Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: A Feedback From the National Urban Forum Conference in Salo, Finland

Prof. Mike Campbell

By Prof. Mike Campbell, on May 28th, 2013

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by Professor Mike Campbell, URBACT expert

It was great to have the chance of speaking at Finland’s National Urban Forum Conference on 21 May. The Ministry of the Economy and Employment (that’s a good joined up start in itself!) which is responsible for Urban Policy, kindly invited me to speak about the need for Cities to ‘adapt to change’ if they are to grow jobs in the recovery. An ideal opportunity then, to present URBACT’s More Jobs Better Cities: Action Framework to the 150 delegates from cities all across Finland, as well as to address directly the drivers of change in the labour market and the implications for city leadership.

Better still I was fortunate have the opening plenary session slot: 45 minutes! Another advantage was to be in the lovely city of Salo-the home of Nokia. At least it was: the factory (though not the Rand D function) closed last year with the loss of nearly 2000 jobs in a city of 50,000 people. No wonder they wanted to talk about how to create new jobs and adapt to change! In fact, the conference itself took place in part of the old Nokia complex.

There are exciting and interesting changes underway in Finland’s urban policy, providing fertile ground for the ‘More Jobs Better Cities framework. The new Urban Policy Action Plan 2012-2015 views cities as ‘engines of growth’ and places a strong emphasis on the establishment of ‘growth agreements’ to guide local solutions, not dissimilar to the City Deals being put in place in England.
salo jobs city urban URBACT

The growth agreements are being negotiated right now, especially in the 11 cities with more than 100,000 citizens. The focus is on competitiveness but account is also being taken of social sustainability, community structures and meeting the challenges of climate change. A comprehensive ‘cross administrative’ perspective is being taken and support is being provided for networking and sharing experiences between cities and with national actors as well as internationally. The URBACT programme is explicitly mentioned in this regard. The policy developments will also embrace municipal reform as well as the urban dimension of the 2014-20 structural funds. An urban research think tank is also to be established.

So, what did I say in my talk? Too much to summarise here! 

But I began by saying why we needed to adapt to change and see it as an opportunity (as well as a threat). I outlined the main drivers of change in labour markets ( eg demographics, technology, globalisation) and why this means that ‘business as usual’ is not a sensible policy option for cities. But most of the talk was given over to setting out the ‘More Jobs Better Cities’ framework for action.

more jobs better cities

There is so much that many cities can do, to help create more and better jobs. Cities need to work on three sets of interrelated issues: the local economy, which drives jobs(on both the demand and supply sides);the functioning of the local labour market(again on both the demand and supply sides);and the connections between them, especially with regard to Intelligence and Governance, which can help align policy across the city. Intrigued? Want to know more? Then you should download the report More Jobs: Better Cities – A Framework for Cities Actions on Jobs from the URBACT website!

My talk ended on a theme that my hosts particularly wanted me to address: city leadership, an issue vital to successful policy development and effective delivery.  

Other speakers, usually in Finnish, spoke about the growth agreements, including their initial evaluation; the importance of being future oriented; the need to build a ‘positive spiral’ of change; the value of the creative industries; and the new tools needed for urban policy in a ‘post Nokia’ Finland. It was a refreshing, optimistic and ‘can do’ approach to urban policy thinking.

My talk, I am delighted to say, was it seems very well received, including by the Ministry, and elicited considerable interest from delegates. I am very grateful to all the colleagues whom I met, who made my whole visit so interesting and enjoyable. 

If you, in other countries and cities, want as in Finland, to hear more first hand about ‘More Jobs, Better Cities’ and how to help create new jobs in cities, Alison Partridge or myself will be delighted to hear from you. 



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