In Finland, working in a real job is part of the middle school study program
We at Sooma Oy were very pleased to have the privilege of offering a two-week internship for three 15-year-olds during this autumn. This is a common practice in Finnish companies – every year thousands of middle school students apply for a job for a week or two, because it is part of a mandatory study program. The work practice program (=WPP) is a program that provides 1-2 weeks of experience working in a real job during middle school studies.
Aava Aho, 15
Each student can choose and apply to their work independently and they sign a contract with both the school and the company that they will work for. The students are not paid for their work, but they are normally entitled to one free meal per day.
The purpose of the program is to introduce students to real-life working environment. The WPP interns normally have a six-hour workday, with one mandatory 30-minute lunch break.
We interviewed our WPP trainees, so read what they have learned about working life and what they think about the WPP in general.
Konsta Rutanen, 15
All our WPP interns thought that the WPP is a great way to see working life in practice. According to them, the age of 15 is the perfect timing for getting to know working life. It provides a foundation for teen's own career plans. The program also gives teens the confidence to apply for a summer job or a part time job, as even a little work experience will help open new doors. It was a surprise to our interns that except for Sweden, there is no similar program for middle school students in other countries. “Two weeks at work teaches ten times more practical life skills than half a year at school”, said one of our interns.
Main observations and key learnings
Our interns were delighted to notice, that people at work also discuss other things than just work-related stuff. The atmosphere at Sooma is, according to them, open and friendly, even funny at some points. The interns were impressed how warmly they were welcomed and taken into the team. “Now I understand how important the workplace atmosphere is! Even boring tasks are ok if there are nice people around”. They really had to do boring and monotonous tasks in production at times as well, but we also gave everyone computer-based work whenever possible. Two of them participated in a customer visit.
Tiitus Siikala, 15
Also, we Soomans learnt a lot from our interns. Their presence made us think about our induction process and understand that all the instructions must be clear and easy to follow. We were grateful for the direct feedback they gave us. We got feedback, for example, that we talk a lot, but we get a little done - and that surely is what sitting in meetings must look like through the eyes of a middle school student. We were also told that we drink way too much coffee.
The WPP interns that we had were wonderful and amazingly productive and competent. Hopefully we managed to give them a pleasant experience of working life. We at Sooma are ready to employ WPP interns in the future as well!