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Helsinki arranges temporary transfers to address coronavirus labour shortages

The City of Helsinki established an internal Skills Bank to facilitate the temporary relocation of city employees to coronavirus-related work tasks back in spring 2020. More than 2,000 people have been assigned to handle other responsibilities that match their skills sets via the service, which has operated continuously since the onset of the coronavirus crisis. Now that the pandemic has taken a turn for the worse, many more such transfers are needed.

The demand for workers has increased drastically of late, especially in the social and health services sector. In addition to nursing and related care and assistance tasks, people are needed for example in early childhood education to serve as daycare workers and playground instructors.

“I am proud of our organisation and, above all, of the flexibility demonstrated by our staff. It has been a delight to see such team spirit, coupled with a desire to learn new things and the courage to take up tasks where help is truly needed,” says Mayor Juhana Vartiainen.

In addition to the city’s own employees being transferred through the Skills Bank, many retired social and health services sector professionals and volunteers have pitched in to help since spring 2020. This week, approximately 120 practical nurse students from Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute will also provide assistance.

“The cooperation between Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute and the Social Services and Health Care Division has been flexible and goal-oriented in this challenging coronavirus situation. The cooperation supports the students’ work-based learning and allows personal studies to progress. Teacher teams and their superiors have demonstrated excellent efficiency and creative pedagogical problem-solving ability in this opportunity to support nursing care,” says the institute’s rector Maria Sarkkinen.

Mia Keinänen, HR Planning Manager for the city’s Social Services and Health Care Division, is pleased with the speed with which the matter was handled. “Helsinki’s hospitals, senior centres and home care facilities quickly established where the students should be placed and where they could provide valuable assistance. The whole thing was organised with the necessary expediency, allowing the planning of their induction and supervision to begin before the students even arrived.”

How does the Helsinki Skills Bank work?

During the coronavirus crisis, staff transfers between the city’s divisions have been coordinated by the Skills Bank, a service the city specifically established for this purpose in April 2020. City managers assess staff workload and agree on possible transfers together with the employees. This ensures that everyone is fully employed and work contributions are focused where the need is greatest.

The temporary assignments can last up to eight weeks. Longer periods are agreed upon separately with the employee’s consent.

Employees transferred to work in the Social Services and Health Care Division must have the required vaccination protection, i.e., two coronavirus vaccines and the influenza vaccine. Missing influenza vaccines can be arranged quickly through occupational health care.

Employees on the city’s payroll can participate in Skills Bank operations by agreeing on the matter with their manager. Other social and health services sector and early childhood education professionals can apply for openings through the city’s recruitment service or the workforce leasing company Seure.

More information

Coronavirus updates from Helsinki
Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute

Photo: Jefunne Gimpel