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Arto Nykänen, KEHA's group manager for information management of service provision, particularly appreciates the fact that Netum and KEHA’s long-running partnership ensures that projects run smoothly and communication is always straightforward.

Case: URA VDI virtual workstation helps to bring employment services closer to municipality residents

When some tasks of the Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE Offices) were transferred to municipalities as part of a municipal pilot project, thousands of officials had to be able to use URA VDI on their own computers. The pilot project is aimed at improving employment services. URA VDI, developed by Netum, is a virtual workstation solution that enables employment services to be integrated into municipal operations without the need for major equipment investments or new information networks.

The development of the system was commissioned by KEHA, which is a joint project of the TE Offices and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres). The purpose of KEHA is to provide development and administration services for the ELY Centres and TE Offices. It is a long-term client of Netum.

“The URA VDI application for TE Offices contains information on jobseekers in Finland. All matters related to employment and the entire job search process are handled within the application,” explains Netum system specialist Tero Hietanen. “In the past, the practice was to install the app on a TE Office employee’s workstation. We developed URA VDI to meet KEHA’s need for a system that works via a browser on any device. This makes the municipal pilot project possible.”

Aiming for increasingly local employment services

The municipal pilot project is based on the current Finnish government programme, one of the main goals of which is to increase the employment rate. A total of 118 municipalities are involved in the pilot project. During the pilot, which runs until June 2023, the responsibility for providing employment services for approximately 220,000 customers of TE Offices will be transferred to the participating municipalities.

“The aim of the municipal pilot project is to increase the role of municipalities as organisers of employment services – in other words, to better reach customers of employment services in their own local area,” explains Mika Koskinen, who is head of KEHA's information management steering and development group.

“The first phase of the project is to assess how well the municipalities do currently in providing employment and economic development services. Municipal employment services would not be able to cope with the number of customers being transferred to them during the project without increasing the labour supply, so during the pilot project around 1,100 person-years of work will be transferred from TE Offices to assist the municipalities. For the pilot project to succeed, it is essential to have a common system where things are handled independently of terminal devices.”

Aiming for increasingly local employment services

Business coordinator Jorma Salmi from the City of Tampere’s employment and growth services was also involved in the previous municipal pilot project in 2018. Salmi’s broad job description includes many tasks to be carried out in the URA VDI application, such as updating employer information, matching job vacancies with jobseekers and processing start-up grant applications.

“URA VDI is a vital system for processing jobseeker information and for helping employers and jobseekers to find each other. When this municipal pilot project began in March 2021, 19,000 jobseekers were transferred to Tampere alone all at once,” Salmi says. “During the previous municipal pilot project, I had a separate workstation for using URA VDI and another computer for other work. Now I can take care of everything on the same workstation. This is a major improvement on the previous municipal pilot project.”

KEHA’s group manager for information management of service provision, Arto Nykänen, adds that the current municipal pilot project is considerably larger than the previous one. Without URA VDI, it would therefore have required significant investments in equipment. "It really makes the piloting work a lot easier, and also reduces the administrative burden as it can be used on any workstation and new information networks are not needed for it.”
Jorma Salmi of the City of Tampere’s employment and growth services uses URA VDI in his work every day. “After the initial learning phase, the system has worked very well,” he says.

Scalability guarantees system functioning

The URA VDI system solves two problems for employment services at the same time, as the significant increase in the amount of remote working caused by the Covid-19 pandemic also accelerated the need for a virtual workstation solution. The scale of the previous network and server infrastructure for employment services was not sufficient to handle the current volume of remote work.

“URA VDI is a cloud-based system, and is scalable to accommodate widely varying amounts of users. Because it’s not clear yet how many users the system will eventually have, it was designed with a carrying capacity that can withstand even large fluctuations in user numbers,” says service manager and system specialist Valtteri Vilavuo of Netum.

"The system can also be replicated for a wide range of remote working opportunities and environments, so it can be widely used in the future."

User support has also worked well. "Netum's Service Desk assists users if problems arise, and in many cases system control ensures that on-call personnel can handle irregularities before the users even notice them.”

Guaranteed information security

Salmi is also satisfied with the URA VDI system in his everyday work: “The system has worked well after some small hiccups at the start. Authentication during the deployment phase initially caused headaches for some users, but otherwise everything has gone really smoothly.”

According to Tero Hietanen of Netum, two-stage authentication is an important feature that improves information security. “The information security team played a major role in developing URA VDI. Users log in through Citrix, whereas the program itself runs in Microsoft’s Azure system. In this way, we can learn whether there are irregularities with any user IDs, for example, or suspicious activity related to them.”

Koskinen of KEHA emphasises that careful attention to information security and protection is extremely important in designing systems that will be used by many different organisations, such as municipalities and the state. “Customer systems for employment services contain a lot of confidential information. It is vital for us to have a partner that can ensure that the information security standards required by law are met.”

Reliability and trust through long-running collaboration

KEHA and Netum have been partners for a long time, and this has also benefitted the URA VDI development process.

“Netum has always been a very reliable partner in providing continuous services, and has been very agile from the beginning. They can adapt to our changing needs quickly, which is a great advantage. We may have new assignments soon, such as the launch of pilot projects and accommodating changes in legislation. Netum always works fast,” says Nykänen.

“We have a long shared history. Netum’s specialists have built up an impressive amount of additional expertise over the years. The Netum professionals who serve us have gained a deep understanding of our services. We don’t have to explain each issue separately to them. I have often been amazed by their efficiency,” Koskinen says.