Nordpraktik – promoting internationalisation of vocational education and business integration in northern Norway, Finland and Sweden

The Nordpraktik project developed an innovative method for pairing entrepreneurial vocational education students in Sweden and Finland with companies unable to fill vacancies in neighbouring countries – resulting in a win-win situation for all parties involved.

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To better prepare students for the experience of living and working abroad, specific sessions were held on cultural awareness, business intelligence, project development and project management. © Marit Lamberg To better prepare students for the experience of living and working abroad, specific sessions were held on cultural awareness, business intelligence, project development and project management. © Marit Lamberg

" The results prove that, for some students, participation in Nordpraktik resulted in not only the growth of entrepreneurial and international competences, but also to future cooperation between the host company and the student. "

Anders Bergström, Policy Area Coordinator, PA Education, EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

Nordpraktik launched with a lofty goal: to boost the economy of the sparsely populated northern European areas of Sweden, Norway and Finland by uncovering and supporting a culture of entrepreneurship where traditionally none was thought to exist. Specifically, the project sought to tap the entrepreneurial potential of the local vocational, education and training (VET) students who often have great business ideas but lack the skills, resources and opportunities needed to make them a reality.

Overcoming challenges

Knowing that VET had a rather low level of attractiveness, the first challenge was to bolster its reputation. The project accomplished this by working with schools to update their curriculum to include a focus on entrepreneurship, international business and cross-border experience. The project also needed to find a way to promote a mobile workforce. This was a significant challenge as the project was operating in an area where existing vocational training systems tended to focus on only supplying to the local market. The area also lacked both a tradition of vocational graduates going to work abroad where their skills matched employment needs and of regional companies having experience with hiring and working with foreign workers.

Boosting cross-border cooperation

To put these pieces of the puzzle together, Nordpraktik matched VET students expressing entrepreneurial interests with international companies struggling to fill vacancies due to a local talent shortage. To facilitate this two way initiative, the project provided both an intense programme and hands-on coaching.

Each programme lasted three weeks and included a one week introduction, an in-company placement for two weeks and a final three day re-cap and summary. The introductory week played an important role in the project’s overall success, as this gave each student ample preparation and training for going abroad – something many had never done before. To better prepare students for the experience of living and working abroad, specific sessions were held on cultural awareness, business intelligence, project development and project management.

Throughout the entire programme, participating students and companies received ongoing coaching by business consultants. At the conclusion of the programme, students gave individual presentations on their business project, outlining the key challenges and achievements and noting how they planned to further build from their experience.

Expansive results

Overall, 24 students from eight schools – along with 12 companies – participated in the project. Project coordinators note that the vast majority of participants were extremely pleased with their experience, with many extending their initial internship period and some even gaining full-time employment with the host company.

Most importantly, the project demonstrated that even in an area of Europe where urban centres are separated by vast distances, SMEs tend to be local and few students have higher vocational education, the Nordpraktik method works. On the one hand, students received in-company experience abroad and practical training in entrepreneurship and business internationalisation. On the other hand, participating companies received knowledge about another market and, in some cases, were able to work with their trainee to implement a strategy for entering that new market.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “NP - Nordpraktik” is EUR 460 499, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 218 214 through the “North” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Research, Development and Education”.

Draft date

09/02/2017