Iska-Warran – Somalis in Finland conference on entrepreneurship and employment concluded successfully in Turku

Iska-Warran Somalis in Finland conference on entrepreneurship and employment was concluded successfully on August 18, right before the shocking terror-attack in Turku.

The conference has brought together leading academics and researchers, various professionals and experts, entrepreneurs from Finland and abroad, politicians, representatives from local and international organizations as well as civil society activists to discuss upon this year’s key themes on entrepreneurship and employment of Somalis living in Finland by highlighting the challenges and the opportunities. 

A record number of more than 100 attendees from the above-mentioned entities sought to attend the conference to hear about the findings, views and experiences from distinguished keynote speakers and experts.

“Iska-Warran Conference continues to be the premier platform to discuss about the current issues of Somalis in Finland, with each event seeing more attendees. This marks not only a milestone for the conference’s reach, significance and impact, but it is also a testament to the effort and work we as a community are doing together with our partners, said Abdishakur Ali, the executive director of the Somali Association of Western Finland.

The conference featured presentations by keynote speakers and inspiring panel discussions under the theme of the conference. Both keynote speakers and panelists have shed light and provided an exclusive look at common challenges and concerns of Somalis in Finland and factors contributing to their permanence.

Panel discussions on entrepreneurial experiences of Somalis in Finland and overseas as well as on integration and employment have highlighted entrepreneurship as the way foreword to curb socio-economic problems and foster inclusion. Despite the financial challenges and other barriers to startup, panelists have highlighted the need for integration policies to better reconcile with the challenges of immigrant communities in terms of entering the job market as well as understanding business regulations and procedures. Panelists have also stressed out the importance of developing good knowledge about how Finnish business environment works as well as forging the right networks and finding the right market niche. This is said to be an integral part that immigrant entrepreneurs often lack. Panelists have also attributed mentoring and coaching as a turning point for immigrant entrepreneurs.

In light with employment, unemployment especially among youth was widely seen as a major challenge. Panel discussions showed a path for understanding the causes of youth unemployment. Keynote speakers acknowledged as well existing challenges. Major challenges are said to begin when jobseekers start entering the local job market.  Looking for a job and making a right career choice seems to become the greatest challenge. Young people often lack advice, support and consultancy but also competencies required in the job market. Experts in the field of employment gave an understanding on the subject and talked about attributes and strategies essential to overcome arising challenges in the job market.

Keynote speaker Pasi Saukkonen from the city of Helsinki has despite existing challenges expressed hope in second generation’s future. Second generation enjoys to a large extent better understanding of how things work in the ‘host’ context. He believes due to their engagement in the mainstream society, achievements in education, proficiency in language and their frequent contacts within the mainstream society will enable them to gain access to more promising opportunities than that of their parent’s generation. They will have increased upward economic and social impact. Pasi indicated too that even though migrant men get employed easier than women, when it comes to second generation, women make better progress than men.

Marja Tiilikainen, Academy Research Fellow from the University of Helsinki stated in her comparative keynote presentation on Somali families and horizons of opportunities in Finland and Canada that due to the contextual differences in integration, Somalis in Canada seem to have better opportunities in entering the job market whereas it seems quite the opposite here. Tiilikainen stated that factors in integrating to host society vary in many ways and depend on, for example, on family background. She added that those who had grown up in Canada felt more like Canadian whereas those grown up in Finland saw themselves as foreigners – the reason being that they don’t feel being accepted as society members. Tiilikainen argues despite the challenges facing Somali diaspora in Finland, there are positive signs and prospects of the future of Somalis in Finland.

During the conference, participants have also learned from other keynote speakers notably Hanna Tarvianen from the Federation of Finnish Enterprises on the subject of ”entrepreneurship in Finland”, why join entrepreneur’s associations, as well as Anna Pikala from BAANA project, a network-based recruiting model for immigrant employment on the subject of  ”a qualified employee is not from anywhere!”.

Finnish-Somali politicians and city councilors praised the efforts of the Somali community. Politicians urged the community to have more active role and status in the socio-economic construct of Finland.

There was widespread agreement among participants and distinguished speakers that entrepreneurship is one of the key solutions to unemployment problems.

“Entrepreneurship can be a window open to great possibilities” stated Abdirashid Ismail from the University of Helsinki.

Iska-Warran conference will be organized next year in Helsinki.

Iska-Warran conference in Turku was organized August 17-18, 2017. The conference was organized in collaboration with the Somali Association of Western Finland, the Recreation Division of the City of Turku, the Migration Institute of Finland, the University of Helsinki and the University of Turku. It was also supported by the Arts Promotion Center of Finland and the Network of Multicultural Associations (Moniheli).

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