Finnish sport institutes supporting sustainability in vocational education and training
In Finland, there are a total of 11 sport institutes, each with a rich history of providing educational expertise in the field of sport. These institutes are the exclusive vocational education and training (VET) providers authorized by the Ministry of Education and Culture to offer vocational degrees in sports in the country. Among the most sought-after programs offered by these institutes is the Vocational Qualification in Sports Instruction, which typically involves 2-3 years of full-time studies, depending on the student's background. Remarkably, all institutes offering this degree provide students with complimentary full board and accommodation throughout their studies.
The sport institutes are unique entities that integrate educational services, sport training, coaching, and leisure amenities, thereby playing a significant role in promoting sport and exercise on a national level. Each institute possesses its own distinct character and areas of specialization. For instance, Santasport and Vuokatti Sport focus on winter sports, Eerikkilä Sport & Outdoor Resort specializes in football and floorball, and the Three Campus Vocational and Sports Institute emphasizes basketball. The oldest institute, Varala Sport Institute in Tampere, was established in 1909 and continues to thrive.
Together, these institutes form a robust nationwide network dedicated to advancing the internationalization of vocational education and training in the field of sport and exercise. Additionally, they collaborate with specific sport federations to establish strong partnerships, providing training facilities and educational services to athletes and coaches associated with these federations. Some institutes also double as Olympic training centres in Finland.
Finnish sport institutes joining forces to strengthen national and international cooperation
The majority of the sport institutes hold Erasmus+ accreditation, demonstrating their long-term and strategic commitment to fostering internationalization both abroad and on campus. Erasmus+ accreditation serves as a tool for VET organizations seeking to fortify their cross-border exchange and cooperation. Receiving this accreditation signifies an organization's dedication to implementing high-quality mobility activities as part of a broader effort to enhance their overall development. Since obtaining accreditation, the sport institutes have observed significant improvements in the quality of international cooperation and mobilities among students and staff, skill development at the organizational level, and a positive shift in attitudes towards internationalization. This has led to a greater willingness to participate in international activities and an increased interest in international aspects. Currently, the accredited sport institutes are discussing plans for joint mobilities between institutes to further advance internationalization.
The sport institutes share a mutual goal of enhancing the quality of services provided by each organization through the exchange of best practices, collaborative efforts, and cooperation on various educational themes and topics related to sport and exercise. An example of such cooperation among Finnish sport institutes was the Erasmus+ thematic seminar titled "Sport and Sustainability," which took place in the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumäki in May 2023. This Erasmus+ event was the first of its kind in the sports education field and received funding from the Erasmus+ Training & Cooperation Activities (TCA). TCA thematic events are organized by Erasmus+ National Agencies in partnership with relevant actors to encourage collaboration and the sharing of best practices within the Erasmus+ programme in specific fields.
A platform for European experts from the sport and VET sectors to convene and exchange ideas
The seminar served as a forum for European experts from the sport and vocational education and training (VET) sectors to convene and exchange ideas. The seminar successfully gathered nearly 60 participants from 15 different European countries, embarking on a three-day learning journey centred around the theme of sport and sustainability. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in promoting sustainable development in sports, and the seminar emphasized the significance of this aspect throughout an individual's lifetime. Its primary objective was to equip participants with an understanding of the key pillars of sustainability within the sports field.
The seminar proved to be an excellent platform for fostering new connections and facilitating networking opportunities. Participants were able to exchange ideas and establish potential collaborations for future Erasmus+ projects. Moreover, the seminar provided a valuable space for mutual learning, enabling attendees to gain insights from one another's experiences and expertise. Reflecting on the seminar, VET teacher David Sánchez Aguayo from IES Cap de Llevant Sports Institute in Menorca (Spain), expressed his appreciation and he highlighted that the seminar had offered him valuable insights and perspectives and generated future cooperation among participants.
Text: Iiris Kajas, Emilia Rantanen