Many people talk about how important it is to promote vocational competences. ArcticSkills and REDU are doing something about it.
From Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 March, REDU and ArcticSkills have brought together more than a hundred vocational students for a friendly competition to see who is the best professional on the Northcalotte. The competitors came from ten schools in Norrbotten, Lappi and Finnmark. They competed in fourteen subjects under the supervision of judges who, on a daily basis, are their teachers at the participating schools. Those who visited the competition arenas and ceremonies were visibly impressed by the quality of the work and were unanimous in their verdict. REDU created a first-class competition and put a worthy temporary end to ArcticSkills.
In the arenas of competition, all partiality was put aside. Here, the participants were assessed carefully based on professionalism, professional skills and safety routines at work. For an untrained eye, it can be difficult to grasp what constitutes quality in professional practice. We only see a finished product. One of the experts in the electrical competence, Gjermund Hansen from Kirkenes, gave the audience an introduction to what the judges were concerned with. “Much of the quality in the execution is not visible to the untrained eye. We assess the use of tools, the planning of the job, safety routines, the choice of materials and how the students relate to standards and routines”. This was the case in all the competition arenas. The judges in the cookery profession were not only impressed by the taste of the food but followed the dishes from the raw materials until they were on the plate.
The results showed that the skills and medals are equally distributed between the participants and the partners. Somehow this is entirely in accordance with the basic idea of ArcticSkills not to focus only on the winners. All the participants have won in the form of better skills and greater competence, all the participating schools have won in the form of better results and better graduation, the partners have gained new international contacts and collaboration opportunities, the companies can become winners if this leads to more people applying for vocational subjects, and the labor market at The Northcalotte becomes more accessible to professionals. The big winner are of course the vocational competences. REDU and ArcticSkills have put vocational education on the agenda. We have done something with the problem – not just talked about it.
One of the many who followed the competitions was Riikka Holster from the Kolarctic Managing Authority. She has been monitoring ArcticSkills for part of the project period, and expressed that she was impressed by both the scheme in Rovaniemi and ArcticSkills as a project. “ArcticSkills has been an excellent project that seems to be achieving the goals the partners have set themselves to a large extent. They have done this through creativity and ability to adapt to the major challenges the project has faced in the form of pandemics and outbreak of war. The good organization and thight communication between the partners have undoubtedly contributed to this being a success. I have also noticed that the project has improved the language skills of the participants. At all the competition venues, communication was in English”. She also added that she hoped ArcticSkills can continue its work, even if Kolarctic now appears to be history.
Kim Stenersen from the Norwegian Barents Secretariat also followed the competitions closely in Rovaniemi. The Barents Secretariat has been an important supporter right from the first faltering steps in 2014 and has on numerous occasions presented ArcticSkills as one of several successful projects that they want to support. “We will also do so in the future, provided that ArcticSkills itself wants to continue, that the programs for the secretariat are changed and that we get money for Nordic cooperation”.
The speeches during the closing ceremony emphasized the importance of vocational skills and international cooperation. Principal Øystein Hansen from Kirkenes upper secondary school, who has led the project, and chair of the Board, Svein Tore Jakobsen from Troms and Finnmark county, thanked REDU, Mia Lukkarila and Hannu Uimaniemi for an excellent event, and took the baton back to Kirkenes. It will remain there while the board defines a new path and hopefully a new venue in 2024.