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Finnish forest industry keen on apprenticeships

| Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén

An increasing number of young people find work in Finnish industry via apprenticeships. In recent years the forest industry has traded in its own traditional training schemes with other kinds of education — and the programmes are popular.

This spring 1,400 youths applied for 39 apprentice places at the paper manufacturer UPM’s apprenticeship programme, and this autumn 900 applied for 50 more spaces.

“The initial experiences from this educational programme are very positive, and we will carry on as planned,” says head of personnel Kai Latvala, who is responsible for UPM’s two year long programme. 

A massive process

Right now he and his colleagues are reading through applications and they invite the most promising candidates to an interview — several hundreds of them. It is a massive, time consuming process.

“Our model is different from others, it is a concept which we have designed from the bottom up, and this is not something we are just doing on the side for one year only.”

He says the forest trade’s public image might not be the best, but in the industrial communities the factories are considered to be good employers and the trade is thought to have good future prospects. This is also reflected in the number of applicants.  

The competitor Stora Enso has also seen great interest in apprenticeships. Yet the company has no systematic recruitment programme — it takes people in as they are needed. 

The forest industry is struggling with a lopsided age structure, and as a result of severe cuts in recent years the factories now face a lack people from the younger generation. Young people are tempted by the opportunities offered by apprenticeships with salaried training, and it is considered a good way of securing a job. Latvala says the aim is to hire everyone who is good enough. 

Looking beyond the UPM experience, work-related vocational training has been shown to lead to lower youth unemployment. Yet apprenticeships are relatively uncommon in Finland, and involve just a few hundred youths a year — particularly those who already have some experience from working. It is a form of training which demands a lot from employers, and it needs motivated and independent youths. Not even state wage subsidies have helped improve the situation, but now something might finally be happening in Finland.



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