VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is launching a data analytics study which will, in a way that ensures information security and data protection, pool together and analyse data gained through service use by Espoo residents with an immigrant background. The same study model can later be utilised to develop services for other client groups as well.
The study conducted by VTT, Aalto University and the University of Helsinki is important to the City of Espoo. Based on the analysed data gained from the study, clients can be better helped to access the correct services.
From the City of Espoo’s point of view, the strategic significance of successfully helping immigrants integrate and find employment is increasing year by year, as the number of immigrants and their proportion of the city’s population are rapidly rising. The situation is particularly challenging because the unemployment rate is higher among immigrants than the native population.
“As the Espoo Story, the city’s strategy, says, the employment of all working-age residents of Espoo fit for work will ensure the preconditions for the well-being of residents and the balance of the city economy,” says Mayor Jukka Mäkelä.
Analysed data on the effectiveness of the current services is needed to further develop the services provided for the residents. It is important for Espoo that the study is conducted by a neutral and scientifically independent operator.
“VTT has successfully conducted similar projects in the past requiring a high level of information security. This strategic partnership with VTT will help Espoo develop resident- and client-oriented services. The study is also part of the City of Espoo’s data analytics development, which has been conducted for several years now,” Mäkelä says.
Better services based on data
Espoo makes for an excellent study environment because both its overall number of residents (approx. 290,000) and the proportion of foreign-language speakers (approx. 19%) are high. Roughly 13% of Finland’s population who speak a foreign language as their mother tongue live in Espoo.
Finnish municipalities and government agencies have access to large amounts of data. This is because Finland has a unique personal identity code system in place. This results in a vast accumulation of data through service use, which in turn guarantees that reliable conclusions can be drawn from the findings together with researchers and experts from organisations that provide data for the study. Furthermore, the high number of service users ensures that individuals cannot be identified from the large dataset.
“Often, when dealing with data analytics, we must also consider the ethical aspects related to the protection of people’s privacy. Therefore, it is vital to take proper precautions to ensure information security. However, ignoring the opportunities provided by analytics would also be an ethical choice,” says Mayor Mäkelä.
The study is run by VTT, and the City of Espoo will not have access to the research data.
Omnia Skills Centre is an important initiative
There is a demand for improved integration services. Espoo wants to pay special attention to the effectiveness of these services.
“The positive employment trend among immigrants before the coronavirus epidemic is not enough if you consider the city’s demographic development. According to the latest information, the unemployment rate among foreign nationals is more than twice as high as the overall unemployment rate. We must be able to provide services that have proven effective,” says Manager of Immigration Affairs Teemu Haapalehto.
The Omnia Skills Centre for Immigrants, which began operating at the beginning of 2019, plays a major role. It provides education and means of supporting immigrants in finding employment and also helps businesses recruit the staff they need. Staff from Omnia, the City of Espoo and TE Services work together at the Skills Centre.
The experiences gained at Omnia during the first years have been very promising. Over the next five years, the Skills Centre is expected to receive more than 3,000 new clients.
“In 2020, the labour market situation was unusual due to the coronavirus epidemic. Nevertheless, 32% of the clients found employment and 55% went on to attend education after leaving the Skills Centre. The Skills Centre takes account of each client’s individual need for support, and if the client only needs a minimal amount of support, they will quickly move forward. If necessary, we will also offer coaching for work or education leading to a qualification for up to 6–10 months. As an operating model, the Skills Centre works across the administrative boundaries of different authorities and provides services for clients in one place. For businesses, the Skills Centre is a service that meets their need for workforce,” says Omnia’s Business Development Director Riikka-Maria Yli-Suomu.
“The municipal employment trials will further highlight Espoo’s role in managing the employment situation. Almost one third of the foreign-language speakers in Espoo who belong to the target group of the municipal trial have a degree from a higher education institution. In the spring of 2021, a new skills centre will be launched for immigrants with a higher education degree. It will develop services together with higher education institutions based on the experiences gained through the Omnia Skills Centre,” Haapalehto says.
The study will serve all public service providers
VTT’s study aims to provide useful information to support the development of integration services, both in Finland and abroad, especially in the Nordic countries. Gaining a better understanding of the effects that these services have on the lives of different client groups, such as their labour market status, will better allow future services to provide residents with genuine help.
The study will be carried out over a long period of time. The first preliminary findings can be expected in three years at the earliest. The Omnia Skills Centre only began operating in 2019, and therefore it will take some time to accumulate a sufficient amount of data. More comprehensive analyses without compromising data protection will only be possible after more data has been collected. Being able to see the bigger picture requires large amounts of data from a long time period.
More information available in several languages
- Immigrant integration: Teemu Haapalehto, Manager of Immigration Affairs, City of Espoo, tel. +358 (0)46 877 3200, firstname.lastname@example.org
- VTT research: Peter Ylén, Research Team Leader, Principal Scientist, VTT, tel. +358 (0)40 507 7474, email@example.com
- Omnia Skills Centre for Immigrants: Riikka-Maria Yli-Suomu, Business Development Director, Omnia, tel. +358 (0)50 348 6544, firstname.lastname@example.org