• Sweden edition
Minding the gap: Swedish firms search globe for talent

Minding the gap: Swedish firms search globe for talent

Published: 03 Oct 2012 14:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Oct 2012 14:02 GMT+02:00

It might seem odd that the most modern, high-tech industries are encouraging foreign workers to experience life in the heart of traditional Sweden.

But this is exactly what is happening in the small town of Ludvika, with its population of 25,000. The town is situated in Dalarna county - a picturesque part of the country where red wooden houses nestle between valleys, forests and lakes. It’s also here that you can find an engineering hub that is attracting highly-qualified workers from all over the world.

Global power and automation company ABB is the biggest employer in the region, with a workforce of 2,600. Its high voltage laboratory is a world-leading center for the manufacturing of transmission equipment.

“We have around 30-35 nationalities among our employees,” says Niclas Lamberg, vice president of HR at ABB Ludvika.

Soon, he says, ABB will need even more foreign workers to join them.

“What we know for sure is that in the coming four years around 9-10 percent of our workforce will retire. And then there’s the gap in Sweden - we don’t educate enough engineers to cover the need our companies have.”

No going back

Labour demand was not the only reason that Martijn van den Akker decided to make the move from Holland to Dalarna with his wife and two children in 2009. “It was also the countryside and the feeling of space,” he says. “We thought we would have a better quality of life in Sweden.”

Martijn visited a fair for people interested in moving to Scandinavia to gain a better insight.

“At the time I owned my own company and was looking for business opportunities in Sweden,” he adds. The family uprooted itself from the outskirts of Utrecht following a job offer. “Integrating has been pretty easy. We don’t feel that we had any major challenges or moments of regret. The whole family is happy and we have no plans to move back.”

Now a project manager at ABB he works with colleagues from Norway, Germany and Iran. “Although Ludvika is a small town you get the sense of an international atmosphere not only in the workplace but walking down the street.”

Rule change drives recruitment

In 2008 Sweden revised its labour immigration rules for non-EU citizens, enabling employers to recruit from countries outside the EU to help ease growing pains. The changes have made moving to Sweden easier and brought a wealth of foreign talent to Swedish shores, adding to the millions of EU citizens who are free to live and work in Sweden under freedom of movement principles.

Indeed, many sectors are still scouring the world for new injections of competence. The traditional fields of engineering, forestry and mining are clustered around the country and drawing the right people to the jobs has long proved challenging, even before the global economic downturn.

In order to ensure a smooth journey and final destination, Sweden has been forward-thinking in building up a support system for employees and their families new to the area. It ensures infrastructure is in place for them to easily set up home and integrate into society.

Supporting relocation

This industry-driven expansion in Ludvika is supported by Sammarkand2015 – a regional development organization set up in 2002 to support local businesses to find the competence they need – from anywhere in the world.

“On our wish list is the recruitment of 150-200 engineers on an annual basis for the next 4-5 years,” says Lars Lindblom, Samarkand2015 CEO. “It’s not only about attracting them to the area, it’s about keeping them here,” Lars Lindblom adds.

“That’s always a challenge because we are also competing with other regions.”

Together with Ludvika, the city of Västerås - 100km west of Stockholm -is classed as a center of engineering excellence. “We need to look outside our national labour market to find the right competence level outside Sweden, ” says Samuel Strömgren, project manager for Jobba i Västeras. As an example, during 2010-2012 there has been an ongoing need to recruit 2,000 engineers annually to the region

Both organizations and local employers work together to network, travelling to universities, expos and embassies around the world in ongoing recruitment drives.

Destination for global gaming talent

In contrast, Sweden doesn’t have to try hard to advertise its presence on the international computer gaming stage. Since the industry continues to strengthen its position globally and computer games have become a top cultural export, developers from around the world are coming to Sweden in droves.

“There is no lack of graduates here,” says Per Strömbäck, spokesman for the Swedish Games Industry organization. “The problem is rather the employers don’t really have the time or priority to invest in hiring junior talent – they are focused on hiring senior talent and of course that is a problem we sort of created by ourselves.”

Swedish gaming studio Massive houses a total of 28 different nationalities in its Malmö offices. Games designer Andrada Greciuc from Romania moved to Sweden in June 2011.

“The reason I chose Sweden wasn’t so much because of the proximity to my home country or the thought that the cultural shock would be minimal,” she says. “The atmosphere was very positive and creative and I was very rapidly convinced it would be ideal for me. By working in Sweden in the gaming industry, you will most likely meet very passionate, interesting people, with strong opinions that are very knowledgeable in the field.”

However, according to Per Strömbäck, the country can be somewhat of a tough sell for others. “We can’t always compete with the salaries in other countries,” he adds. “And there is the impression that Sweden is a cold country with high taxes and of course that is true.”

But there is a flip slide, as Associate Creative Director and US citizen Ryan Barnard discovered when he took up his position at Massive in September 2011. “Dress warm and don’t let the dark winters get you down,” he advises. “Sweden is a beautiful country and I have been very happy since moving here.”

Article sponsored by Working in Sweden

Find out more about working in Sweden at www.workinginsweden.se.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden wants cruise missiles 'for defence'
Defence Minister Karin Enström. File photo: TT

Sweden wants cruise missiles 'for defence'

The Swedish government has announced plans to beef up its defence forces by fitting its fleet of Gripen fighter jets with long-range cruise missiles. READ () »

Swede of the Week
Sweden's oldest would-be MP: 'They promised I wouldn't get in'
Swedes vote in the 2010 elections. File photo: Dan Hansson/TT

Sweden's oldest would-be MP: 'They promised I wouldn't get in'

Gösta Arvedson, 89, is the oldest Riksdag candidate in Sweden, but our Swede of the Week explains that the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) had to make some unusual promises for him to put his name forward. READ () »

Elections 2014
Most Swedes lack info ahead of EU vote
The Green Party is one of only two parties devoting their websites to the EU elections. Here campaign manager Emma Rung presents the party's posters. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Most Swedes lack info ahead of EU vote

The majority of Swedes feel the country's political parties are not doing enough to inform them about the upcoming European Parliament elections. Only two of the eight parties have dedicated their homepages to the May 25th polls. READ () »

Fatal Norrköping Brawl
Local church tried to stop Norrköping murders
Swedish police on the scene following Monday's fatal brawl. File: TT

Local church tried to stop Norrköping murders

The Syrian-Orthodox Church in Ektorp had tried to quell tensions between two rival families just hours before bad blood spilled into a massive brawl and two brothers lost their lives. READ () »

JobTalk Sweden
'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'
The bridge that connects Sweden to the European continent. File: L.E. Daniel Larsson/Flickr

'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'

The Swedish agency that helps Europeans fight impediments to the EU principle of free movement has revealed an increase in complaints, including one from a foreign citizen unable to open a bank account in Sweden. READ () »

Eurovision 2014
Pig heart shatters in Sweden's Eurovision clip
Sanna Nielsen in the new clip. Photo: YouTube (screenshot)

Pig heart shatters in Sweden's Eurovision clip

Sweden's Eurovision hopeful Sanna Nielsen released the official video for the song Undo on Wednesday, a clip featuring leather, slow motion destruction, and a frozen pig's heart and some violence. READ () »

Software robot pinches Swedish flats in seconds
Swedish apartments. File: The Local

Software robot pinches Swedish flats in seconds

A Swedish landlord suspects that a property fixer has set up a software robot to sign up for new flats on the market within seconds, and is charging house hunters to use the service. READ () »

Swedish zoo fire 'kills only the spiders'
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish zoo fire 'kills only the spiders'

Twenty-five fire fighters were on hand on Wednesday night when a fire broke out in a southern Sweden animal park. The vast majority of the animals were unharmed, but the cluster of spiders wasn't so lucky. READ () »

Sweden Investor group posts sharp profit drop
File photo: Simon Cunningham/Flickr

Sweden Investor group posts sharp profit drop

Swedish investment giant Investor on Wednesday said its first-quarter profits slumped by a quarter, underlining Sweden's vulnerability to international instability. READ () »

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden
Michael Boatwright (R) and Medieval knight re-enactors.

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden

The "motel mystery" American who baffled US authorities by only speaking Swedish when he woke up from a coma last year has passed away, Swedish media reported on Wednesday. READ () »

People-watching April 23
Inside the 850-year-old king's coffin
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
University applications rocket to record high
People-watching April 18-20
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
People-watching April 16
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
Abba duo hints at reunion
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit: