Update

Well-being in Society RDI
Project Meet up, Kompetens Connect

“COMPETENCE Connect — New operating models that promote integration, entrepreneurship and continuous learning for workforce immigrants in the Närpes region. Within the project we look at how the need for skills development exists among immigrants and based on that individuals are signposted to relevant courses and flexible study options. Workforce immigrants have no systematic integration, language or community orientation, even in continuous learning they are an underrepresented group. The project intends to explore new opportunities and pilot new operating models that could reach the target audience and lower the threshold for higher education and continuing education.” - Malin Nyholm, COMPETENCE Connect Project.

Malin Nyholm explains that the project is focused on assisting with the integration, entrepreneurship, and continued learning of the workforce immigrants within the Närpes region of Finland.

As part of the project, both Malin Nyholm, the Project Leader, and Caroline Heikkinen, Project Manager, invite people to meet with them and do “mapping” regarding their past studies and work experience, as well as discussing what they would like to do in the future.

As the target group is made up of individuals with varying levels of language skills in both Swedish and English, Nyholm explains that Open University courses are suggested as a way for workforce immigrants to get a feel of how it is to study and as a way to check their language skills.

Nyholm mentions that the project also asks internationals if they are interested in being involved in the competence network. This network is made up of individuals who would like to study in the future but whose language skills may not yet be at the right level.

Individuals are part of a group, together with others who are also interested in learning the required languages in order to participate in further studies later on.

Nyholm explains that the project staff hopes this sort of group will help immigrants support each other through meeting people with similar goals and ambitions and boost motivation during the language learning process.

During the energy crisis, a lot of Vietnamese immigrants were without any activities during the winter months which lead to the start of a “Come In” café which took place once a week in the afternoon.

During the café sessions, the project provided information about the Finnish society and invited various organisations to attend and offer information about their activities.

However, due to schedule conflicts with language courses, and other relevant activities aimed at the local international residents, the “Come In” café was later moved to an evening session every other week.

As part of the “Come In” café activities, the project has been creating a checklist to give to other associations. The purpose behind the checklist is to give some ideas on how to organise these café sessions in a more planned and structured way. For example, offering specific information about Finland to the new residents and signposting them to relevant service providers as needed.

According to Nyholm, the project has also had meetings within all the municipalities and suggested various types of cooperation activities, as well as funding opportunities, between other associations and other municipalities.

“So far, one challenge has been the difficulty to reach our target group”, says Nyholm. The project hopes to promote Novia University of Applied Sciences and gain more visibility for the higher education institution as it is not yet so well known in the area.

As the workforce immigrants in the Närpes region speak more Swedish than English, the majority of the information is offered in Swedish. However, an ebook has been translated into English for Ukranian refugees, according to Nyholm.

Nyholm specifies that cooperation is always welcome with anyone interested in the “Come In” café, as well as employers who feel they have employees within their organisation who would benefit from the services offered by the Competence Connect project in order to advance within their careers.

Additionally, Nyholm mentions that the project is happy to answer any inquiries relating to the upskilling and language related development of workforce immigrants.

There’s a need for these activities but they take time to become established and it may take much longer to get going than initially thought, muses Nyholm.

This project, and its goals, have gone from “during the project” or “in 3 years’ time…” to becoming more of a “in 10 years time…” because, right now, it’s mostly about raising awareness of Novia UAS courses and continuing education opportunities.

The project will continue collaborating with adult education centres as these are the natural first point of contact for internationals wanting to learn a language.

For further information, please contact

Novia UAS, Malin Nyholm, Project Leader, or Caroline Heikkinen, Project Researcher, 

The COMPETENCE Connect project is run by Novia University of Applied Sciences and funded by the Frans Henrikson’s Testament Fund.