The forest industry is committed to ensuring the development of its employees' competence and providing diverse employment pathways. One of the education and employment pathways extensively used in the forest industry is the apprenticeship training concept that offers access to jobs in the industry.

Apprenticeship training is a form of education where a vocational qualification or parts thereof are completed in practical employment; in other words, the worker is trained by the employer. Apprenticeships are used for both recruiting new employees and providing further training for existing employees.

The activities of the forest industry are a textbook example of apprenticeship training in Finland. Up to 80% of forest industry workplaces make use of apprenticeship training. The remaining 20% also believe that apprenticeship training might be useful in the future.

Graduated apprenticeship students have an excellent starting point for creating a long career in various forest industry positions. Previous apprenticeship students who have already learned the ways of the company may prove to be a valuable asset in future recruitment. In other words, apprenticeships can alleviate problems related to the availability of skilled employees.

The forest company UPM explains its apprenticeship programme:

"In the spring of 2022, UPM Communication Papers launched an apprenticeship programme for 40 students at the paper mills of Kymi and Kaukas. The programme received more than 600 applications. The programme, which will take about two years, will be organised in cooperation with the Saimaa Vocational College Sampo. The students will choose to study manufacturing, mechanical maintenance, automation or laboratory work. During the programme, the students develop their skills mainly learning by doing but also in theoretical studies. The apprenticeship programme usually results in a vocational qualification in process industry with the goal of getting employed by the company after completing the qualification."

(Excerpt from the Finnish Forest Industry’s Sustainability Commitments’ Second Progress Report)

The example shows that apprenticeships are an extremely popular form of education. It is an ideal combination of the practical approach sought after by students, the needs of the employer and the cooperation between working life and education.

Joint development of the system

Even though the industry is singing the praises of apprenticeship training, the system is still in need of some development. Apprenticeships are relatively expensive for the employer as at least one person’s resources are tied up in instructing the student or students at the workplace. The productivity of the work increases slowly in line with the studies. Employers need the opportunity for fair training compensation to make it profitable and worthwhile to employ apprenticeship students.

One practical solution for promoting apprenticeships is to offer businesses increased training compensation for students under the age of 20 who do not have an upper secondary qualification.

There have been promising pilots on increased training compensation for young students, and further piloting is necessary. This would help younger students access apprenticeship training and promote the number of upper secondary qualifications completed in apprenticeship training in addition to vocational and specialist vocational qualifications.

The number of English-language apprenticeship programmes has remained quite low in Finland. As the age groups reduce in size and the competition for skilled employees increases, more and more companies will need international recruitment. Therefore, companies need easily accessible information on the opportunities and practices of apprenticeships other than those offered in Finnish or Swedish.

Most of the apprenticeships in the forest industry take place at plants and sawmills. However, the forest industry wants to develop apprenticeship training in the forest and logistics industry to extend it to loggers, forest machine operators, timber hauliers and other positions. This type of workforce is extremely scarce at the moment.

Apprenticeship training is the epitome of competence development.

The top priority of vocational training is to produce the right type of competence needed in working life. Apprenticeship training is the epitome of competence development. It helps the student build strong professional skills and also establish important connections that help find employment and learn the skills relevant for working life.

Learn more about the Finnish Forest Industry’s Sustainability Commitments’ Progress Report and related examples from various businesses here.