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Alongside the chance to compete among the best in Finland, Taitaja gives those who have even the smallest curiosity in Vocational Education and Training a chance to immerse themselves.
— Maria Ekroth, CEO of Skills Finland

Inclusive national events to attract more people to skills

Since 1988, Finland’s Taitaja events have seen hundreds of thousands of people come through their doors - competitors, spectators, teachers, and people wanting to learn new things. So, what is it about Taitaja that engages so many? Maria Ekroth, CEO of Skills Finland explains, “Taitaja is a unique experience. It’s Finland’s biggest skills competition; the only event in the country that allows people, young and old, to meet experts from over 40 different disciplines.”

Take Taitaja2022. Under the unifying theme of #joyofwork, 40,000 people attended. Just 400 people were there to compete in the national finals; thousands more joined to learn about different professions and discover whether a skills education could be right for them.

After Taitaja2022:

  • 95% of Competitors recommend taking part
  • 89% of teachers agree that Taitaja helped them make new connections and grow their network
  • 83% of teachers have shared learnings from Taitaja in their teaching

Data from Skills Finland

It has inclusivity sewn into the event’s DNA. While the National Competition sees those under 22 compete in 45 different skills areas, from Forestry to Fashion Technology, it also features five categories with no age limit, including Floristry and Welfare Technology. It empowers older generations to use their valuable abilities for new employment, and businesses to look to this group as potential employees.

There is TaitajaPLUS, designed for people of any age who are studying a trade and need additional learning support. Across its three to five skills categories - often running from Property Management to Catering - the competition length is adapted, accommodating any special needs.

Younger people can also get involved in VET in a fun, low-pressure setting, through Taitaja9. It’s a “first step” event, seeing 7th to 9th grade students around the country form small teams to demonstrate their creativity, dexterity, and reasoning. During COVID-19, Taitaja9 evolved into a hybrid event to became even more accessible. Online challenges and virtual tasks saw participant numbers rise from 6,896 at 2019’s live event to 8,370 in 2020, reaching over 12,000 in 2021.

Skills Finland nurtures this inclusivity carefully. Maria says, “Taitaja really is a place for everyone. We balance the commitment needed to be part of the National Competition, alongside creating a welcoming environment – live or online – so people can discover more about skills.”

The impact extends out into local communities. Those hosting Taitaja benefit from hundreds of vocational training experts coming into their town or city to create a vibrant skills community. It improves local knowledge, sparks new ideas, and attracts funding. After Taitaja2022, the host city of Pori secured 370 new contracts worth €3.3 million.

Bringing a wider cross-section of society to VET is also helping Finland’s economic and industry development. 90% of Finnish people regard VET highly, yet only 40% of Finnish students choose to participate past the age of sixteen.

Skills Finland says this number needs to be higher to close the country’s growing skills gap. As Maria explains, that is the ultimate goals for Taitaja. She says, “We want people to be inspired by Competitors and see for themselves that Vocational Education and Training could be right for them.