Skills Competitions support the development of Vocational Education through collaboration with the Working Life

Skills competitions create a unique network where teachers, students, and representatives from the industries come together.

In Finland Taitaja Skills competition is the largest single annual vocational education and training event. It aims at promoting vocational education, improving connections to entrepreneurs and companies and increasing awareness of the vocational education and professional skills.

Brahe Education Centre has adopted skills competitions as a way to develop education in collaboration with the working life. For students, skills competitions provide an opportunity to enhance their professional skills and gain valuable experience and, at the same time, advance their studies.

2 students
Oona and Matias, students from Brahe Education Centre, competing in the entrepreneurship category final of the Taitaja Skills competition.

Bringing the latest knowledge into education

Skills competitions, such as the annual Taitaja competition in Finland, play an important role in the development of vocational education. Since its inception in 1988, Taitaja has grown to become a significant event where vocational students compete for national titles in various skill-based categories. For students, these competitions offer an opportunity to challenge themselves, gain confidence, and strive towards becoming top experts in their fields. The positive and enthusiastic atmosphere of the competitions also fosters a sense of professional pride and motivation among participants.

For teachers, skills competitions provide a platform to connect and exchange ideas with colleagues and working life representatives from the same field. This networking is invaluable for sharing best practices and staying updated with the latest industry trends and teaching methodologies.

The latest knowledge from various fields can be incorporated into the competitions. Representatives from working life are involved in designing the competition tasks. For example, in the media design final of the 2024 Taitaja competition, students were required to use generative AI to create image backgrounds. This skill is so new that it is not even included in the curriculum, but it is currently in use in industry. To ensure that all competitors could complete the task, a training session was held via Teams before the competition, where an expert taught the use of generative AI in image creation. The competition provided an opportunity to bring the latest knowledge into education.

Brahe has developed its own skills competition

Skills Finland chose Brahe Education Centre as the Skills Actor of the Year 2024 in spring. The awards committee gave the following reasons for its selection: “The Skills Actor of the Year has promoted Skills activities to students and staff in an exemplary manner. The educational institution has started its own Skills competition without age limits where everyone can participate. Working life has also been strongly involved in the competition activities. The Skills Actor of the Year demonstrates by example that Taitaja activities can also be developed in smaller educational institutions.”

Brahe has had a strategic initiative to increase participation in skills competitions for over five years.

“Just over five years ago, we defined five strategic and operational development areas for Brahe, one of which was the development of Taitaja activities. We set up internal teams to support the development targets, which include Brahe teachers, instructors and support service personnel. This is when the Taitaja team started its operations, and the aim was to spread the Taitaja enthusiasms throughout Brahe,” tells Director of Brahe Education Centre, Jaana Ritola.

Soon after, Brahe Education Centre started its own internal BraheSkills competition. The aim has been to provide all students with the opportunity to get to know the Taitaja activities in practice and see what kind of tasks they might face in the competition. BraheSkills has no age limit, so everyone has been able to participate. In just a few years, BraheSkills has grown into an event that involves all educational fields of Brahe.

“It has been a pleasure to see that companies in our region are actively involved in developing Brahe’s education and have shown particular interest in developing the Taitaja activities. Our working life partners have been involved in, for example, judging the different skills categories of BraheSkills, alongside everyday cooperation,” Ritola says.

braheskills photo collage

Enthusiasm for being a professional

For five years, I have been involved in Brahe Education Centre’s Taitaja activities in roles such as competitors’ caretaker, coach, and communications coordinator within our organisation. I have worked in competition categories including media design, entrepreneurship, and visual merchandising. The Taitaja activities have provided me with a broad network. As a teacher I have been able to apply what I’ve learned in competition activities to the development of education.

By participating in the competition, I can also influence what future Taitaja competitions will be like. Feedback is collected from competition coaches after the event, which is taken into account when developing the competition.

Students learn a lot of new things just by participating in the semifinals. After the competition, students reflect on their own performance: what went well, where they still need to improve. Competing is an effective way to develop as a professional.

The Taitaja competition is also a place where careers are showcased to those considering their profession. Competitors are students proud of their future careers. And let’s not forget, competitions are fun. “It was a great event!” commented Brahe students on the final in Kuopio on May 2024.

Developing vocational education through skills competitions and integration with the working life ensures that education meets the needs of the industry. It also prepares students to meet the demands of their future professions.

Finnish Skills Competition Taitaja 2024 in Kuopio

  • 404 finalists selected from over 1,900 semifinalists
  • 52 skills categories, including 5 TaitajaPLUS categories for students with special needs
  • 59,000 visitors at the event
  • Over 10,000 viewers of the online broadcasts
  • Approximately 1,150 students involved in organizing the event
  • Around 300 partners
Visual mercandising team, 2 students and 2 teachers
Brahe’s Taitaja visual merchandising team, students Roosa and Taika with teachers Sari and Eva.
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