Helsinki (Picture from Wikimedia)With 5.3 million inhabitants in a country that is almost as large as Germany, and limited natural resources, Finland boasts a modern, competitive economy.

It is one of the world leaders in the field of telecommunications. To face the challenge of a shortage of skilled workers predicted for the next decade in industry and the services sector, Finland is improving the quality of its vocational education and training (VET) and making it more appealing.

To encourage young people to take this pathway, it offers a broad variety of fields for training and fosters equal education throughout the national territory. Training programmes are being drawn up in cooperation with social partners to meet the needs of competences in enterprises more efficiently and anticipate future needs.


The Finnish education system – 2014


Finnish system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




The vocational pathway in Finland


Secondary education

Vocational education and training is designed to lead directly to a job or higher studies. Horizontal mobility is possible at any point along the pathway. Finland is aiming to achieve excellence in the development of vocational skills.

New methods of assessment such as « skills demonstrations » are used. During sessions organised 3 or 4 times a year in a real working situation, pupils show how far they have got in acquiring the vocational skills and know-how required for the job in question.

After compulsory schooling, young people pursue their studies either at a high school or a vocational education school. Secondary vocational education offers a 3-year course in performing a trade or craft and awards an upper secondary education diploma which is required to gain access to the polytechnics or university. All vocational qualifications include a 6-month work placement.


Higher education

The Polytechnics are higher vocational education colleges awarding vocational diplomas after 3 ½ or 4 years of study for the 1st bachelor’s degree (Bachelor). The 2nd level leads to a master’s degree in 1½ or 2 years.



Apprenticeships are available to young people from the age of 15. They lead to the same qualifications as training in a school and the diplomas awarded are identical. The training is carried out in an enterprise within the frame of a short-term employment contract. Theoretical classes are run in parallel at school. The time spent in the workplace under the supervision of one or more tutors, represents 70% to 80% of the duration of the training programme.


In France, Prescilla and Sanela take the same course : a BTS to be executive assistants. Both are now interning in Finland.


Key Figures

  • 95% of school leavers coming out of basic education with a diploma continue their studies:
    53% in mainstream upper secondary education (lukio, gymnasiet);
    – about 47% in vocational upper secondary education (ammatillinen koulutus, yrkesutbildning). (NCEE – 2013)
  • In 2012, 55,600 students followed an apprenticeship leading to a qualification or diploma. These figures are 2% down from the previous year. 36% of the students were following courses for their initial vocational qualification, 34% for another vocational qualification and 30% for specialised vocational qualification. (Statistics Finland – 2013)
  • Initial vocational education attracts an increasing number of students, (+9% between 2008 and 2009). Pressure is high to open up new places in vocational training. In 2008, 74% of students who obtained a diploma found work. (CIMO – 2010)

Last update : 21/01/2014