Problem: The project combats educational and social problems such as unemployment, especially among young people across the world, the lack of appeal from which vocational education usually suffers, failures in the training of teachers and school leaders for 21st century learning and the difficulties encountered by prospective entrepreneurs. The project began in 2011 on the campus of educational development center Omnia Kirkkokatu in the city of Espoo in Finland. Its aim is to train and empower teachers, students and entrepreneurs, stimulate innovation and ensure high quality professional training. Hands on learning opportunities are also provided for students from 16 years of age and support is offered to entrepreneurs. The enterprise’s main sponsor is the National Council for Education in Finland.
Solutions: The project is the first learning center in Finland in which the reality of work forms a daily part of vocational education, with entrepreneurs running their businesses jointly with students and teachers. The space is an open and collaborative one, in which everyone can interact and choose where they would like to study and learn. It offers different programs such as education, vocational training and support for entrepreneurship, especially for startups in the areas of arts and services. For students in their final years of high school, innovative teaching methods such as gamification and mobile technology are used. Professional development for teachers and educational leaders relating to all areas of basic and vocational education is also promoted.
At the school, teachers, students and entrepreneurs serve as a community and regularly share their experiences. The students develop a personalized learning plan with teachers, in which the world of work forms part of their day-to-day studies. Business owners sign up to be part of this community and receive daily support for their business. Students and teachers collaborate with the entrepreneur to seek out and create innovative solutions to help each business succeed. This activity gives students an opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn by doing.
Outcomes: Students, teachers and entrepreneurs develop skills necessary for careers in today's world and also that of the future. They also relate to each other as members of a community by developing and sharing knowledge. With its joint activities, the school promotes a new approach to commercial work. The institution is extremely appealing for high school students and the learning environment and educational development opportunities are very attractive to educators. Since 2011, the project has supported at least 110 would-be entrepreneurs in setting up sustainable businesses and around 600 students have also benefited from on the job learning. Additionally, a total of 742 teachers and school leaders have been trained in methods of teaching entrepreneurship and educational technology. Seven hundred campus employees have now had contact with this new pedagogical approach, along with 2,700 visitors. The project has also received national and international awards for educational innovation.