Xport Associates: Connecting Immigrant Skills in Etelä-Pohjanmaa To Grow Exports For Local Businesses

Who Are The Xport Associates?

Xport Associates has existed as a freelancer group for three years. It is now evolving into something more useful for the Associates; a regular networking meeting where the members can network with each other, learn about the local business community and maybe even make friends.

In 2015, Xport brought together a group of international people, living in-and-around Seinäjoki in Western Finland, into a loose freelancer network that we called Xport Associates. This first group included people from India, China, Japan, Australia, Italy, Spain and France. The idea was to tell local businesses that these international resources are available to help local companies with their export sales. Xport could bring these resources within reach of local companies, maybe we can find work for the individual Associates, and for Xport.

xport-associates-photo-with-logo

 

There are many reasons they are now living in Finland; to study, for love or for a safer life. In Spring 2018, I had conversations with a few of the Associates and our interns. I started to appreciate that for many immigrants, having moved to Finland, feel isolated and have a very small local network (maybe only among their partners’ family) or are simply lonely. I was then interviewing Maria about joining the Xport Associates group and, as I explained what Xport does for them, a thought occurred to me ‘Could we be doing more?’

This has led us to develop the Xport Associates concept, so the Associates really feel part of something concrete. This is to be a quarterly newsletter, a Facebook group and a quarterly meeting at Xport’s office in Seinäjoki, where we invite an external visitor from the local business community to talk to the Associates. We also want the visitors to meet as many of them as possible, so they understand that this international skills are real and are available locally! I also want the Associates to meet each other and maybe see if they can cooperate to make work for themselves.

In August 2018, we held the first Associates Assembly at Xport’s office in Seinäjoki. We were delighted to invite Pertti Kinnunen and Heidi Sikkilä, from Etelä-Pohjanmaa Chamber of Commerce, to speak to the group about the work of the Chamber. We also did some speed-networking (an idea we borrowed from the Chamber!) so the Associates could introduce themselves to our visitors and to each other.

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The first meeting was a big success: there were 12 Associates there from 11 countries, who provided insightful contributions to the group discussion, and the NOISE created by the speed-networking was terrific! Here are a few comments we have received afterwards:

“It was really interesting to hear from Chamber of Commerce and to meet the other people.”

“Thanks for organising this meeting. I also really like the FB group, it makes me feel like I’m really part of something now.”

“I just met someone in the town centre that I met at the Associates Assembly. It still surprises me to meet people I know just walking around town.”

The next Associates Assembly will take place in November 2018. If you would like to join the group, please contact me at mark@xport.fi.

Internship at Xport

As well as the Associates, Xport often has international students asking for a work placement, or internship, as part of their studies. This is another area that is difficult for immigrants to find places, which is often compulsory as part of their studies. As well as Finnish students, we have had people from USA, Germany, Vietnam, Ghana, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland and Macedonia. And we have had people of different levels of education, for example, adult vocational education from Sedu, BBA from SeAMK, MBA from Germany and Erasmus Entrepreneur Exchange (that was the one from Slovakia).

Immigrant Activation Projects in Etelä-Pohjanmaa

Fortunately, we are not the only organisation interested in working with immigrants in Etelä-Pohjanmaa. There are also several other hankkeet (projects) underway that are focused on helping immigrants across the region.

Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship -hanke; Suomen Yrittäjäopisto

The aim of the hanke is to provide immigrants living in E-P with information about the support and services available to start a company. It also aims to increase interest towards entrepreneurship among immigrants. It also aims to promote better cooperation and networking between different organizations, which support immigrants. Link to Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship -hanke

Yrittäjäopisto has a survey to research how aware immigrants are about entrepreneurship, and to assess their interest in becoming entrepreneurs. If you want to participate in the survey, please click here

Success for Entrepreneurs to Employ Immigrants -hanke; Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (SeAMK)

The objective of the project is to promote work-related immigration and immigrant employment in Southern Ostrobothnia and to do innovative experimentation to promote employment of immigrants in business enterprises in the province. Link to the Success for Entrepreneurs to Employ Immigrants -hanke

International Resident Activity in Seinäjoki -hanke; City of Seinäjoki

The City of Seinäjoki launched this project in 2017, in partnership with various ‘​​friendship clubs’ in the region e.g. Finnish-French Association, Finnish-Polish Association, Finnish-Russian Association, and more. The project aims to encourage Finnish residents to become more international and to introduce new opportunities to internationals living in Seinäjoki. Link to International Resident Activity in Seinäjoki -hanke

Mark Wiltshear, Co-founder, Xport

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