The teachers´ role in the Finnish vocational education and training system is quite varied. The task list of vocational teachers include:
- onboarding students
- student personal study plan creation and updating
- recognition of prior learning
- class management
- understanding and applying pedagogical methods, and creating different paths for students
- course development in different forms (on-line, classroom, hybrid, and work placement)
- lesson planning
- liaising with employers
- supporting the student in finding work placement
- work placement paperwork (training agreements and apprenticeship agreements with the company)
- making sure that the workplace instructor is aware of qualification content and related student requirements, and is capable in guiding and assessing student learning and skills
- assessment of on-the-job learning and off-the job learning
The list of tasks of vocational teachers is so varied that it is difficult for the Finnish teacher to be an expert in all areas. Furthermore, the list seems to lack an emphasis on business needs and adult education. The purpose of an education institute is to educate people to be a productive part of society and a skilled worker. This is include upskilling and re-training people within companies, or making sure that people get back into work life if they have been away from it for a while. Our teachers need a strong business mindset and to understand the companies’ needs. For Salpaus working life service process to really succeed all of the above need to be taken into consideration.
Due to the changes in VET legislation and the cuts in funding in Finland in 2018 there was a strong need for reorganization within all Finnish VET organizations. Unfortunately, that change meant losing many of the staff who had strong business mindset and understood the companies’ needs. This left a hole in the organization which we nowadays see must be filled.
The long list of tasks is one of the problems, the lack of business mind set the other. This may cause exhaustion and lack of motivation. We feel it would be better that each teacher to specialize in an area which they have personal interest. One way the teacher could specialize is the area of business orientation.
In Salpaus we are on our way to recognize teachers with motivation and skills towards more business minded workplace co-operation from our over 400 teaching staff. Workplace co-operation coordinating teachers (wcct) is a role that once was an important part of vocational adult education, but the role now needs to be reinvented within our organization. We do not yet have a complete picture of what this renewed role entails. We are in the process of letting / giving these teachers an opportunity to define their role together with our current in-house business experts. In addition to defining their role, the wcct need to ensure their own continuous professional development as individuals and as part of a team. They also need to be able to present this information to the whole organization, as well as motivate their colleagues within their own departments and fields. The change towards business orientated co-operation is needed within the whole organization. We also require more understanding and flexibility towards company needs throughout our system.
In winter – spring 2022 we are going to arrange 7 peer mentoring sessions with over 40 teachers who are now enrolled or been selected to be workplace co-operation coordinating teachers in Salpaus. The training will be carried out using team learning and peer mentoring. The purpose is to build a team where all the participants can feel safe, be empowered and feel supported. They should feel able to network and build colleague cohesion. The sessions are to motivate the participants to commit to the changes together and to carry them out. Our current in-house business experts, the key account managers of Salpaus, are going to facilitate the peer groups and help to direct and focus the discussion so that the goals will be reached. They have planned a narrative approach based on the customer co-operation handbook and the overall strategy of Salpaus. Due to the Covid19 pandemic at least the first face-to-face meetings must be organized on-line through Teams. Obviously, this will slow down the team building to some extent.
The 7-session workplace co-operation coordinating teachers training programme includes
- Salpaus is more than a school. It is a meeting place of students and work life, according to the vision of Salpaus.
What could be the role of the workplace co-operation coordinating teachers. How can the wcct develop co-operation with the work life. How can the wwct promote multi-trade/multidisciplinary co-operation between the departments and fields within Salpaus.
- Customer relations management, customer groups and analysis.
- Recognizing customer needs, ABC of business customer encounter.
- Meeting the customer needs. Building of training services for companies. Benefits and challenges of building and providing multi-trade/multidisciplinary training services. Lateral inter-corporate processes and awareness.
- Pricing and financing of training services.
- Salpaus as a provider of workforce. How can we build new forms of co-operation with companies to ensure availability of labor. Visiting representatives from work life. Applying of good practices from one field to another.
- Building up successful customer experience together. How does the new CRM system of Salpaus support this work.
4. Expected results
The results we hope to achieve are: firstly, that these teachers are strongly connected to work life and are involved with the companies on many levels, for example seeing the company’s needs, adapting education programmes to provide for those needs and making sure that Salpaus is teaching the students the skills they need in work life now and in the future.
Secondly, these teachers will be able to market and sell services from all fields of Salpaus which means they need to see the possibility for co-operation and connections with many levels and areas of the organization. Therefore, they can create for the companies a complete package at the quality level they can trust.
The third result is that the teachers see their possibility to learn and develop their own skills while doing co-operation with companies, for instance new techniques, new ways of working, new equipment and machinery, sustainable development, and circular economy. We feel that theory is not enough for students nor for teachers to develop themselves. The only way to really understand good and new practice is to experience them from work life yourself.
And finally, we will build a toolbox for the workplace co-operation coordinating teachers. The toolbox is going to include skills definitions and the work methods that the teachers will need when co-operating and interfacing between the companies and Salpaus. Also, we are going to plan how to maintain the team and ensure continuous professional development even after the training programme.
As we have said previously, no one or very few people can be an expert in everything. Even though we try to find equality for everyone in work life, we still need those who specialize in different area to make the whole organization stronger. This also positively affects how teachers feel about themselves and makes them feel needed and motivated. Teacher can focus on the area in which they see to be important. By focus on certain tasks helps people to stay fresh and find new challenges and develop skills within the organization.
This does not mean that during their working career they cannot change from one area to another. It is not always necessary to promote people to a higher position within the organization. Moving sideways to new tasks can be just as effective in making the worker to feel valued. This also adds interest to the persons’ work because they can develop themselves in different areas or a different way. Making the worked more valuable to the organization and adding self-confidence and well-being.
Lastly, the possibility of on-the-job learning of the teachers is an interesting one. A programme that would be open for everyone. All staff in all levels of the organization. The truth is we already have this, but only a very little number of teachers take the opportunity for some reason. That is a shame and something we need to look into more.
If everybody takes part in these roles, we see that the organization is stronger.
After the 7-session workplace co-operation coordinating teachers training programme, we plan to write a follow-up article in the autumn 2022.