In Finland, the government launched a “Youth Guarantee” program in 2013. The programme guarantees everyone under 25 years of age or recent graduates under 30 years of age a job, work trials, a study place or a place in a youth workshop or rehabilitation services. It soon became clear that young people need to find information easily on the various possibilities they are being offered. The answer was to launch guidance service points (Ohjaamo) In 2017 there are a total of 40 Ohjaamos in Finland, one of them in Lahti.
In the Ohjaamo in Lahti there are at least one day a week representatives of the city of Lahti, Salpaus Further Education and other educational institutes providing their services for any young people coming in. Ohjaamo has arranged recruitment events with local companies and a NonStop recruitment service together with a personnel leasing company. The youth workers help youngsters to find jobs, work trial placements etc. There is also a web application for companies to announce vacant jobs. All the different organizations and institutes have had co-operation through the years, but now for the first time they are gathered under the same roof.
The Youth Guarantee programme has also included supplementary financial support for companies that hire young people as workers or apprenticeship trainees. To increase the number of apprenticeship training of young people under 25 years of age, the Ministry of Education has funded projects carried out by vocational institutes. Vocational institutes, Salpaus Further Education as one of them, have contacted companies to inform them about the apprenticeship training schemes, the potential extra financial support, and to find out about the staff training needs of the companies. This work has had good results especially in 2016, but the programme was launched in the middle of the recession and companies were not able to employ their existing personnel, let alone hire new ones. However, in 2016 and 2017 when the overall European economy finally seems to be on its way to recovery, a new challenge has emerged in Finland: young people are not interested in the trades that have job opportunities, especially metal work and machinery lacks workers.
Another essential aspect in trying to overcome youth unemployment is to take actions according to the needs of the companies. The training schemes, qualifications, contents and teaching and study methods should be more adaptable to fulfill the needs of the working life. The vocational education and training in Finland is about to change into that direction by new legislation. A major reform of upper secondary vocational education and training is going to take place in 2018.
The oncoming VET reform will be based on joint legislation concerning adults and young students in VET. While currently there are separate legislation and financial systems for initial vocational upper secondary education and training, vocational further education and training (vocational adult education), apprenticeship training and labor policy education, the reform unifies them all into a single entity.
The reform gives vocational education providers both a huge challenge and a great opportunity to improve and create new ways to implement customer-orientation, to create more flexible and personal learning paths, and to increase workplace learning and practical ways of completing qualifications at workplaces. What we need to do now is to identify and further develop good practices as well as dispose of any methods that will no longer be valid after the reform commences.
In education providers point of view, the reform requires considerable changes in organizing VET, in the daily processes and procedures concerning teaching, training and guidance of students of various ages and in various stages of their lifelong learning path; in evaluation of the activities taken and the results achieved; in ensuring staff competence by implementing various staff learning and development plans and schemes.
While the funding system and structure will be renewed, we want to keep the various educational paths open in Finland. Preserving the eligibility for further studies and ensuring regionally comprehensive education network is an important aspect of the legislatures when planning VET reform. Also all the VET providers have a chance to co-operate in preparation of the law and prepare to its implementation. For instance, the National Board of Education as well as the Ministry of Education have funded a great deal of national development projects for the VET providers to take actions and start developing their processes proactively.
One of the targets of the reform is to strengthen the interaction between educational institutions and working life. Reform also aims to remove barriers between young and adult students and eliminate unnecessary overlaps in education. On-the-job learning system will be revised into a training agreement in vocational education and training. The new model would simplify and reform existing work-based learning models as well as allow more flexible learning paths. The new model would replace the current on-the-job learning periods and form a largely integrated approach with an apprenticeship.
Simultaneously and prior to the structural reform of the VET, the Vocational education and training is facing financial challenges as in 2018 the budget will be cut 190 million euros from the beginning of the year 2017. Reduction of the unit price per student decreased funding from the vocational upper secondary education and training by 59 million euros in 2016 and also 19 million euros from the apprenticeship training.
VET reform is seen as an answer for the budget cuts as the reform unifies financing system and legislation. With these measures financial resources are used more effectively.
Reform is prepared and carried out in close cooperation with experts and different stakeholders of VET in Finland. Reform takes effect from the beginning of the year 2018. The overall education strategy is included in the Government Programme. The overriding objective of the Programme is to raise the employment rate to 72 per cent through a number of measures promoting employment and entrepreneurship.