Matching the talent of newcomers with the Finnish job market 

Startup Refugees offers a variety of courses in different languages. Here, participants engage in a session conducted in Arabic.
The Startup Refugees programs have helped 1,730 people from an immigrant background to find steady jobs. Many have also started their own businesses.

Oksana Chelysheva

Cesar Carvajal

Published 01.02.2024 2:18

Updated 01.02.2024 2:25

Yevheniia Sviechkarova is from Ukraine. She fled the war in February 2023 to Finland with her children. From the first days, she felt determined to gain all possible understanding of life in Finland. 

“When I got registered with the TE Office, I stated that my goal is integration,” Sviechkarova says. 

What was still lacking was contact with Finnish people. The opportunity came in autumn 2023 when she saw a Facebook advertisement inviting applicants to participate in the Christmas crafts fair for new Finnish residents. 

“It was a way for me to get to know some Finnish people with whom I am still in touch.” 

Sviechkarova grabbed the chance as she was frantically searching for opportunities to get a job in Finland. Moreover, she was the right person, as her main hobby was creating fancy and spectacular gingerbreads. 

”If you want it not to be flat but in the form of a snowman or football player, then it is me who can make it,” Sviechkarova says and smiles. 

The fair was organized in Helsinki by Startup Refugees. Sviechkarova was one of about 15 participants from Ukraine, China, Algeria, Iraq, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Hong Kong. 

“There are many extraordinarily talented and skillful people” 

Startup Refugees is a non-profit network that offers help for asylum seekers and refugees in finding jobs or starting their own businesses in Finland. 

”Startup Refugees began as a media campaign in 2015. It has developed into a network of individuals, companies, and municipalities that assists us in matching Finnish businesses with refugees, among whom there are many extraordinarily talented and skillful people,” says Aicha Manai. 

Manai is the CEO of Startup Refugees. She herself is Finnish Tunisian. 

”Immigration has always been very close to my heart, as I feel that people coming to Finland should not be treated with suspicion.” 

Since the beginning, more than 30,000 people have participated in Startup Refugees’ programs, and 1,730 people have been employed. Currently, the network has more than 2,000 members, including entire municipalities. 

“We aim to assist all people who turn to us” 

Community Coordinator Oleksiy Kovalenko joined the organization in 2016. He is in charge of the programs aimed at Ukrainian and Russian speakers. In 2023, Startup Refugees launched courses also in Russian due to the demand.  

Kovalenko himself is originally from Ukraine. Altogether there are 17 languages spoken at Startup Refugees. 

”We aim to assist all people who turn to us. This is our strong feature. All people deserve respect, and we all aim to coexist in a harmonious way.” 

One of Kovalenko’s projects was the Christmas fair. The purpose of the fair was to put the business models developed by the participants into practice. More than 360 visitors attended the fair during two days. 

Before the fair, participants had taken part in a three-day introductory course in the Finnish tax system organized by Startup Refugees. 

Since Kovalenko started working for Startup Refugees, he says more than 80 new business ventures have been registered. 

”Just in the last week of 2023, two more enterprises were born.” 

According to Kovalenko, the number of people who undertook business courses in 2023 reached more than 620 people.  

Startup Refugees is extending their operations outside the capital region. They are launching two master classes in Tampere. They will deal with developing business plans and social media advertising skills.