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News about internationalisation

28.05.2015

The internationalisation of education outside the university-sector

Between the fifth and the seventh of May 2015, the largest annual vocational education and training (VET) event in Finland under the name of Taitaja opened its gates for up to fifty-thousand visitors in the beautiful coastal city of Turku. In a series of competitions covering various VET-study fields, young soon-to-be professionals from all over the globe tested their skills.

While the competitions stood in the foreground of the event-program, networking and getting to know international students in vocational education and training added to the experience. The studyinfinland-team takes the Taitaja competition as a welcome occasion to discuss how the internationalisation of the educational sector can by no means be limited to university-level studies.

Recognising VET-exchanges as an indispensable part of internationalisation in the field of education

As a recent study shows, Finland’s higher education system of Universities and Universities of Applied Science continues to attract students from all over the world. However, in Finland as elsewhere, professional and vocational training is increasingly becoming a viable alternative to the pursuit of academic degrees.

Many young people prefer practical working life to extended night-shifts in the university library. But what chances does this part of today’s ambitious youth have to participate in international exchanges? And which role do they play in the ongoing internationalisation of the education-sector?

The Taitaja competition is a good example of the possibilities to provide international experience to students in VET, since they do not merely get to compete with foreign professionals from their field. They furthermore have the chance to gain an understanding of study- and internship-opportunities abroad and to develop an international mind-set.

While the competition itself has a signalling effect, more concrete offers to integrate a stay abroad during VET are needed, especially on a European level. With the ERASMUS+ program, famous for student exchanges on university-level inside the EU, a functioning framework for VET-exchanges already exists.

What is yet to be achieved, is an increase in vocational-students taking part in such an exchange. In comparison to university-level exchanges, relatively few vocational-students go abroad during their training. Increasing their numbers will help to promote internationalisation throughout societies and labour markets.

Finland exceeds other countries in VET-exchange numbers

Finland stands at the forefront of enabling a stay abroad, enabling vastly more students in VET to go abroad during their training than other countries. Thirteen percent of new Finnish vocational students have the chance of a training-period abroad in comparison to an EU-average of only two to three percent.

Although the ERASMUS+ framework is in working condition, not many providers of VET elsewhere in Europe seem to realise the chance they are missing. The internationalisation of labour markets is progressing in any case and requires internationally minded and open talents. A stay abroad in regard to this brings vastly more gains than it costs, to employers and their future employees alike.

One could wish that a broader discussion on the concept of internationalisation took place. Not university-students alone have the right to define the path that internationalisation takes. Including VET-students who equally define the future into this process is a necessity, if the world is to grow into one.

VET-institutions and employers must face the changing nature of the employment market, in which skills attained while living abroad are indispensable. The Finnish VET-system has taken the right direction. The individual success-stories written by every completed stay abroad will hopefully help to stimulate a wider debate on the need to include more VET into international mobility.

For more information on VET in Finland please visit studyinfo.fi. For statistics on international mobility please refer to CIMO’s information page.

[May 28th 2015, Jens Närger, CIMO; photo: Aino Kivelä, CIMO]

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