The European Union faces a shortage of specialists. The reality of demographic and labor market characteristics dictates that the legal migration of talent to the EU is a unavoidable need. Yet current pathways for specialized migration fall short. So the EU is looking for new ways to connect European companies to foreign labor markets, teeming with talented young jobseekers, and has launched a series of pilot projects to test the waters. Quite unexpectedly for many, Lithuania was the first to join the initiative and its digital explorers have become one of the most successful in terms of tangible results.
The main objective of the Digital Explorers— contracted by ICMPD on behalf of the European Commission, filled vacancies in Lithuanian technology companies with Nigerian ICT talent; therefore, he explored models of international collaboration between business and government, with a non-governmental organization as the intermediary. In light of the previous limited engagement between Lithuania and African countries, this is truly a groundbreaking experience, participants and partners agree.
While the current European mobility tool for professionals, the Blue Card initiative, provides a simplified set of legal migration requirements for highly skilled workers from non-EU countries, the number of talents attracted is moo. A recent revision of the Initiative aims to solve this problem by widening access to the framework for young, more qualified specialists, but modifying the regulations may not be enough. A significant bottleneck is the real and perceived risks to the private sector of hiring talent from outside the EU.
“The legal migration paths for young specialists to the Union can solve multiple problems, including the shortage of talent in the EU, the lack of opportunities for young specialists in third countries, and address the unknowns that the sector private is faced. They could also help build mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries on comprehensive migration management. We are looking for ways to facilitate the process with EU Member States, in line with the New Pact on Migration and Asylum,” says Magdalena Jagiello, Deputy Head of Legal Paths and Integration Unit, Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).
A success story to build on
Even though EU-based companies willing to hire abroad are inevitable initiators of staff migration, mobility projects act as catalysts by providing a missing link between participating countries as well as between companies. and the public sector.
“While private companies were initially skeptical of the possibility of this unexpected connection, we spoke their language, a language that is at the heart of ICT companies. Our team members had a diverse background in ICT and law and direct knowledge of the African technology market. Therefore, we were successful in addressing hiring companies’ concerns and got answers to key questions, including recruitment and matching strategies, and potential skill level,” says Mantė Makauskaitė, Project Manager from Digital Explorers.
“We also had a long-term vision that the project would empower us to create new mutually beneficial connections between the Baltic and African ICT markets, and stakeholders were excited about this way forward,” she continues.
Through the Digital Explorers journey, 26 young men and women moved from Nigeria to Lithuania via two mobility models: a one-year job and a 6-month paid internship. They joined 13 companies working in the ICT, engineering, fintech and data science markets. Both parties were supported throughout the program – Nigerians underwent technical and non-technical training to further enhance their career prospects, while companies were consulted on the integration of international and diversity management practices . After the program, 18 participants were retained by Lithuanian ICT companies, while others continue their careers in Nigeria, making it a win-win initiative.
“The Lithuanian ICT sector is growing rapidly and the shortage of specialists is difficult to solve by relying only on local talent. We were open to hiring talent from outside the EU, but needed help establishing contacts, aligning with potential employees from third countries and making paperwork easier,” says Vaidas Laužeckas, CEO of Metasite Data Insights .
With the help of Digital Explorers, Metasite Data Insights initially hosted a junior data scientist; after the program, the company hired another. Both explorers started as junior specialists in internship positions and finished as mid-level specialists within 6 months.
Another Lithuanian company that has benefited from a connection to Nigeria, Telesoftas, was deeply impressed by the new opportunities offered by the African IT talent market and made the strategic decision to set up a Nigerian branch and open an office in Abuja with the aim of hiring at least 30 engineers by the end of 2022 and up to 100 in 2023. “The potential offered by Nigeria is simply too great to ignore. An on-site subsidiary could act not only as our main delivery center, but also as a connection, allowing Lithuanian teams to seek talent to fill their ranks and create new business opportunities,” says Algirdas Stonys, CEO of Telesoftas.
A collaboration between Lithuania and Nigeria has emerged as an excellent example demonstrating the importance and mutual benefits of legal migration. Building on lessons learned from Digital Explorers and other projects, the EU is working to build talent partnerships. “Digital Explorers have demonstrated a successful way to connect businesses, employees and governments internationally, and could become an example of future cooperation. A better match between skills from outside the EU and labor market needs within the EU is badly needed and benefits all stakeholders in multiple ways. This would be the key aspect of talent partnerships that would improve legal pathways to the EU, while strategically engaging partner countries in migration management,” says Jagiello.
A collaboration between Lithuania and Nigeria has established itself as a prime example for larger-scale projects in Talent partnerships. “Digital Explorers have demonstrated a successful way to connect businesses, employees and governments internationally, and could become an example for future projects. A better match between skills from outside the EU and labor market needs within the EU is badly needed and benefits all stakeholders in multiple ways,” says Jagiello.
According to Makauskaitė, who is already exploring ways to expand digital explorers from the Lithuanian scale to the Baltic scale, including other African countries, such partnerships could create even more European added value if our legal systems were more harmonized and if the cross-border scale would not require understanding completely different regulations. However, for now, at least in-depth knowledge of the match between the existing talent pool and business needs can be used by other European countries.
“The match may not be perfect right away, but it’s important to know how to perfect it,” concludes the leader of Digital Explorers.