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Local government pilots offer lessons on cooperation and joint development

Tuula Haatainen Marja-Riitta Pihlman Published Date 17.11.2021 16.57 Blog

Tuula Haatainen and Marja-Riitta Pihlman.

The ongoing local government pilots on employment are the first step in strengthening the role of municipalities in organising employment services, in accordance with the objectives of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government.  A total of 25 pilot areas and 118 municipalities participate in the local government pilots, which means that the participating municipalities can have very different premises. Throughout the autumn, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has received messages expressing concerns about the state of the local government pilots, regional challenges and the burden on personnel.  


We have lived in exceptional circumstances for more than a year and a half.  The coronavirus epidemic has significantly increased the number of customers at TE Offices and in local government pilots. This is a key reason for the slow updates to customers’ employment plans throughout Finland, regardless of whether they are customers of local government pilots or not. 


At the same time, it is good to keep in mind that the pilots were launched only this spring. The first eight-month trial period has been difficult for some municipalities, while others have succeeded well in starting the pilot and meeting customers. The initial challenges are mainly related to recruitment of personnel, scope of orientation tasks, organisation of work, contact of customers and their referral to services, coordination of different work and operating cultures, and development of cooperation with organisations.


The local government pilots highlight the importance of joint development. After we have received information on different challenges, we have started to solve them together with the municipalities, and this cooperation must continue in future too. Regional cooperation bodies formed by TE Offices, pilot municipalities and Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment play a crucial role in this. These cooperation bodies will examine, among other things, the progress of the pilots in the region, human resources issues, regional employment trends and the effectiveness of services.  


Measures have been taken with regard to management, organisation of work and support for occupational health. The operational development of local government pilots is supported by a group that includes a wide representation from municipalities, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, the TE Administration, the KEHA Centre, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. In addition, the KEHA Centre, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment have organised employment clinics where the customer service personnel and the managers of pilots work together to solve problems arising from everyday work and share good practices. The competence of managers of the pilots has been supported with management training. Participation in these activities is active and operator-based. 


We have managed to tackle recruitment challenges, developed a wide range of orientation models, and continue to develop the service model and referral to services further. Skilled personnel is our most important resource in employment services, so it is extremely important to pay attention to personnel wellbeing and coping at work during these changes.


After the initial challenges, it appears that all regions have been able to organise their pilot resources and increase the efficiency of customer work and service coordination, which has led to higher customer satisfaction. Municipalities have developed new operating models for practical work and these have been shared between the participants.

  
We would also like to note that the resources of TE services will be increased by 40% compared with the normal situation next year as the Nordic labour market service model enters into force. This will apply to the municipalities participating in the local government pilots too. The aim must be to provide unemployed jobseekers with support for finding employment at an earlier stage.


Even though the transfer of TE services to municipalities is not a direct continuation of the pilots, it is important to solve the problems arising from them as they offer many lessons for building operating models. We need structural reforms to organise our employment services, and municipalities have wished for this transfer for a long time. Transferring the responsibility for employment, municipal education and business services to one organiser promotes the objective of faster employment. Skilled personnel is the key to a successful reform. The personnel will be transferred to municipalities applying the transfer-of-business principle in accordance with the Civil Servants Act.  We are currently preparing a personnel change programme to support the transfer.

Ultimately, any reform of employment services must aim at a very simple objective – that we have the best possible services to help unemployed people find work and to support companies in meeting their labour needs in regions.

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen and Director-General Marja-Riitta Pihlman 

Website for the local government pilots on employment
TE services reform 2024 website 
 

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