At the heart of any successful business is its people, and the availability of talent is one of the most important factors for businesses to consider when choosing a location to set up operations.

In fact, according to experts at Wharton Business School, Pennsylvania, US, labour is now a major driving force of location choice for most businesses worldwide. This includes being able to attract the necessary white-collar skills as well as the best semi-skilled and unskilled workforce.

However, we may be facing a global shortage of talent in the coming years. A recent report from management consultancy Korn Ferry suggests that by 2030, there will be 85 million roles unfilled across industries, which could result in $8.5trn of unrealised revenue for businesses – meaning that talent strategy should be a priority for governments and companies alike.

The good news is that regions that have both an existing workforce base and a commitment to developing skills will provide businesses with the sustainable labour force they need now and in the future. This means creating a productive pipeline between education and industry, one that nurtures talent and opportunity.

Rezekne, a hub of talent

When it comes to fostering exceptional industrial talent, Rezekne is a case study in how it is done.

Located in eastern Latvia’s Latgale region, Rezekne is bursting with business-ready talent. Home to a strong, highly skilled workforce and outstanding education opportunities, the city known as the Heart of Latgale attracts the brightest and best from the region.

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More than 85% of Rezekne’s forward-thinking population speak Russian and about 70% of the population under the age of 40 speak English, making them an ideal resource for businesses in any sector.

Attracting the brightest and best

“Our main goal is to attract active young people interested in the technical sector,” says Ērika Teirumnieka from Rezekne Academy of Technologies, where young people from across eastern Latvia come to acquire specialist education.

Rezekne Academy of Technologies stands out in the region for its state-of-the-art equipment and study programmes. Offering 44 courses to more than 1,700 students, the academy is proud of its topical, European-level curricula, innovative research, AI, ICT, social and special pedagogy, and modern research laboratories including geo technologies, mechatronics and laser technologies.

“We started developing the academy’s strategy 20 years ago,” says Teirumnieka. “The main focus was developing technologies and engineering science.” The academy has a state-of-the-art technical centre for its faculty of engineering, now offering one of the most modern laboratories in Latvia and the Baltics.

Worth $11.1m (€9.8m) in investment, the faculty was completed in 2014, with a total area of 1,400m2 and consisting of around 15 laboratories in areas including facilities for chemistry, microbiology, ecology, food technologies and mechatronics.

“After three or four years, we decided that we needed a special building for laser laboratories,” Teirumnieka adds. “Three years ago, we opened a new building for laser technologies.”

Opened in 2019, the academy’s Laser Technology Centre is a highly specialised faculty that unlocks even more opportunities for students under the region’s “growth and employment” operational programme, which aims to increase the number of modernised STEM programmes. Laser technologies play an important role in the modern manufacturing industry – not just in Rezekne, but the rest of Latvia, Bulgaria, Germany, India and other countries.

The faculty of engineering received $12.2m of investment, 85% coming from the EU, 7.5% from the Latvian government and 7.5% from the Academy.

Other schools in Rezekne include the State Border Guard College, Rezekne Technical School and branches of five Latvian higher education institutions. Beyond this, Rezekne residents have access to the State Employment Agency and State Education Development Agency of Latvia, which provides ongoing educational programmes and courses for adults.

Developing a specialist workforce

Rezekne’s highly developed technical education system has tangible benefits for companies, with 70% of Rezekne Academy of Technology graduates choosing to remain in the region to work.

Rezekne’s educational institutions work closely with companies across Latvia, including in Riga.

“Our field is more practical than others in the region, which are mainly photonics,” Teirumnieka explains. “Today, companies are seeking more integrated skills, including language. Our young people learn English and technical English, IT skills and practical and engineering skills, which is very important for companies.”

The academy has well-developed cooperation links with sectoral associations, professional organisations and enterprises, which allows it to adjust its study programmes to the needs of sectors and to develop research projects that solve real problems for companies.

These projects have enabled students and professors to develop innovative new products, leading to patents and commercialisation opportunities. “For example, we have developed new technologies in the laser field, and used artificial intelligence and mechatronics to develop new products,” says Teirumnieka.

In Rezekne SEZ, manufacturer Ltd. „LEAX Rēzekne” RSEZ is developing components for electric vehicles using the academy’s laser equipment and working closely with students to improve the technology.

“We also offer students real training in companies,” says Teirumnieka. “For 20 weeks of our study periods, students must be in companies, where they improve their practical skills. Many of our students find jobs in those companies.”

This collaboration between academia and industry is highly productive, creating skilled workers on the ground in Rezekne.

“The academy is very important in our region as a source of high-quality specialists in the engineering field,” Teirumnieka explains. “Our specialists have a very high skill level and work in companies not as workers but as engineers and specialists.”

Room to grow

Looking towards the future, Rezekne will continue to cultivate its academic opportunities and attract shining talent from the region and around the world.

“The main task for the academy in the future is to optimise our infrastructure and work together with international partners to attract students from other countries,” says Teirumnieka.

For ambitious students and businesses alike, Rezekne offers outstanding educational and industrial opportunities, backed by a spirit of advancement.

To find out more about opportunities in Rezekne, download the whitepaper.