Ambassador attempting to land young Spaniards jobs in Estonia

, majandusajakirjanik
Please note that the article is more than five years old and belongs to our archive. We do not update the content of the archives, so it may be necessary to consult newer sources.
Photo: Reuters / Scanpix

For two long years, Spanish ambassador to Estonia Álvaro de la Riva Guzmán de Frutos has been in negotiations with entrepreneurs, social ministry and the job mobility network EURES, to enhance employment in Estonia for Spanish jobless youth.

To begin with, the ambassador talked to both tourism and IT-companies, but they’re only moving on with the latter, as in hotels and restaurants the wages are too low to lure Spanish youth here – instead of Norway.

According to the ambassador, by making sandwiches in Norwegian streets the youth are earning €3,000 a month, not to mention the top restaurants. While talking to entrepreneurs, it turned out Estonian salaries in this segment were rather the €500 to €600 kind. That is not enough, says the ambassador – especially not if the entrepreneurs aren’t willing to pay for the lodgings. To do that, the entrepreneurs had said they would need state support.  

In Estonian IT companies, however, the ambassador said that salaries are on international level: finance director of gets the same pay here that he would in London. On the other hand, in Spain IT-engineers are being sacked in droves and they are leaving to find jobs abroad – in Germany, Austria, or Holland for instance.

As assessed by the ambassador, Estonia’s future is the very IT-sector, the growth of which may be somewhat stunted by staff shortage. It is also essential that, in Estonia, the IT-sector is basically the only one with English speaking jobs available.

According to Mr De la Riva Guzmán de Frutos, it is time for Estonians to start thinking how to solve the problems with finding staff, as otherwise the sector moves elsewhere and hires staff there. «These companies do not need to work in Tallinn,» he said.

Leaving out of need

So far, experience says Spaniards have no trouble integrating in Estonia – as assured by several of his compatriots that have been «domesticated» here, having married an Estonian and created a family. Also, the Spanish youth are very eager at using student-exchange programmed, and are ready to live abroad.

Asked if the Spanish youth would indeed want to come work in Estonia, the ambassador said: «People are forced out of homeland by need – they are willing to weather the climate and other hardships, as their living standards and careers hang on the balance. It’s not forever, but they might think that by working at Skype in Estonia for three years may land them a Skype job in London.»

For starters, Mr De la Riva Guzmán de Frutos met with representatives of Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) and Tehnopol; the latter were interested in cooperation. At the second meeting, large companies alike Skype and Ericsson were represented; an unofficial working group was created. The keenest interest, says the ambassador, is among the small enterprises which are having difficulty with staff policies on their own.

The ambassador also met then social minister Taavi Rõivas who was willing to cooperate. The project is operated by the EU job mobility portal EURES.

The ambassador thinks the labour ministers of both countries might sign a memorandum of cooperation, such as Spain has with Germany and Norway for instance.

English rare as working language

The ambassador said the project is still in baby shoes and for everything to work, at least a year is needed for negotiations. At the moment, the embassy is waiting for entrepreneurs to send detailed descriptions of how many staff they need, and with which skills; meanwhile, the embassy is seeking to know which Spanish agencies would be willing to participate in the scheme.

According to ITL board member Tiit Paananen it is praiseworthy that Spain, in cooperation with Estonia, is actively seeking solutions for unemployment and sees jobs outside the country as a solution for its trained specialists.

«The amount of companies using English as working language, especially in other sectors, is limited in Estonia; therefore, the interest towards hiring foreigners is still relatively low. In ITL, we are actively working towards Estonian IT and communications companies developing an awareness of the values of involving foreign specialists and creating English-speaking jobs,» said Mr Paananen.

He said there already are the companies looking for ways for smarter engagement of English speaking high level specialists. Proekspert, for instance, has recently created an English-speaking team to work on projects where knowledge of Estonian is not important in analysing client requirement or solution design.  

«Enterprises will significantly enhance their export capacity as they are able to better involve employees with international background,» added Mr Paananen.

According to Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol marketing chief Martin Goroško, their topmost motivation for participating in the project is that of the 180 companies operating in the park, at least 60 percent are linked to IT – more or less. «We have also realised that for local companies, finding the needed staff is a major headache. We are cooperating with Estonian recruiting centres and career services at universities. But that’s not enough as the yearly staff shortage in our companies is 100–300 specialists,» explained Mr Goroško.

That proved a springboard for cooperation with Spain. «Firstly, we want to test bringing their specialists into out IT-companies as well as start-ups where competition for staff is even more critical,» said Mr Goroško.

As confirmed by social ministry labour market policy chief Marit Raist, they are discussing an Estonian-Spanish EURES agreement after the example of the one Spain has with Germany. «Broadly, the former social minister was supportive of this. Even so, complementary discussions have been postponed and there is no final solution regarding the format of cooperation has not been taken,» said Ms Raist.

Agreement not necessary

According to Ms Raist, EURES stands promptly ready for closer cooperation with local IT-companies, to improve their awareness of options at the network, to publish job offers on their portal, and to advertise options to work in Estonia at their employment exhibitions.  

For these activities, however, no separate cooperation agreement is needed – say people at the ministry and EURES.

Marta Traks, EURES services manager in Estonia, talked about cooperation memorandum to both Spanish colleagues and labour ministry and both parties said successful cooperation was possible without it.

«An agreement makes sense if extra paid services are involved; but as EURES is free of charge for employers, we saw no need to again confirm or ratify this. The agreement Spain has with Germany – that was something demanded by the latter, as they are accustomed to having such agreements,» explained Ms Traks.

So far, EURES has tries to find Spanish staff for Skype, for instance; a few years ago, they organised a corresponding recruiting event at the University of Barcelona. At the event, preliminary sifting was passed by 52 candidates desiring to work at Skype in Estonia. At Skype, however, the labour demand is of such a specific nature that, in the end, none of those reached here. Thus: the young Spaniards are interested in working in Estonia, but first we have to offer them definite jobs.