2023 12 15
Present and future talents: a conversation about the prospects of Kaunas

Is Kaunas the city of future talents? This question was asked by labor market specialists, representatives of higher education institutions, and education market experts at the meeting/discussion organized for the business and academic community titled “The Present and the Future of the Labor Market in Kaunas” and initiated by Kaunas IN. Different companies of Kaunas highlighted the current situation and the possible future one.


As the overview of Kaunas’ long-term trends in education and labor market shows, the city of Kaunas and its district, which currently has about 400 thousand inhabitants and is recording an increase in this number, is not only the 4th largest in the Baltic countries but also ranks among the TOP 10 cities among all Nordic countries.

Although the balance of births and deaths is still negative, the positive progress of internal and international migration is being recorded. More people are coming to Kaunas than leaving it.


As Andrius Veršinskas, Head of the Business Department of Kaunas IN emphasizes, the trends show that if Kaunas wants to continue to grow, it is necessary to pay attention to the international aspect. “The natural population change was and remains negative. Meanwhile, the number of foreign citizens living in Kaunas is growing steadily. Last year it constituted around 3 percent of Kaunas residents, i.e., there were about 11.5 thousand foreigners living in the city. Some are students and others are highly qualified or less qualified workers. Therefore, the attractiveness of the city and the improvement of the quality of life, especially in the international context, is the path that can lead us to our city’s demographic and labor market growth.”


A partner of the recruitment agency Alliance for Recruitment, Andrius Francas, who feels the pulse of the labor market very well, made similar points in his presentation. One of his recipes for growing in Lithuania with our resources mentioned immigration specifically, “Each company should have at least a few employees who were not born in Lithuania, i.e., immigrants. Observing the demographic trends of recent decades, it is inevitable if we want to continue to be competitive, grow, and create products and services; robots will not do all the work for us.”


Salaries grew by 75 percent in 5 years.


An important reason for migration to Kaunas was the wage increase. Although it slowed down a bit this year, over the past five years, from 2017 to 2022, the average wage (net) in the city grew by about 75 percent. And although this simultaneously poses certain challenges for employers, as analysts emphasize, this process is inevitable and programs the way to create higher added value.


Kaunas is also a city of young people and students with 7 universities, 6 colleges, and more than 10 vocational schools. About 40 thousand students attend these institutions every year and more than half of them choose STEAM studies. The engineering/medical profile of Kaunas is rather prominent in the general context of the region. Teltonika Networks’ head of HR Rimantė Pečkaitienė attested to that by giving an example of the scholarships awarded by her company to students in the field of technology. About 70 – 80 percent of the recipients of these scholarships are students who attend universities in Kaunas.


“This shows that Kaunas’ higher education institutions are the best in the field of technology,” R. Pečkaitienė had no doubts. When asked if Kaunas is attractive for talents and what the city itself could do to become even more attractive, she answered, without hesitation, “Yes, it is attractive. And what the city could do more is to take care of spaces for startups and innovation parks, cooperate with higher education institutions, and businesses, and pay attention to creating better conditions for business. Culture and art also help attract foreign talent. Like any other city, Kaunas definitely has room for improvement when it comes to creating more interesting ways to spend your free time and at the same time attracting talented artists to live here in Kaunas.”


Promoting education that will ensure a well-paid job


Another optimistic trend is the growing number of students enrolling in Kaunas’ higher education institutions, which also testifies to the growing base of potential future talents in the city. According to Prof. Pranas Žiliukas, LAMA BPO president, who participated in the discussion, the improvement of the academic results of the entrants looks promising. However, there is still a huge need for professional divisions and help for children, who are still in school, to choose the majors that they will continue studying in universities and which will provide them with the most promising and in-demand skills in the labor market. “So that there are more admissions according to the talents and inclinations of that young person, and fewer last-minute choices based on the grades on maturity certificate,” Prof. P. Žiliukas points out.


By the way, Kaunas IN has even created several programs aimed at targeting and attracting young people to the Kaunas labor market: (presentation of priority and traditional business sectors of Kaunas with the lists of professions, companies, salary ranges, and places of study), Study in Kaunas campaign that showcases the attractiveness of the city to future students and Future for Electronics which provides valid arguments and motivation for young people to choose electrical engineering.


Tadas Jarockas, Head of the IT Department of Centric IT Solutions Lithuania, also spoke about the needs of the labor market and the choices of students that do not correspond to it. He mentioned the challenges faced not only by IT companies in Kaunas but those across Lithuania as well, “There is a huge need for IT specialists in Lithuania. This is the most pressing issue for us. Hiring one person becomes a real challenge. Therefore, it is very important to take care of the person, in order for them to stay in that workplace because the replacement process is very long.”


Partnerships and programs that meet business needs


The package offered for the recruitment of highly qualified specialists is one of those services that the Employment Service offers to businesses and which, according to Daiva Kniezienė, a partner in the selection of highly qualified personnel of the Employment Service, many businesses do not know about.

The largest database of job seekers in Lithuania, consultations, recruitment mediation, financial support measures, and questions related to the employment of foreigners, in short, everything that talent-seeking organizations may need, and all services required, are free of charge.

“We have long since grown out of the associations that Employment Service creates in people’s minds along with the attitude that only those who don’t want to work register at the Employment Service,” D. Kniežienė points out with a smile.


By the way, the presenter named some new tendencies among the usual reasons for job loss: liquidated companies or job positions. For example, employees leave their jobs voluntarily because they are unsatisfied with the psychological climate, want to take a break in their professional career, experience burnout, or want to change their qualifications and profession. In the latter case, the Employment Service can become an excellent assistant.

During the meeting, four Kaunas higher education institutions also presented their value propositions for partnerships with businesses.


Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) vice-rector of studies Dr. Kristina Ukvalbergienė spoke about the topic that unites business, HR professionals, and representatives of higher education: employee competencies. “We are considering how to develop them so that they are suitable for today, tomorrow, and in the distant future. You are considering how to apply, attract, and adapt them in your company. Therefore, there must be synergy between all of us. KTU’s value proposition would be to develop both our and your competencies, to contribute to the development and attraction of professionals and leaders to your companies.”


Dr. Inga Stravinskienė, the deputy director of Kaunas College for organizational development, mentioned open lectures, hackathons, visits to companies, participation in thesis commissions, internship organization, and mentorship – basically, activities in which businesses willingly engage and participate – among other successful partnership programs with businesses.


Competency development and a strong focus on the lifelong learning concept prevailed in the presentation/proposal of Dr. Simona Pilkienė, vice-rector of studies at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU). She talked about how companies together with the university can open up new opportunities both for their employees and for the education and attraction of new team members.


Meanwhile, the head of the Kaunas Technical College (KTK) administration, Nerijus Varnas, emphasized the one-stop-shop principle, which allows for a quick response to the inquiries of companies. He also presented examples of partnerships implemented by the college in training employees for business. These include programs for retraining employees and professions that create high-added value, the participation of partners in the study process, joint laboratories, and targeted business units: KTK Racing Division, KTK Engineering Division or KTK RoboTech Division.


At the end of the discussion, when summarizing the conversation, speakers tended to be optimistic about the potential of Kaunas, at the same time emphasizing that attracting and cultivating talent is an extremely complex process in which not only universities and businesses play a huge role, but also the quality of life created by the city itself and the cultural openness of society, which will only increase in importance as the need for immigration grows. The need for changes will also inevitably grow due to global processes, due to which productivity-enhancing technologies will require more and more engineering/technology specialists but also the continuous development of existing employees’ competencies and often retraining.


Source: Kaunas IN

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