Different stakeholders expect a lot from VET provider–industry partnerships. How are we making sure that this cooperation is attractive for both sides? Flexibility, optionality, validation of learning outcomes and individual learning and qualification pathways are the cornerstones of the Finnish vocational qualification system. Learning at the workplace is, if possible even more important than before. Increasing the opportunities for work life-oriented studies aims at responding to the changes in the world of work. This article looks at the state of the art of new vocational education and training in Finland with the eyes of one VET provider, Sedu. Special attention is given on examples of education sector and industry collaboration.
Sedu educates and trains professionals with special emphasis on entrepreneurship, digital and international competences. The wide range of education offer consists of 23 vocational upper secondary qualifications, large variety of further vocational and specialist vocational qualifications. In addition, Sedu runs a preparatory instruction and guidance programme for vocational education and training and a wide selection of short-term trainings and tailor-made in-house trainings for different clientele. Qualifications follow national qualification requirements prepared by Finnish National Agency for Education in cooperation with education providers and working life.
Making individual flexible study pathways feasible and visible
New vocational education and training in Finland allows different forms of learning at work. Every learner can have longer or shorter-term work placements with apprenticeships or training agreement models, projects or there can be short visits just to see how company works. All this goes along with the personal competence development plan, which is drafted for every student. Each unit of a qualification is assessed in real work life situations together by teachers and work life experts. On the system level there are about 40 national working life committees to make sure that the qualification requirements and assessment criteria meet the needs of the world of work.
Sedu has piloted a concept called Open Day – a day that teacher spends in a company instead of teaching at school. Teachers and other staff from Sedu (approx. 600) have two goals for this day: 1) to spread information about the VET reform in Finland 2) to listen to what the company has to say about their experiences of student work placements. Open Day is also an opportunity for innovating new cooperation models with companies. Open day –concept has been a great success and it is currently disseminated on the national level. In the near future, the concept will be tested conversely as the company representatives will be spending a day at school.
Projects supporting the institution level developments
In the new vocational education and training there is a constant need for finding new and motivating ways for learning with working life oriented environments and pedagogical methods. EU funding is essential in this “safari”.
Sedu is currently coordinating Erasmus+ funded KA2 project called Swirl, which seeks to broaden the work-place opportunities for VET students. The main goal is to make the transition from school to working life smooth. Students are encouraged to look for company assignments, which they can carry out at school, at home or at work place. The initiative of students in finding these assignments is supported with empowerment tools.
Making the flexible study pathways available at work places, the high quality guidance is of outmost importance. Training for work place instructors i.e. employees in companies who tutor students during their work based learning periods have been in focus in several ESF projects. Special skills needs are related to guidance and assessment. Sedu’s work life forums are other project examples. Currently the forums are dealing with the skills needs in the export companies of the region. Information on skills needs affect significantly the education offer but also personal competence development plans of the students especially in relation to employability.
There is a constant search for win-win situations in VET provider – industry relationships. At Sedu it seems to challenge us on daily basis for finding attractive choices for both the students and the companies. The New VET is an opportunity.