Aalborg: the Global City

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(This is my translation – from the original Danish – of an article written by Tonny Thorup, Business Manger at BusinessAalborg, a division of Aalborg Kommune. The IMG_1167article appeared in the Nordjyske on 13 January 2015. Click on the image to the right to enlarge it. There will be more information about the International House initiative in the months to come. Stay tuned!)

Aalborg and North Jutland are becoming more and more globalized, but as a city and region we need to be much better at embracing international companies, staff, and students. We will need more skilled labor and sharp international talent in the future so it is important that we both attract and retain the foreign workers that are needed to meet the demand of North Jutland companies. The alternative is to lose contracts and growth and thus jobs.

Companies in North Jutland export mainly to Germany, Sweden, Britain, and Norway and more and more of them are building their base of international customers. But it is also true that more and more companies in the North Jutland region have foreign owners. In Aalborg 7.6% of the population are employed foreign nationals. It is obviously a very varied picture, from the greengrocer on the corner to the German engineer at Siemens Wind Power to the doctor at Aalborg Hospital. However, the trend is clear – the number of international workers is increasing; in fact, the rate has increased over 20% in the last three to four years.

The number of foreign students has also exploded over the last year, especially at the University College of Northern Denmark and Aalborg University. Today there are nearly 3,000 foreign students at institutions of higher education in Aalborg.

So the big question is – are we doing anything about it? To ensure that the right foreigners come to Aalborg, that their spouses are integrated, and that they stay and create value in the companies? If the answer until now has been that we are not, then we are on the path to changing that. One of the initiatives in Aalborg’s new Business Plan for 2015-2018 (in Danish) is the establishment of an International House.

The International House will cover the entire North Jutland region and act as a kind of international “one-stop shop.” Here one will be able to take care of formalities related to living and working in North Jutland, as well as establish networks with others in the same situation. Indeed, there is already an expat network with over 400 people who participate in joint activities and try to figure out how strange North Jutland really works.

There will also be guidance for companies on how to get integrate international staff in the workplace and, in particular, how to help their spouses settle in. We are challenged by the fact that it is often difficult to find a circle of friends and build a social network if you do not have a job. We want to do better.

There is also a need for greater efforts to ensure jobs for spouses. The fact is that if a spouse, as well as family, do not thrive, then the company quickly loses their specialized staff member, and we are back where we started.

During 2015, we will work in close collaboration with interested companies, other municipalities in North Jutland, educational institutions, Danish Industry (Dansk Industri), and a number of other regional and international partners to create better services for both companies and employees. We expect these different services to be available under one roof – that of an International House – at year end.

As a city and region we need to make the leap to becoming more global. With the International House we can help make that jump.

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5 thoughts on “Aalborg: the Global City

    Vijay K said:
    January 26, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks Sarah for sharing the information. I noticed some days ago the ads kept around the city to promote Business in Aalborg (businessaalborg.dk). It looks somewhat connected to the same initiative. International House sounds interesting and promising and look forward to see more progress on these.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      January 26, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Yes – the city and region are making a concerted effort now to build something for the international residents, which will replace the Velkomstcentre that stopped operating a year ago. It’s definitely a move in the right direction!

    Kristen Christiansen said:
    January 26, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    They also need to remember the spouses of Danes that are here on family reunification. Many of us are highly educated but are stuck at home with limited choice of jobs.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      January 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      He included that in his article, Kristen, although not as specific as stating ‘on family reunification.’ In fact, unhappy spouses are one of the top reasons people hired to work in Denmark leave after a year or two or three. A study they did a few years back in Denmark found that if people stay three years they tend to stay long-term. So the first three years are the crucial ones. I haven’t forgotten, by the way, your request for more info on finding work. I’m working on it! 🙂

    […] community under the rubric of International House North Denmark (see posts about it here and here), which will open in the autumn of 2015. Stay tuned for more […]

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