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20 September 2010

Promoting excellence in VET within the network of WorldSkills

WorldSkills Helsinki 2005 was a very successful event

By Eija Alhojärvi, Skills Finland

The history of skills competitions in Finland started in the 1940’s when the first competitions were organised by the Finnish Federation of Industries. Skills Finland, a non-profit organisation promoting excellence in skills, was founded in 1993 in the middle of the previous economic recession. Despite the difficult economic situation, some visionary organisations and individuals saw the benefits of skills competitions, and were prepared to do hard work to launch them in Finland. Since the establishment of Skills Finland, skills competitions have had an essential role in developing VET in Finland. Today the network around Skills Finland consists of all the main stakeholders, and the results of the work done are evident.

The beginning of the history of Finnish skills competitions was modest. The first national competition, Taitaja, was held in 1988 with two skill areas and 32 Competitors. Finland took part in the WorldSkills Competition (WSC) for the first time in Birmingham, UK in 1989. The success was not outstanding, but the experience was promising. Since those days both the size and the quality of Taitaja have gradually improved. The Finnish WSC teams have grown bigger over the years, and they have achieved success as well.

Minna Karevuori was rewarded as a Best of Nation in 1989 in Birmingham. The medal was given to her by chairman Charles Tindallin

The real milestone in the Finnish history of skills competitions was the WSC2005 held in Helsinki. The great commitment of VET providers made it possible to organise such a huge and successful event. Along with the preparation work, Skills Finland started a vast development program in order to develop the national skills competitions and the Finnish expertise.

The impact of skills competition is evident in Finland. The attractiveness of VET has increased year after year since 2000 when the WSC2005 Helsinki project was started. In 2008 the number of applicants for VET was, for the first time in history, higher than the number of those for general upper secondary education. Due to this, the Finnish government has even increased the intake for VET.

WorldSkills has offered an excellent framework for the development of the Finnish system of skills competitions. The WorldSkills activities and the large network of organisations and individuals have made it possible for us to achieve such good results.

We are fully prepared to give our own input for the WorldSkills activities and network. Our hopes for the future co-operation are high.

For more information about Skills Finland.