Head chef Tom Salonen and chef Miro Merinen
In cooperation with the Turku Vocational Institute, the Turku Apprenticeship Centre has developed a new and flexible study path for young people.
Apprenticeship or day-time school? Young people studying in the hotel, restaurant, and catering fields in Turku no longer have to make the decision, because a new and flexible form of education has been developed to enable transferring from day-time school to an apprenticeship, or the other way round.
Along with some 20 other young people, Miro Merinen started studies in the restaurant field right after comprehensive school. The alternative was to take a traditional day-time form of studying or find an apprenticeship. Miro chose the latter.
‘Apprenticeship sounded like an excellent chance to get work experience and an occupation at the same time’, says Miro, who graduated as a chef last Christmas.
The apprenticeship studies are a demanding process, and the interested students had to write a motivation letter before the final selection was made.
‘I wrote that I am friendly and helpful, that I like to work with my hands, and that the best way for me to learn is by doing. I also wrote that I’m not afraid of work, and that I want to work with people’, he says.
Some students chose the apprenticeship, others went with the educational institution. Both groups studied at similar paces, in order to facilitate changing between groups, if necessary, and to avoid people dropping out midway.
Some changed study forms
The students spent three weeks at the school before applying for the apprenticeship, learning the basics and basic skills necessary.
‘We received a list of restaurants willing to take an apprentice. I messaged the Brahen Kellari restaurant, was invited for an interview, and then, for a two-week on-the-job learning period.
As our cooperation was fluent, we changed the on-the-job learning period into an apprenticeship after the two weeks.
‘I spent one day per week at school, and the rest of the time at my job learning.’
During the education period, some students changed from an apprenticeship to day-time school, or vice versa.
‘For me, the apprenticeship was like winning the lottery. I got a good job through it, and could start building my own life a bit sooner than I otherwise could have done.’
Educating the young is a wonderful thing
Brahen Kellari studied the lists carefully. Miro was chosen out of three people who were interviewed.
The fact that he was only 16 years old in the beginning did not scare head chef Tom Salonen.
‘We love a challenge. We’ve had several apprenticeship trainees, and things have always gone well. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to educate a young person with a passion for the field.’
The people at Brahen Kellari also believe that the best way to get good and committed employees is to train them in-house.
‘I had the main responsibility for Miro’s training, but the whole team was committed to helping. We all discussed together what to teach and when’, Salonen says.
Miro is thankful for being received so well.
‘When I first came here, I only had three weeks of training in the field. Everyone understood that it’s a far too short a time to learn anything really, and they were all willing to help.’
Miro feels that it was particularly important that he was also allowed to make mistakes.
After he graduated as a chef, his apprenticeship was turned into a permanent job.
Managing Director Sanna Hovi from Unica, a company specialising in catering services and student catering, has employed dozens of apprenticeship trainees throughout the years. At the moment, the company has four to five five young apprenticeship trainees, one of whom is 16 years old.
‘We have only good experiences of the young people. They are very motivated and enthusiastic.’
The Unica personnel is also used to working with young people, as their client base mostly consists of young people.
Hovi sees the apprenticeship arrangement as a win-win situation: Unica gets young and enthusiastic employees, while the apprenticeship trainees receive a good and versatile education.
‘We prepare our own food, we have customer service, and we also work in catering. This allows the students to see the many sides of the field.’
Many pairs of hands are also needed to make the everyday operations roll, but Hovi feels that, besides being a pair of hands, the apprenticeship trainees can introduce new skills and ideas into the entire organisation.
Basic skills are needed from day 1
Sanna Hovi feels that it’s vital for the young people to be given some basic education before starting their on-the-job learning process.
‘The trainees should be aware of the basics and the meaning of working already when they start. There are, for example, certain hygiene rules that must be followed.’
Also the fact that the school is there to provide support the whole time makes it easier for a company to take in a young apprenticeship trainee. If there are any problems, there are people just a phone call away to help solve them.
Hovi feels that while an apprenticeship is an excellent solution for the restaurant business, it also requires a lot of guidance. Some people feel gratification when seeing a young person develop, but guidance tasks are not for everyone. Therefore, it is most important to find a good instructor–apprentice pair, Hovi says.
Unica Oy takes all kinds of education quite positively. In addition to newcomers in the field, apprenticeship training has also been used for supervisor studies.