The contribution of municipal companies to local jobs and skills agendas – Lessons from the Vantaa GSIP Project
TEXT | Gabriel Amitsis
This is the web-article No. 8 of the GSIP (Growth and Social Investments Pacts) Project, an initiative of the City of Vantaa (FI) to develop an innovative local jobs and skills agenda. It provides readers with on the ground information about the contribution of Finnish municipal companies to the successful design and implementation of the Vantaa GSIP Project.
1. A brief snapshot of the GSIP Project
The GSIP Project reflects the City of Vantaa key policy decision:
- to promote growth and competitiveness of local companies;
- to improve level of education of workforce and offer better training possibilities for low-skilled employees, employees with outdated skills and unemployed persons through the design and implementation of a new, innovative and exceptional service and incentive model (Growth and Social Investments Pacts – GSIPs).
GSIPs are defined as a new instrument for municipalities to reach the maximum impact on public investments, subsidies and services (including training and vocational education) offered to local companies. GSIPs gather information and expertise about jobs and skills from different national, regional and local institutions and support interested local companies to take in a productive way advantage of them. To increase interest, companies’ employees are offered short free training programmes (partly in class), which deal with different topics on future employment demands (the content is based on previous surveys and interviews).
The GSIPs are tailored for Vantaa based companies employing 10-200 people, particularly companies involved in human intensive and routinely operated industrial sectors and IT-companies which have workforce of outdated skills caused by rapid changes in technologies and future business. They focus on three interrelated policy priorities:
- Recruitment of unemployed persons with low skills and education – The GSIP 1 model
- Training of existing staff – The GSIP 2 model
- Use of digitalization processes in the business routine – The GSIP 3 model.
2. The participation of municipal companies in the GSIP Project
The GSIP Project Partnership includes the City of Vantaa (acting as the Main Urban Authority) and representatives of the following sectors:
- the academia (the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the Laurea University of Applied Sciences);
- the research community (the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy “ETLA” and the Labour Institute for Economic Research PT);
- the vocational training sector (the Vantaa Vocational College Varia);
- business networks (the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce);
- the private market (ISS Services Ltd, Infocare Ltd, Solteq Plc. and Finnair Cargo Ltd)
- a municipal company (Vantti Ltd).
Vantti Ltd is an inhouse company owned by the City of Vantaa, which provides catering, cleaning, property maintenance, reception and security services for the City of Vantaa (https://vantti.fi/). It employees nearly 950 people, and its turnover for 2020 was approximately EUR 49 million. Vantti offers employment opportunities to people from a disadvantaged background, such as people with reduced work ability and migrants.
3. The framework of Municipal Companies in Finland
Municipal companies (MOCs) across Europe are defined as ”organizations with independent corporate status, managed by an executive board appointed primarily by local government officials, and with majority public ownership”. Some MOCs rely on revenue from user fees, distinguishing them from agencies and special districts funded through taxation. They often follow a process of externalization that requires new skills and orientations from the respective local authorities, and follow common changes in the institutional landscape of public services.
In Finland, local authorities have broad responsibility for the provision of basic public services to their residents. MOCs are regulated by the Local Government Act No. 410/2015 and form a way to organize municipal business activities, particularly for the provision of cleaning, catering, accounting, property services, messenger services, heating utilities, social services and ambulance services.
A municipality and its subsidiaries together constitute a MOC, in which the municipality exercises control (https://www.localfinland.fi/finnish-municipalities-and-regions). A MOC may also include entities in which a local authority subsidiary exercises control. The entities belonging to a MOC may comprise limited liability companies, associations and foundations.
The management of a MOC consists of the local executive, the chief executive or the mayor, together with the other decision-making bodies, local government officers and elected officials specified in the rules of procedure.
4. The contribution of Vantti to the GSIP Project
The role of Vantti in the design and implementation of the GSIP Project was elaborated through online discussions during November 2021 with Minna Tuomi, a management and HR expert.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 1: Why has Vantti decided to join as a Partner the Vantaa GSIP Project?
Vantti is a subsidiary of the City of Vantaa, and the company is of a considerable size. When the opportunity was presented to Vantti to take part in the project, we considered it beneficial to us. Vantti needs skilled labour force and can offer employment to the target groups of the Urban Growth Vantaa project.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 2: Which tasks has Vantti agreed to undertake?
Vantti agreed to participate in the following Project Work Packages (WPs):
- WP2 – Involvement in work group and partner meetings; participation in various Project events
- WP2 – Monitoring and financial reporting; reporting list of expenditure; reporting milestones and APR
- WP 3 – Communication plan and deployment of multiple communication channels; regular communication and new stories about the GSIP Project; internal communication and external communication
- WP4 – Practice and recruitment path planning and piloting; design and organization of recruitment events; provision of apprenticeships for path design and start piloting; apprenticeship student monitoring and cooperation with educational institutions.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 3: What activities in relation to the Project Working Packages has Vantti completed during the period November 2018 – November 2021?
Vantti participated in the co-creation process and in various workshops during the Project. It employed 34 people during the implementation of the GSIP No. 1 and offered 48 apprenticeships during the implementation of the GSIP No. 3.
Vantti participated in the development of the Competence Mapping tool to meet the needs of companies and educational institutes. It also worked with the City of Vantaa for the formulation of a network to support the employment of persons with partial work ability in Vantaa.
Vantti participated in a pilot process that tested job skills training in group form as a path towards paid employment. For this, it received a prestigious award in December 2021, during an event that awarded significant actions in the city/municipality sector.
Vantti applied for and received funding from national sources for the implementation of an innovative project to continue activities developed under the GSIP Project. This new Project started in 2021 and continues until 2023, focused on diversity management and integration during the familiarizing period of new employees.
Vantti compiled several articles and participated in various webinars, sharing best practices developed under the GSIP Project.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 4: What is your overall perception from the Project implementation so far?
The GSIP Project has been a good fit for our field and our local context, and it has helped us develop our recruitment and training processes. The networks and cooperation created during the Project help us look towards the future of our company.
Issues within our company that require further development work have come to light through participating in the Project, and we have started working on them. We do this in the form of a new Project, with which we hope to offer better training for new employees, particularly those with partial work ability or with a migrant background. These target groups are an important part of our future work force, and we need to offer them better support during their initial training.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 5: Have you identified any risk / challenge concerning Vantti activities during the Project implementation? How did you address them?
It would have been extremely important to have the commitment and support of the management of Vantti for accomplishing the Project complex tasks. As a project coordinator, my work was lonely and sometimes hard, as I was trying to achieve results during tight deadlines. Working with the Project has required a proactive and determined approach.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 6: Has the COVID-19 pandemic any serious impact on Vantti activities during the Project implementation? How did Vantti address them?
The pandemic has negatively impacted Vantti’s business, and we had lay-offs. The Project itself, however, continued according to the agreed schedule and we completed all pilots as agreed. There were minor delays in the schedules, but we were able to complete all testing.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 7: Has Vantti developed any best / good practice during the Project implementation?
We strengthened our recruitment processes by networking and cooperating with different actors that offer services related to employment. In addition to creating an external process, we developed our internal processes. We mapped out the needs for new staff in different teams and communicated these needs to our partners. The partners provided us with candidate resumes. In our internal meetings, we examined the resumes and contacted suitable candidates. Within the first two months of applying this new model, we made the first new hire. Through the Urban Growth project, Vantti employed people with a migrant background or with partial work ability.
We also organized a recruitment event, where team leaders of Vantti interviewed 25 candidates. We made the recruitment process as simple as possible for the team leaders. For this model of recruitment to be successful, the person organizing it must be active in communicating with people and making practical arrangements.
The new model of recruitment brought about a significant change in company culture. People started to adopt new ways of working around recruitment. It was important that the team leaders were committed to the process and that the company management supported it. The new model saves time and money and benefits the company’s business because we obtain skilled workforce. We can recruit quickly, without long and inflexible processes. The team leaders also learn more about socially responsible hiring practices, and the image of the company as socially responsible is improved.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 8: What are the biggest achievements of Vantti during the Project implementation?
Vantti was successful in its recruitments, and we managed to create more than 40 jobs in little more than six months. We recruited people from the Project target groups, we developed networks with other actors within the field of recruitment/employment in Vantaa and have tried out several different models for recruitment practices. Our three main achievements are:
- We created a new model of recruitment and networking. We developed our cooperation with educational institutions, and we performed our processes of apprenticeships. We created our own tailored content for apprenticeships, starting from our need to train people for our food services. This type of training did not previously exist. 7 people started the new training program, one of whom was deaf. We support the employment and apprenticeship training of people with disabilities and have three deaf persons working for us at the moment. In 2020, we trained a total of 78 persons through apprenticeships. The city of Espoo also participated in the new program for food services training that Varia organized. This shows that there is a wider need for the kind of training content that Vantti has created.
- We cooperated with Virtaamo (a service of the City of Vantaa that offers support for disabled job seekers) and piloted a model of group-based job skills training. For this we received an award in a gala in December 2021, where significant and impactful actions within the city/municipality sector are recognized. Vantti was able to employ more than 30 people for its cleaning services through this cooperation that benefited both sides: Vantti has a need for part-time employees and the customers of Virtaamo are looking for such employment.
- We have applied for and received funding for a new project that focuses on diversity management (see question 9. for more details).
DISCUSSION POINT No. 9: How will Vantti capitalize the results of the Vantaa GSIP Project?
Vantti applied for funding for a follow-up project, with which we can create better conditions for employing people from groups that face difficulties in finding employment, and to develop their training and apprenticeships.
In Finland, the population is aging and becoming more diverse. These megatrends pose a challenge for Vantti because an aging population means that there will be less work force available in the future. At the same time, skilled employees with immigrant background, who form one third of Vantti’s staff, may look for work elsewhere. We want to offer our employees with their diverse backgrounds better conditions for their work and a more systematic process of familiarizing and integrating them into our company.
We want to create a diverse company culture and community. To achieve this, we need updated material for training/familiarizing, and an updated process for the integration of new employees. This way we want to ensure that we are competitive and desirable as an employer in the future. The objective of our new project is to improve management, work safety, and employee well-being, and reduce the number of health-related absences.
The project will strengthen our diversity management and integrate these strategic choices and objectives into the everyday work in our company. We also want to advance a more diverse company culture and offer employment to diverse target groups who face difficulties in obtaining employment.
Our aim is to create a replicable model for recruitment, familiarizing, and career paths together with different partners. Competency development and strengthening the skills of our staff through trainings is important for a stable business and for the growth of the company in the future.
DISCUSSION POINT No. 10: Do you think in principle that local policy leaders in Europe should involve municipal owned companies in the design and formulation of local jobs and skills agendas?
Local policy leaders in Europe should involve MOCs in the design of local jobs and skills agendas. Vantti’s participation and achievements in the Urban Growth Project demonstrate why this is so important. Cooperating within multiple sectors and fields through networking processes at the local level can produce new and valuable procedures. New ideas and different approaches open up novel paths for further cooperation and for developing networks.
and a final policy quote from Vantti’s leadership:
“We value our diverse workforce and work together with a variety of partners to develop our processes and networks further, to be even more inclusive and to profile ourselves as a socially responsible employer”.
This article was first published in: uia-initiative.eu/en/news/contribution-municipal-companies-local-jobs-and-skills-agendas-lessons-vantaa-gsip-project