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25 January 2012

Finland and China deepen their cooperation in Skills Competitions

fi_cn.jpgBy Katja Nieminen, Skills Finland

Skills Competitions’ role as a part of Finnish – Chinese co-operation is growing. In 2011 six Finnish students and two teachers got the chance of a life time to participate in a Finnish-Chinese skills competition in China. Two competitions were organized in connection with the on-the-job learning periods of the students. The Mechatronics competition was held in April and the Caring competition in November. Experiences from both competitions were really positive. All organizations and people involved are keen on continuing to organize the events and to further develop the concept.

Internationalization of vocational education and training (VET) is one the national objectives in Finland. In addition to the European co-operation, more and more important for Finland is bilateral co-operation with countries outside Europe. For this purpose the Finnish National Board of Education supports networks of VET schools with three remarkable countries outside Europe. Two of them, India and China, have recently joined the WorldSkills family, and the third one, Russia will hopefully soon join

Finland- China partnership aims to improve the quality of VET

The background of the Finland-China networks dates back to the beginning of 2000's. The objective of the co-operation is to learn from each other in order to improve the quality of VET in both countries. Within the network students and teachers have the possibility of taking an on-the-job learning or studying for a period in a foreign country. In addition to these periods, study visits for administrators and exchange of lecturers have been organized. At the moment there are two working networks, with several Finnish VET schools in both of them. The Chinese partners of the ChiNet – FiNet network are Suzhou Industrial Park Institute of Vocational Technology (SIPIVT) and other VET schools in Jiangsu province as well as regions educational authorities. The main partner of the Kam'oon China network is Shanghai Institute of Health Sciences. The role of companies and institutions involved, both Chinese and international, in Shanghai and Jiangsu region is also remarkable.

fi_cn_2.jpgThe ChiNet – FiNet Skills Competition in Mechatronics

The ChiNet – FiNet Skills Competition was organized as a three day competition in April 2011. The competition was hosted by the educational authorities of Jiangsu region, the Finnish National Board of Education and Skills Finland. Practical arrangements were done by SIPIVT.

“The test project was done by Festo’s offices in Shanghai and Germany. Also the chief expert of the competition came from Festo. Festo was very committed to the competition and the equipment for the last days secret project were delivered by airmail directly from Germany” tells Mr. Hannu Immonen, Head of Vocational Education in Turku Vocational Institute. Immonen was a member in the jury which also has members from the German company Bosch and Suzhou University.

“Eight teams took part in the competition, two from Finland and six from China. In Finland on-the-job learning periods are always included in the vocational studies. Finnish students did one of their periods in China, where they worked for three weeks in the Chinese factory of a Finnish company Vacon. They were followed by a teacher that supervised their work.

When students were chosen to take part in this on-the-job learning period, the competition was one criterion. The students had to be interested in the competition and also their expertise had to be on a level that enables their participation in an international competition. Turku Vocational Institute prepared the students for the trip using the methods, which are used to train the national team for the international competitions. Training period included learning about the Chinese culture, and preparation for the competition.” tells Mr. Immonen.

Shanghai International Nursing Skill Contest

The mechatronics competition was followed by some Finnish and Chinese teachers who had already decided to organize a similar competition in caring.

The co-operation between Shanghai Institute of Health Sciences and Kam’oon China network has been very active already for several years. Nowadays every year Finnish teachers and students take their on-the-job learning period in China. Students stay normally for six to eight weeks in China and teachers two weeks. From 2001 to 2011 there have been altogether 120 students and 60 teachers who have had to taken part in the program.

The Finnish-Chinese competition in Caring was organized in November 2011 in Shanghai. In addition to Finnish and Chinese teams, there were also teams from USA, Netherlands and Norway.

“The competition was organized in an excellent way”, tells teacher Päivi Kukkonen who is coordinator of Kam'oon network. She sees the skills competitions as an important mean of learning from the others and developing the quality of the vocational education.

“For teachers and students it's not only a change to learn languages and get to know other cultures, but also to enhance one's expertise.”

Competitions develop vocational education

The Executive Director of Skills Finland, Ms. Eija Alhojärvi was following the mechatronics competition.

“I think it is an excellent way to combine on-the-job learning and skills competitions. Competition deepened the Finnish-Chinese cooperation and made it more goal-oriented. It’s also a great way to involve companies to develop on-the-job learning. Festo have also made a proposal of a new competition, which would include German competitors” says Ms. Alhojärvi.

She continues, “Experiences from the competitions were nothing but positive. Some of the things that Finnish students learned in the competition would have been impossible to learn just in the work place. It was also a great possibility for the Finnish teacher to work with different vocational institutions and companies.”

There are already plans to further develop the co-operation. In April there will be a mechatronics competition held in Turku, Finland. In this competition three Chinese and three Finnish teams will compete against each other. The best Finnish team will be the one representing Finland in EuroSkills 2012 in Spa in November. And the best Chinese team will get the chance e to challenge the Finns in their national competition Taitaja, that is organized a week after in Jyväskylä, in central Finland. Also in caring there is a plan that a Chinese team from Shanghai Institute of Health Sciences will be competing in Taitaja.