Work-based basic education (known as TEPPO, an acronym for the Finnish concept) is a new instructional approach adopted by the City of Vantaa, which places great value on workplaces as learning environments. TEPPO has quickly gained popularity also among pupils with an immigrant background and their families. Could the approach be applied in adult education?
Before going any further, I should point out that this article is not about adult education and does not answer the question just posed. Nevertheless, readers involved in adult education will be able to discern in it themes related to the integration and employment of immigrants. Even though the new instructional approach (TEPPO) adopted by the City of Vantaa was not specifically designed with the integration and employment of immigrants in mind, it has quickly produced positive signals regarding the promotion of integration. In TEPPO activities, work and workplaces are considered to be necessary learning environments for young people. Pupils aged 14 to 16 can complete five to seven weeks of workplace training as part of their studies and guidance process during the school year. The goal is to help young people identify their own strengths as well as to support their motivation, agency, ability to assume responsibility, decision-making abilities and time management skills. Insight into work, the acquisition of workplace skills and the accumulation of career planning skills also support integration.
Pupil selection is based on finding motivated young people whose families are committed to supporting their workplace learning. It is not guided by school success or the pupils’ dreams for the future. Those selected may equally well be pupils in need of special support as pupils aiming for a place at a top university. Work-based basic education (TEPPO) has quickly gained popularity among young people with an immigrant background and their families. It employs integrative and inclusive activities, which is natural in an approach aimed at these same goals.
At the Lehtikuusi comprehensive school in Vantaa, around half of the pupils participating in work-based basic education come from an immigrant background. Vantaa is the fourth largest city in Finland, and its population growth is the country’s highest percentage-wise. Around 20 per cent of Vantaa’s population speak a language other than Finnish or Swedish as their native language. However, many highly educated immigrants seeking to gain a foothold in the labour market are unemployed or underemployed or hold a job that does not match their education. In basic education, the focus is on ensuring that the new generation of migrants does not fall out of education and working life. TEPPO activities also build capabilities for an academic career.
Positive experiences in the workplace advance integration and agency. On-the-job training offers clearly identifiable and motivating future prospects that become more concrete for young people when they secure their first summer job. The business world and third sector also emphasise the importance of employment for integration. Plan International Finland, for example, runs successful projects (Matkalla and CV työelämään) helping young people from an immigrant background strengthen their job-seeking skills, find workplace contacts and secure summer jobs.
Adult workplace communities play an important role in guidance. They can form instructive structures and environments. In the workplace, adults are important providers of individual induction and guidance, in addition to assessing the performance of young people. Experiences in the workplace, the documentation of successfully completed work tasks and an interesting work environment as well as feedback received from the workplace help young people both identify their core strengths and find new strengths.
The career skills of participants in work-based basic education are developed not only in work environments but also through peer group activities, which introduce young people to, for example, entrepreneurship and the career stories of visiting “star” speakers. In assignments dealing with strengths, pupils connect different fields and professions with specific strengths. Workplaces and environments linked to different professions and duties are also discussed. After sharing information and experiences, it is easy to move on to devising an action plan under individual guidance, choosing a workplace learning period and concluding a contract. Even though the activities focus on individual choices, they also help develop general career skills for the future. Learning related to job-seeking and career choices is based on the same premise of linking one’s personal interests, skills and strengths to the opportunities available on the job market.
Can you hear us?
In work-based basic education, guidance has a natural place at the interface of career guidance and study guidance, where lifelong guidance also comes into play. Patton and McMahon apply a systemic model to describe career choice development in schools. Schools support the self-knowledge of young people and help them form a picture of the opportunities available to them as well as strengthen their decision-making skills, especially during transition phases. The better the individual’s ability to deal with changes in their life and career, the broader the range of educational and employment opportunities available to them.
Good guidance practices are based on the idea of promoting equality in every respect. It is at least as important to provide a positive atmosphere for creating new, inclusive guidance practices. These should meet the criteria of concreteness, accessibility and effectiveness to ensure that the achievement of equality is more than just lofty words.
Finnish culture displays various attitudes to the value and significance awarded to education and work. Multilingualism and multiculturalism broaden the range even further. Guidance is most effective if the goals and methods match the life experience and cultural values of the individual receiving guidance. The advantages from early workplace connections can shift the often problem-based discussion on integration in a more solution-oriented direction. Instead of simply listing challenges and limitations, attention is focused on opportunities.
The author works as a guidance counsellor at the Lehtikuusi comprehensive school in the City of Vantaa. During his career, Kimmo has focused on and examined work-based learning and guidance. He does not think of himself as a multicultural guidance counsellor since guidance is a universal activity free of target-group thinking.
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This article is a part of a series of articles about guidance in Finland. The series of articles is published by Euroguidance and EPALE teams at the Finnish National Agency for Education. The articles are published throughout Finland’s EU Presidency, approximately one article per month.