“The desire for development is exceptionally strong, and the number of participants exceeded all the targets”

One year ago, small and medium-sized enterprises in North Karelia were alerted of the need for further training and improving their position on the markets. There were signs in the region’s business sector of overly cautious business models, and even stagnation. Companies were asked where the skills bottlenecks are. The areas mentioned were leadership, quality, and boosting productivity. Between last May and the end of the year, nearly 150 individuals from 54 different North Karelian businesses participated in trainings on the areas they had highlighted. A total of 450 training days were carried out. According to Business Joensuu’s Business Specialist Hannu Räsänen, the number of companies and participants exceeded the targets right from the start. The trainings, which are part of Business Joensuu’s growth and development services, are continuing throughout the region.

Karelia Ikkuna is one of the dozens of companies that took hold of the training opportunities offered by the ESR-funded Osaajat osaa (Experts Can) 2020 project. Otto Ahtonen has been working as CEO of the family business since last June. The business was established in 1991, and Ahtonen has long been involved in the its everyday activities, ranging from the different production stages through to technical design and management. The continually changing business environment, opportunities for internationalising and competitive conditions provide the motivation to keep updating one’s knowledge and expertise.

– Plans are being made for multi-million dollar investments in production equipment. The trainings have helped us with pushing these things forward too, says Otto Ahtonen, CEO of Karelia Ikkuna plc.

He considers it a very good thing that the trainers have practical examples to offer. Exchanging ideas and networking is valuable for a business.

– In the trainings, there was always lively discussion with the group. Regardless of the field or the particular company, the same kind of issues are occupying our thoughts. A lot of valuable information was shared about how other companies are dealing with different challenges, Ahtonen continues.

Growth and internationalisation

Hannu Räsänen from Business Joensuu is surprised and very pleased with the enthusiasm of North Karelian companies for receiving training. It is also a good thing that both manufacturing companies and also service and expert companies have taken hold of the training opportunities.

Räsänen mentions that the region’s companies are dealing with the cautiousness and productivity issues that come with ageing. These are familiar themes throughout the country, but for some reason they are particularly pronounced in North Karelia. It was therefore a logical solution to create a project that serves as many companies as possible and brings the training close to these companies.

– We asked the companies themselves about their training needs, and the answers were quite similar even though they came from companies of different sizes and very different sectors. The key themes that emerged were leadership, boosting productivity, and developing Lean and quality systems, Räsänen explains. In his opinion, the feedback received from the trainings strongly confirms that North Karelian companies have the will to grow and internationalise.

The trainings continue

For the sections of the project continuing until the end of May 2020, the trainings are being provided by a number of Eastern Finland service providers, including Kuopio-based Consultancy Firm Seppo Hoffrén plc and Joensuu-based Sunprofile plc. The next Lean Factory coaching session will be held on 10–11 April. The next CEO trainings will be held in early summer and autumn in Kitee and Pielinen-Karjala.

For more information:
Business Joensuu
Hannu Räsänen
Business Specialist
050 305 9120