Qualifications and studies in vocational education and training

Leipuriopiskelijoita Kuva: OKM/Liisa TakalaThe qualifications structure in vocational education and training (VET) has three levels. There are three types of qualifications: vocational upper secondary qualification, further vocational qualification, specialist vocational qualification.

There are currently approximately 160 vocational qualifications.

Vocational upper secondary qualification

A holder of a vocational upper secondary qualification has broad-based basic vocational skills to work in different tasks in the field as well as more specialised competence and the vocational skills required in work life in at least one section of the field.

A holder of a further vocational qualification has vocational skills that meet the needs of work life and that are more advanced or more specialised than required in the vocational upper secondary qualification. A holder of a specialist vocational qualification has vocational skills that meet the needs of work life and that are highly advanced or multidisciplinary.

Broad-based and flexible qualifications

There are three types of qualifications – vocational qualifications, further vocational qualifications and specialist vocational qualifications. All qualifications are composed of units of learning outcomes. Vocational qualifications consist of vocational units and common units. Further and specialist qualifications comprise only vocational units and the necessity for common units is assessed when preparing the personal competence development plan.

Vocational units are either compulsory or optional. Students can complete entire qualifications, parts of them or smaller units, or combine parts of different qualifications based on their needs. Competence requirements are the same in all learning environments, also in workplaces. Qualifications are the same for young people and adults.

Vocational qualifications are independent of the way the vocational skills have been acquired. As long as the individual’s competences meet the national qualification requirements, they can be acquired in different learning environments and ways, at different times. Students demonstrate their skills in competence demonstrations at practical work.

In addition to vocational qualifications, students can complete training preparing them for VET. This preparatory education and training provides students with capabilities for applying to VET leading to qualifications and fosters their preconditions for completing qualifications. Preparatory education and training for work and independent living is available for those who need special support due to illness or injury. It provides students instruction and guidance according to their personal goals and capabilities.

VET also allows students to advance or supplement their vocational skills without having to aim at completing a qualification or its part. These aims and contents of so-called ‘other VET’ are tailored to the needs of workplaces or individuals.

Individual learning pathways

Prospective students can apply to VET whenever suitable and start their studies flexibly throughout the year. National joint application is organised each spring for those who have completed basic education and who do not have a secondary qualification. The aim is to ensure each young person a student place after basic education.

A personal competence development plan is drawn up for each student. The plan is drawn up by a teacher or a guidance counsellor together with the student and, when applicable, representative of working life.

The plan charts and recognises the skills previously acquired by the student and outlines what kind of competences the student needs and how they will be acquired in different learning environments. Students may have obtained relevant skills from working life, another school, international study, work placement periods, family and leisure activities or through the media. Previous learning is recognised and only the missing skills are acquired.

The plan also includes information on the necessary supportive measures. The support received by a student may involve special teaching and studying arrangements due to learning difficulties, injury or illness, or studies that support study abilities.

Vocational special needs education

Vocational special needs education is designed for students who need special support in learning and studying regularly or on a long-term basis due to learning difficulties, disabilities, illness or other reason. Special needs education refers to systematic pedagogic support that is based on the students’ personal objectives and skills as well as special arrangements for teaching and studying.

The purpose of special needs education is to enable the students to meet the vocational skills requirements and learning objectives for the qualification or the education. However, in special needs education exceptions can be made to the qualification requirements by adjusting the vocational skills requirements, learning objectives and skills assessment as deemed necessary from the perspective of the students’ personal objectives and skills.

Publicly funded and free of charge

National and local government are responsible for financing VET as part of the state budget. Also vocational education and training organised at workplaces is publicly funded.

Apart from learning materials, VET is free of charge to students. Students are entitled to a free meal and school transport subsidies. For further and specialist qualifications, students may be charged a reasonable fee. Full-time students can apply for student financial aid and loans.

Learning at work strengthens competence

Guided and goal-oriented studying at the workplace takes place in versatile learning environments both at home and abroad and is based on practical work tasks. Educational institutions, workplaces, workshops, worksites of educational institutions and virtual learning environments reinforce each other. The education provider is responsible for the education but the student will also be appointed a workplace trainer who must have the required competences for the task.

Studying at the workplace is either based on apprenticeship or on training agreement. Both can be flexibly combined. Learning at work can be used to acquire competence in all vocational qualifications as well as other training advancing or supplementing vocational skills. Studying at the workplace can cover an entire degree, a module or a smaller part of the studies.

In apprenticeship, most of the competence will be acquired at the workplace through practical work tasks and will be reinforced in other learning environments if needed. The student, education provider and employer agree on the arrangements on the apprenticeship together. The apprenticeship is based on a fixed-term contract between the student and the employer. The student is a full-time worker and receives pay.

In the training agreement, the student is not in a contract of employment and does not receive any pay or other compensation. This agreement is drawn between the education provider and the workplace.

The workplace is required to keep track of the development of the student, report to the education provider and take action if the competence is not reached. No minimum or maximum amount has been set for competence acquired in connection with practical work tasks. Instead, education and training organised at the workplace is planned as part of the personal competence development plan, taking into account the competence needs of the workplace and individuals.

The plan is attached to the agreement and the training is designed in cooperation with different parties. Students can find the workplace by themselves or ask the education provider for help with finding a suitable workplace.

See also

Links to other websites

Studyinfo.fi is the official website with all the information about study programmes leading to a degree in Finland.

eRequirements service contains qualification requirements in vocational education.

Vipunen – Education Statistics Finland is the education administration's reporting portal.

Contact information

Petri Lempinen, Director General 
Ministry of Education and Culture, Lukiokoulutuksen ja ammatillisen koulutuksen osasto (LAMOS), Ylijohtaja Telephone:0295330180   Email Address: