First transnational project meeting in Finland

The kick-off meeting of the VET2Sustain – Promoting Sustainable, Inclusive and Digital Vocational Education and Training project – was convened in Helsinki, Finland, spanning the dates of February 28th and 29th, 2024.

A total of 25 representatives graced the venue, while an additional three participants joined remotely, representing the 16 European VET and working life partner organizations involved. These partners include Omnia, as well as KAO, Vamia, Samiedu, Brahe, Luovi, Thinglink, VAMK/Muova from Finland; Aventus, Alfa-college, and MBO Raad from the Netherlands; ENAC and Learningdigital from Italy, as well as Region Hannover / BBS Syke & BBZ Dr Jürgen Ulderup and HWK Hannover from Germany.

Furthermore, the project boasts the involvement of three associated partner organizations, the Finnish National Agency for Education from Finland, and Koning Willem I College and Mbo Amersfoort from the Netherlands. Set against the backdrop of the illustrious Hilton Helsinki Kalastajatorppa hotel, the meeting marked a pivotal milestone in the project’s trajectory, facilitating face-to-face interactions among partners for the very first time. This convergence served as a cornerstone for the project’s implementation, fostering collaboration and laying the groundwork for future endeavors.

Figure 1 VET2Sustain Project group

Bridging the Gap: VET2Sustain Project Takes on the Challenge

The meeting room buzzed with anticipation as project manager Mika Heino stepped up to the podium, welcoming attendees to the picturesque city of Helsinki and the elegant confines of hotel Kalastajatorppa. But beyond the warm greetings and pleasantries, the gathering was poised to tackle a pressing issue: the perception of vocational education and training (VET) in Europe. Director of Public Affairs in Omnia, Ms Päivi Korhonen, set the stage by highlighting the significance of the meeting date, February 28th, also known as Kalevala Day, a celebration of Finnish culture and the national epic Kalevala. Against this cultural backdrop, Ms Korhonen emphasized the importance of reshaping the image and appeal of VET, a cause she has championed throughout her career.

Figure 2 VET2Sustain Project manager Mika Heino

Despite the critical role VET plays in supplying skilled professionals to society, it often suffers from a lack of recognition and allure among young people and families. Ms Korhonen lamented this perception and stressed the need for a paradigm shift, emphasizing that VET offers a diverse range of opportunities and meaningful career paths, but this message must be conveyed through practical, hands-on experiences.

Enter the VET2Sustain project – a consortium pooling expertise from four countries to address this challenge head-on. With optimism and determination, the participants acknowledged the uphill battle ahead but remained confident in their collective ability to effect positive change. This sentiment resonated with Omnia’s organizational strategy, which centers on offering solutions to diverse societal needs.

In essence, the meeting marked the beginning of a collective journey – one where stakeholders from different backgrounds and disciplines unite under a common goal. Through collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to practical solutions, the VET2Sustain project endeavors to transform perceptions, empower individuals, and sustainably shape the future of vocational education in Europe and beyond.

Figure 3 VET2Sustain Project manager Mika Heino and Director of Public Affairs in Omnia, Päivi Korhonen

Common dinner on Wednesday evening

The meeting extended beyond the conference room, fostering camaraderie and collaboration through a common dinner experience at the renowned Restaurant Lasipalatsi in Helsinki on Wednesday evening. Nestled in the heart of the city, this intimate dining establishment offered attendees a taste of Helsinki’s culinary delights amidst its vibrant atmosphere.

Restaurant Lasipalatsi holds a special place in the hearts of Helsinki locals, situated at the very centre of the city. Renowned for its delectable classic dishes, the restaurant tantalized taste buds with its flavourful offerings, embodying the essence of Finnish cuisine.

Beyond its culinary prowess, the charm of the Lasipalatsi building captivated visitors with its iconic functionalist architecture reminiscent of the 1930s. Steeped in history, the Lasipalatsi building has borne witness to decades of memorable events, embodying the spirit of Helsinki’s evolution.

Within the restaurant, guests were treated to not only the bright and inviting ambiance of the functionalist dining room but also the option to retreat into one of six quality cabinet rooms, providing an intimate setting for further discussions and networking opportunities. Thus, the evening at Restaurant Lasipalatsi not only satisfied appetites but also served as a backdrop for meaningful connections and shared experiences among attendees.

School visit to Omnia’s Kirkkokatu premises

The guided tour of the Omnia school premises in Kirkkokatu, Espoo, marked the culmination of the Kick-Off meeting, providing attendees with a firsthand glimpse into the heart of vocational education and training.

Figure 4 School visit to Omnia's Kirkkokatu premises

Stepping onto the Omnia campus, visitors were immersed in an environment teeming with innovation and learning. The school premises buzzed with activity as students engaged in hands-on training, honing their skills in various vocational disciplines.

Throughout the tour, attendees had the opportunity to explore state-of-the-art facilities tailored to meet the evolving needs of vocational education. From workshops equipped with cutting-edge machinery to interactive learning spaces designed to foster creativity and collaboration, the Omnia campus epitomized excellence in educational infrastructure.

Moreover, the tour offered insights into Omnia’s holistic approach to education, showcasing not only its commitment to technical proficiency but also its emphasis on personal and professional development.

Beyond the physical facilities, the school visit provided a platform for dialogue and exchange of best practices among project partners. Attendees had the opportunity to engage with Omnia representatives, exchanging ideas and insights on how to promote sustainable, inclusive, and digital vocational education and training in their respective regions.

In addition to the enriching tour of the Omnia school premises, the project group had the privilege of acquainting themselves with the products of the MAFEA (Making Future Education Accessible) project. This added dimension provided attendees with valuable insights into complementary initiatives aimed at enhancing vocational education and training. Through the exchange of ideas and experiences, participants gained a broader perspective on innovative approaches and best practices within the field, further fuelling their collective efforts towards promoting sustainable, inclusive, and digital vocational education and training.

Oona Haapakorpi, Omnia, 2024

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