How to bring together students, companies and entrepreneurship?

By Päivi Stenroos

Exploring business futures with Demola student teams. An entire degree by team-learning in a team company at Proakatemia. Studying for a vocational qualification mostly by workplace learning with TAKK. – The Education Tampere community is known for innovative and well-tested solutions.

Demola is the word anywhere where innovation, companies and talented students meet. Started in Tampere a bit over 10 years ago, Demola has reached yet another level: today global and local organisations use it to build their strategies for future.

While Demola is still the global innovation challenge platform you’ve certainly heard about, companies launch the Demola projects more and more often to explore times to come with student teams.

– There are plenty of trend reports and information available, of course. What Demola does, is trend contextualisation: how will these trends actually influence your business and your customers, explains Tommi Järvinen, Vice President of Demola Global.

Photo: Demola

And it’s not just the companies, but also students who have been driving this shift of focus in Demola. University students desire to change the world, that has always been a fact, and Demola projects are an excellent channel to do that. Even better, according to the Demola ’fair brains’ principle, student teams own the IPR for results created during the challenges.

– For example, a recently launched program One for Humanity, in which student teams create future scenarios of the post-pandemic world, received hundreds of applications from around the world. The teams are global and work online, says Järvinen.

”Global and online” is in fact a rapidly increasing way to participate in Demola projects. Students everywhere are searching suitable modules for their studies, and Demola is one of the providers. Another way to join the projects is through Demola Alliance universities, if one happens to be a student in one of those. Or to pick Demola International Internship and work in an interdisciplinary team with industry leaders in various sectors.

With all these activities running – talented university students and leading companies teaming up for future scenarios – who knows what world changing ideas will emerge.

TAMK Proakatemia – unique learning methods

An entire degree consisting of active learning methods only, team-learning in a real company established with a bunch of fellow students – how does it work? This is a question that every visitor of TAMK Proakatemia will ask.

Well, students start their days like anyone working in a great company. They do what the daily business needs them to do, and also read and write essays to explore the knowledge and skills they need. But no traditional schedules, lectures or exams.

So, visitors then ask, how do you verify learning? There are other ways: coaches who support learning and real customer projects where students can learn by doing and show their skills.

– Proakatemia is a first class ride for those learners that find it hard to sit still and study for exams. We have seen such success stories when they have uncovered their talents, says Carita Prokki, Director of Continuous Education at TAMK (Tampere University of Applied Sciences).

The employment rate among the Proakatemia graduates is extremely high and every fourth of them will continue as an entrepreneur right after finishing the studies. The rest will join various companies and take their Proakatemia skills and values with them.

– They are already familiar with working life rules and expectations, and tend to show more maturity and independence in thinking than most of their age group, Prokki says.

Photo: Proakatemia

If you want to start a Proakatemia of your own, the first thing to do is to get in touch with TAMK and visit Proakatemia – even a short stay will give a realistic view how team learning is done in Tampere. They’ll let you talk to the students and coaches, who will answer all your questions! 

– The next step is educating coaches to understand the methods and directors to see the fundamental principles. They will then contextualise Proakatemia in the local culture. It will take some time, but it can be done anywhere, says Prokki.

In Tampere, Proakatemia started from scratch in 1999. A couple of teachers attracted the first students to apply to a new project, to create something groundbreaking – how to obtain a degree by being a team entrepreneur. The rest is Proakatemia history, a way of active learning that is unique in the whole wide world.

TAKK – learning at the workplace, following a personal study plan

Studying for a vocational qualification while doing at least half or more of the learning at an interesting workplace, maybe at your future employer – that’s possible at Tampere Adult Education Centre (TAKK). Because TAKK is an adult educator, their students are willing to start working as soon as possible. On-the-job learning is a good choice for both the students and the involved companies.

– Companies need workforce, and workplace training is an efficient way to get to know the skilled and motivated people and catch them before someone else does, says Development Director Satu Neuvonen of TAKK.

TAKK has a strong network for cooperation with working life, companies and other employers. This ensures that they can find places for on-the-job periods and, on the other hand, that TAKK is always very well aware of the changing needs in working life. This is the basis for a successful workplace learning system.

– Maintaining and expanding the network, collecting feedback from partners and supporting them, instructing workplace trainers and making sure students learn what they are supposed to – taking care of all this and much more in a systematic way, that’s what our workplace learning model is about, explains Neuvonen.

Photo: TAKK

TAKK manages the big picture but is also investing in the students’ personal study plans. Consider this: they will take time to sit down with every single student and find out the student’s competences and gaps in them. Then a plan is made to fill just those gaps, so the study path is a bit different for each student.

– For students, it is more inspiring to study things that they don’t yet know. The previous studies are accredited and some may even finish their degree sooner. For the society, it saves resources not to teach same things twice, says Neuvonen.

TAKK is also a working life developer constantly looking for new ideas to help its network. It contacts companies and offers them cooperation for recruitments and expanding competences. A kind of a workplace counsellor is something employers, especially SMEs, seem to hope for next.  The counsellor would visit the company regularly and check how the staff competencies could best be developed. Maybe this will be the next big news from the Education Tampere community?