When working groups reconvened after the Christmas break last year, it became apparent that many of us saw potential in foreign business school graduates in our efforts to recruit new members. Some referred to AKAVA and Suomen Ekonomit internationalisation projects, and others saw internationalisation as a megatrend that we should embrace in our future plans for Helsingin Ekonomit. Finnish Government is proposing legislative amendments to increase retention of international students to promote labour migration. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is launching a project to ensure the availability of skilled labour in all sectors throughout Finland and much more is in the pipeline to open up Finland more to foreigners.
It is clear that aging population coupled with a low birth rate and alleged diminishing relevance of labour market organisations will slow down the growth rate in Helsingin Ekonomit membership figures in the near future. At present Helsingin Ekonomit and Suomen Ekonomit have benefitted from the current uncertainties brought about by Corona virus but the tide is likely to turn.
Even though many at Helsingin Ekonomit working groups see a need to produce more content in English and create a new communications strategy to reach out for all potential members, some see that as premature. We have a very low number of non-Finnish speakers as members at present. Some events did not attract any interest last year when promoted in English but found their audience in Finnish. Focusing more on our existing members and informing more efficiently on our networking tools could change the image of Helsingin Ekonomit to be a club for likeminded professionals and boost recruitment of new members more efficiently than any internationalisation processes.
We contacted many Helsingin Ekonomit clubs to find out whether they have activities suitable for non-Finnish speakers and whether they could use English in their promotion of events more. Kansainväliset Ekonomit club members were most open for cooperation. Kansainväliset Ekonomit will arrange an event to kickstart an ”International afterwork club” on a regular basis as soon as it is safe to do so. Kansainväliset Ekonomit club will work closely also with Aalto University student association to reach out for potential new members.
It is clear that as a local graduate organisation, Helsingin Ekonomit has not the same resources as our top organisation Suomen Ekonomit. However, as Suomen Ekonomit is working hard to succeed in their efforts to be more inclusive and increase their service offering in English, this will indirectly benefit even Helsingin Ekonomit. As members of Helsingin Ekonomit we can all contribute in our workplaces, in social media and among our friends and family by acting as Helsingin Ekonomit ambassadors and conveying accurate information on benefits available for members. Sometimes a mere confirmation that the membership is not frowned upon by any employers in Finland could be enough as the concept of a white-collar labour market organisation is not widely spread outside the Nordics. Events, webinars and articles can occasionally be carried out in other languages than in Finnish and we can all contribute in that.
Our local Aalto University has come a long way in their internationalisation process. Aalto University Mentoring Program in November 2021 attracted participants from 22 different countries representing 39 different nationalities. The number of participants was record high with 163 mentors and 170 mentees. This development is an indicator that in the coming years there will be more demand for mentoring services in other languages than Finnish.
In our discussions at working groups, we have debated whether Helsingin Ekonomit should have a mentoring program of its own as many other local graduate or student associations have one. Suomen Ekonomit has a 1-year and a Fast Track Mentoring program to suit various needs. Especially Fast Track Mentoring program is very flexible, participants can really tailor that to match their respective needs. Many Helsingin Ekonomit members are Aalto alumni or student members and can join the fully English-speaking program at Aalto University. Our conclusion was that Helsingin Ekonomit should focus on informing our members and prospective members on existing services rather than kickstart yet another mentoring program.
Networking platforms and events for members were discussed in detail as well. New networking tool is not yet widely used and just as with various mentoring programs, we felt that awareness among members remains at relatively low level. We need more efficient communication and branding to activate our members in sharing their profile information in the networking tool and becoming active in various mentoring programs available.
To summarise, Helsingin Ekonomit has already a lot to offer for any individuals who are interested in building up their professional network and learning from others. We have volunteers committed in sharing their expertise and best practices in specific industries, career stories and professional networks. If Helsingin Ekonomit will succeed in informing potential members more efficiently about many opportunities we can create for networking, we are bound to grow as a community, regardless of our native language. However, Helsingin Ekonomit should be prepared to meet the growing demand for services in English as we are likely to see that happen in the coming years.
AUTHOR: Tarja Kokko, Kansainväliset Ekonomit, Tulevaisuus- ja koulutustyöryhmä
Writer is a working group member at Helsingin Ekonomit Tulevaisuustyöryhmä and Koulutustyöryhmä and a board member at Kansainväliset Ekonomit club. The opinions presented in this article are personal views of the author and should not be regarded as Helsingin Ekonomit official views.
Are you interested in International afterwork club? There will be a kickstart event when the Covid situation gets better. Follow the events at: https://heko.fi/tapahtumat/