Since January 2020, the time of the first Journal on this project, the world has changed, but the project team managed to pull most of the activities, albeit some with delays. Following we report on some of the most interesting developments.
A generational marketing strategy
One of the project aims was to develop Generational Marketing strategies for the tertiary education institutions, partners of the project, to cope with the challenge of attracting new Gen-Z students, as well as Millennials and Gen-X students. Latvian and foreign students are the target for professional digital marketing content (photos, videos, infographics, etc.) and its distribution using relevant social media (Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.). Partner websites are improved to become innovative tools for communication with potential students. The approach is in line with one of the key objectives of the project which is to prepare more young people for a labor market where ICT skills are essential.
One of the application examples of this approach concerns the Valmiera Vocational School, one of the project partners, and promote it as the first choice after primary schools in comparison with general secondary education institutions. The strategy aims to attract more youngsters for studies after primary school with a target goal of +5% per year.
The School has signed a contract with the marketing agency McCann Riga, which developed the marketing strategy. The marketing strategy was developed through a participatory process. One participatory workshop was organized on the 20th of January this year in the School. Overall, 14 representatives of the school took part in this workshop, expressing the opinion of different audiences. Participants were the headmasters, deputies, methodologists, teachers, student council, project managers, dormitory teachers, and public relations specialists. McCann Riga presented graphic design options for the new identity. As a result of discussions and voting, “Viss ir tehnikas jautājums” (Everything is a matter of technology), was recognized as the best claim for the new visual identity.
The following workshop was organized on the 6th of February in the McCann Riga’s offices with the same 14 participants of the previous workshop. The Agency presented the new generation marketing strategy together with the new identity and thank you to the additional feedback it was further refined. On 24th February, the Agency presented the new identity to all the students and teachers of the School and received very good feedback.
After the completion of the final version of the strategy, Valmiera Vocational School started implementing it through outdoor advertising, social networks, and other promotional materials.
Below some links the new identity is visible:
Also, the Ventspils University of Applied Science’s marketing strategy has been duly implemented throughout the year, with a postponement of the initial enrollment campaign due to COVID-19. This was mitigated with an “open window” campaign that was attended by about 60 potential students. The event took place online using the BigBlueButton online platform adapted for the University. Those interested had the opportunity to get acquainted with the activities of the University, its facilities, and faculties, hear the feedback of graduates and students. There was an option for attendees to ask questions and receive answers online in real-time. Due to COVID-19, the campaign is planned to continue through online events. The marketing campaign was supported by attracting 8 young influencers, which are financially supported for writing at least 7 posts a month sharing their day-to-day experience with potential new students. Influencers are considered to be a success story and will be continued until the end of the project.
Qualified specialists' attraction
In March this year, the project launched a planned online platform for the attraction of ICT talents from other countries. The platform will gradually integrate tools for matching skills, searching employment and education opportunities, exploring housing and other services also for family members. The online tool will serve as an open platform for other European Micro cities as well, where to engage and network for addressing attraction and development of critical human resources throughout Europe.
The platform is part of a larger support program for “qualified specialists' attraction” that will be piloted by the project. Along with the ICT strategy implementation, the Ventspils municipal authority have created a new specialist position to work with Ventspils employers and highly qualified individuals interested in working and living in Ventspils called LIVIN. The mission is to create a one-stop, fully integrated recruiting, matching, migration, and integration service modeled for microenvironments that can be transferred to other micro cities in Europe. The ambition is for the pilot to attract 100 highly skilled ICT and other locally demanded professionals.
The program offers informative support to families who have contacted the established contact point. It also offers free courses in the Latvian language for returnees/emigrants, as well as integration opportunities for new residents/immigrants. Specific marketing activities for promoting the contact point are being developed, such as the event "Open door afternoon" organized by the Immigrant Center for residents, and videos about educational opportunities in Ventspils, career development support opportunities in Ventspils, and on the support program for qualified specialists' attraction.
Below some links to the videos:
Career summer camps
The second edition of a career summer camp took place in August and 30 students took part in it. The planned program of the camp was fully implemented, providing the participants of the camp with an opportunity to get acquainted with professions in various fields and develop new skills for future career development.
The camp took place for the second year in a row, 23 young people participated in the camp for the first time, but 7 repeated the experience for the second time because they wanted to continue the process of self-discovery and appreciated the opportunities provided by the camp for their growth. At the end of the camp, the young people emphasized that this was an opportunity to spend their free time usefully, gain new knowledge, experience, and emotions. Positive insights were gained by meeting with professionals, personalities who were inspiring by sharing their life experience and knowledge. The participants of the camp appreciated that during the week they were able to meet so many people who like what they do and are happy with the chosen profession. Participants paid a visit to the Valmiera Public Library, which is integrated with digital technology and offers a wide range of opportunities to search for information on Internet media and databases, it is a meeting place and organizes various interesting events. The visit to the library was a chance to explore how digital technologies are changing the landscape in many industries, including more traditional ones. The activities of the camp were planned to be as diverse as possible to be able to cover a wide range of interests, to provide young people with sufficiently diverse information about different sectors and professions. Within the activities, young people had the opportunity to work both individually and in groups – to learn to cooperate, to develop communication and leadership skills. They met with different personalities, reflected upon their life course and career path, participated in technical creative workshops, went on excursions, visited Valmiera Technical School and Cēsis Youth House, got an idea of volunteer work in the city, learned programming and robotics skills. Such a dense and intense experience represents a unique opportunity to develop in young people both hard and soft skills so much needed in a digital world.
All three activities reported above fit into the overall project package titled “career guidance and Talent attraction”. The work package deals with dimensions related to human capital, both nationals and coming from abroad, therefore addressing talent attraction, promotion of informed career-making, and lifelong development decisions. Activities are directed at Specialists' and Talent attraction, Career guidance, and Generational Marketing.
Foreign Direct Investment attraction
Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) is today an important metric of success for any city that wants to compete on the global scene. They represent productive investments made by a single company or capital fund coming from abroad in a local economy and are an opportunity to accelerate the pace of local economic development by injecting not just money, but also knowledge and competences.
FDI attraction thus generates jobs and enhances the ability to innovate, ultimately fostering the competitiveness of the economic system.
One of the objectives of NextGen was to create and deploy a strategy for the attraction of foreign investments and decided to do it by bringing together the local ecosystems in the two municipalities involved in the project. In the period from August 2019 to January 2020, 11 working groups took place in Ventspils, in which representatives from the Freeport, the City Council, the University College, the Business Support Center, and Accenture participated. An FDI strategy was jointly developed and marketing activities were planned in detail. Representatives of Ventspils City Council participated in the final event of the Kurzeme Planning Region FDI attraction training, where the FDI strategy developed by Ventspils City and the marketing measures to be performed were presented. The design and implementation of the marketing campaign was assigned to partners, including the development of the FDI website www.startinventspils.lv, which was carried out by Ventspils University College New Business Management students and it is now online.
The marketing plan has been updated taking into account the situation and restrictions of COVID 19 and campaigns were postponed to the last part of the year. The current priority for business, industry, and investors is to survive the upcoming economic crisis.
The NextGen UIA project has the objective to demonstrate how European micro cities can find their place in the digital era, one where human capital can make a difference in the capacity of these cities to compete for jobs and growth. Europe generally struggles to match increasing demand for digitally wise, highly skilled labor with possibilities of the aging population, brain drain, and shortage of young talents outside of European large cities. In Latvia, microcities also suffer from brain drain to the capital or aboard, causing additional burden to the local economic development. From 2000 to 2010 more than 220.000 people emigrated from Latvia, and on average 38% were in the age bracket 20-29 years. As the skills gap widens and the pressure on the employers to retain their top-performing workers is growing, the local authorities need to take any action to prevent and reverse the fleeing of their best people.
The project seeks to overcome challenges related to the skills shortage and lack of high-level specialists in micro cities. To reduce skills mismatch, four NextGen partners are launching new initiatives where technology becomes a tool for educating younger generations in order to prepare them for the future of work that will be. We talk about those innovations in a dedicated article that can be accessed at the following link.