Episode 75

Introducing Spouse Program by City of Helsinki

In this week’s episode, Matt talks with the project planner of the Spouse Program offered by the municipality of the City of Helsinki, Jochen Faugel. The Spouse Program is part of the Talent Boost initiative and is coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education and Culture. Its purpose is to build an engaging and supportive community for international spouses moving to the capital area and, by extension, help them develop their professional and social lives.

Jochen shares to Matt that the City of Helsinki had tested the idea of the program for a year when Finland started realising that it needs to attract international talents to stay competitive. Considering the importance of this matter, the City of Helsinki managed to get the funding and started running the program. As this topic became more significant, more companies began knocking at the program's door to find more talents.

There are two primary objectives of the Spouse Program. First of all, it provides help for spouses who move to the capital region with their partners. But what makes it so essential to help spouses? Jochen points out that spouses have the weakest spots. Following their partners, spouses do not have a job right away; they leave behind their professional and social networks and can feel quite lonely in their new homeland. Therefore, their integration does not occur as naturally as it would if they landed here with a job. Furthermore, its second objective is to help international companies retain international employees, as international employees often return to their home countries when their spouses are not happy.

To achieve its goals, the Spouse Program offers various options for the participants that they can utilise. The Program has a community on Slack, where participants can talk to each other and network. It also offers networking events, workshops, and meetups. Another option is the career coaching service for people focusing on their careers. The Spouse Program recently created its LinkedIn group, where companies and program participants can network. Other than that, participants can join lottery lunches and game afternoons.

One of the Program's most important features is its partnerships with companies. They count 40 partners, 31 active partners, 10-11 NGOs, and public institutions that support them. Companies interested in partnering with the Spouse Program can find all the respective information on the program’s website. Prerequisites are to participate in networking events and join the LinkedIn group.

One of the programs running during this period is the career coaching service in cooperation with the company “Mazhr”. To participate in this program, you must be a Helsinki citizen and part of the Spouse Program. During this service, participants will receive 4 hours of individual career coaching, where they will learn how to navigate the job market, define their career goals, know how to transfer their skills from one field to another etc. The applications are still open until the end of March.

Asked by Matt if this service seems to expand in other regions of Finland, Jochen explains that it will slowly spread around Finland eventually. He mentions that originally as an idea, it stems back in the university environment where universities offer similar services to professors' spouses. But talking about its expansion, mainly due to the Talent Boost initiative, he believes that it will grow in Finland; however, he points out that it’s also a numbers game since the capital region has the most people moving here.

Any person interested in joining the program can visit the program's website throughout the year. On the website, visitors can find an overview of the programs offered, the status of the career coaching services, and contact info for more details.

Closing Jochen highlights two misconceptions about the Program. Firstly, it is not an employment program, like the ones the TE-office offers. Instead, its mission is to help the participants navigate options that would facilitate professional and social integration. Secondly, one does not have to be married to a spouse to join the program, as marital status is not the Program’s concern. Additionally, the Spouse Program is for international spouses of international employees and international spouses who are together with a local partner.

In case you are interested in getting to know more about the Spouse Program, kindly visit the website.