I was invited and participated from Tuesday 30th to Wednesday 31st May in Malta in a conference celebrating the first four years of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA). EAfA’s successes and achievements were highlighted, while the participants also discussed the current challenges and the future of the apprenticeship training. I took apart in discussion “Where do we go from here”. Here are my answers to two challenging questions.
1. A good balance is needed between transversal and job-related skills. As a VET provider, how would you make sure that apprenticeships are responsive in the future?
The question is very important and challenging. First, we have to admit that at least in Finland the main aim for employers to be involved in apprenticeship training is to get qualified staff to the company.
Therefore, one big issue is, how committed the employer is to organize the counselling of students in the workplace? To achieve more commitment we have to focus to get a good balance between the curricula ordering to develop also transversal skills and the employer`s needs for competences and skills. In that case we should have a good possibility to succeed. In practice we need careful planning of training periods together with employees and workplaces, good cooperation with the working life and employers and also flexible trainer`s training programs.
In Finland the core curriculum and three level qualification requirements are the same in apprenticeship training and institution-based vocational education. An apprenticeship contract with an employer is always job combined with an individual study programme. Every study path includes practical training at the workplace in connection with theoretical studies at an institution. Theoretical studies must have high impact on transversal skills. If we want to succeed, we must seriously consider teaching students how to use transversal skills in working life. Teachers should be more intentional in teaching transversal skills in professional skills courses and while they are teaching in real working life. A student needs to be taught how to search for, process, parse, and use information. They need adaptable skills they can apply in all areas of life—teaching them only ideas and facts is no longer enough.
The purpose of the school should be to prepare students to succeed after the graduation. Therefore, schools need to prioritize the knowledge and skills that will be needed the most. In this perspective I hope the co-operation between the basic school and the secondary school will be even better so that the students would have more time to learn transversal skills.
2. The EAfA study suggests for the EAfA to address new priority target groups like early school leavers. How do you tackle the issue?
Apprenticeship training has an impact on coping skills in general living and it gives new views to integrate in to the society. It suits for many kinds of students and of course depends on the commitment of the working life and employers. Therefore, in my opinion apprenticeship training might be one useful tool for some early school leavers.
To promote the possibilities for early school leavers we need a lot of cooperation with the youth organizations and services for young people f.ex. the searching youth work to find early school leavers. It is possible to reduce the amount of early school leavers by cooperating and by developing counselling methods and different learning environments including workplace learning.
In Finland apprenticeship training has been for many decades an alternative to traditional vocational training system. New legislation in year 2018 will give more flexibility to transitions from the college to the apprenticeship and vice versa.
Here are three examples of the actions implemented in Youth Guarantee and Young adults` Skills Program after year 2013:
Development of pre-period to apprenticeships
The participants are students at the vocational college or jobseekers. They are under 25 years. The objective of the pre –period is to find training workplace for participating students. Each student has his own individual study path. The period lasts from 2 weeks to six months. Studies include on-the-job learning, work assignments, theoretical studies and individual guidance. Co-operation with counselling / sending partners, companies and employers is vital. The goal is to match the right employer and the youngster.
Co –operation with public Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE offices) to encourage employers
Employer may be eligible for a pay subsidy when hiring an unemployed jobseeker also for apprenticeship training. A pay subsidy is always discretionary and based on the needs of the jobseeker. The TE office will assess the extent to which work on a pay subsidy would improve the jobseeker´s possibilities to finding work, professional skills, competence and labour market position.
Flexible combination of work and education
Students can change from the college to workplaces to continue in the same study path / qualifications whenever the tasks are suitable for qualifications in order. Individual study path and recognizion of achieved competences are also in the focus. This combination model encourages young people to the working life and makes study paths more effective and individual. In year 2018 according to the new proposal of VET legislation in Finland the individual study and counselling processes could be even more flexible towards the working life.
Some basic information on the Apprenticeship Training in Finland
Apprenticeship training refers to a system of the vocational education organized at a workplace and is based on a temporary employment contract. The main part of learning takes place at the workplace and the remaining 20% at the vocational institute. The main aim of apprenticeship training is to equip students with competence and qualifications that correspond with working life.
The apprenticeship contract is done between the employer, the employee/apprentice and the training provider. The apprenticeship contract is, in fact, an employment contract of definite duration. Apprenticeship training is open to anyone who has reached the age of 15 years.