Teaching in Finland – Part 1: How it started


This is the story of one of those wonderful projects, the sort that come about by chance but turn out out to really useful and great fun.

It’s the sort of project that shows that no matter how much you plan there is still a lot to be said for keeping your eyes open and making your own luck.

As I note on my home page I started my first business, Sapience Consulting, about 18 months ago as a straightforward labour market research and business consultancy.


My old company website gives a flavour of what it was set up to do.
It has a lot about tools and techniques but with hindsight it seems rather short of hard detail about what benefits a potential customer can expect from using them.

That recent realisation led me to set up Windmill Insight Solutions ltd which is is very much aimed at helping people and organisations achieve good things.

If you has asked me at the time I was setting up sapience Consulting whether I would now expect to be packing to go off to Finland for a week to teach entrepreneurship to a group of young Finns on vocational tourism course, I would probably have suggested that you had been out in the sun for too long.

However, it happened and this blog is a way of sharing with you the events that lead up to it and how it all unfolded.

March 2011: The beginnings

Previously Finland to me was simply that rather obscure little Scandinavian country that has given the world more than its fair share of world motor racing champions and Nokia phones.

They also speak an absolutely jaw-breaking language and it snows a lot.

Before any irate Finns come hammering on my door I now know much better because in March 2011 I had the good fortune to go on an EU funded study visit to Finland.

The study visit was part of the Transversal Programme whose aim is to enable individuals from across the EU should come together to share knowledge and learn from each other about a topic of interest.

In this case the topic was “Skills and Jobs – Where will they meet in the future” and visit was hosted by  Kainuu Vocational College (KAO).

They have an English web site which gives a summary of their approach to teaching.


To say that my knowledge Finnish geography was sketchy before the study visit would be being kind. I think “non-existent” would be a better phrase.

However I now know that KAO is based mainly in Kajaani, the capital city of the Kainuu region of Finland. In broad terms Kajaani is about half way up Finland, on the left towards the Russian border.

This latter item actually turns out to be quite important for them, but more of that elsewhere.

 The study visit

The study visit itself will be the subject of a separate blog
but the headlines were that the organiser, Risto Virkkunen, the Head of International Affairs at KAO, set up a great programme of speakers and visits.

The speakers showed us how the college works with a variety of partners to understand what skills will be needed in the Kainuu region in the short and medium term, and hence what courses KAO should be providing.

At some point in the study visit I asked Risto by way of conversation whether they did any teaching in English. His reply of “we would like to but it is so hard to find the right person to do this for us” sparked further conversations after the study visit.

The outcome of of the conversations was an agreement that I would design and deliver a pilot English language course in entrepreneurship. It all sounded so simple at the time………..

To see how I got on with this project please have a read of these posts:

Teaching in Finland – Part 2: How we went about it, a look at some of the technicalities of turning a one line project brief* into a five day multi curricula learning experience for young vocational students.

*The project brief from Risto was “Bob, we would like you to do a course on entrepreneurship for some of our students

Teaching in Finland – Part 3: How it went Day-by-day, a slightly light hearted look at the ups (lots) and down (not many) of the five days.

Teaching in Finland – Part 4: How I should have done it, a review of the project, looking back with the benefit of hindsight to see how I should have done it and would do it next time.

Teaching in Finland – Part 5:Where next?, a look at how the lessons learned from this project, when combined with my industry and teaching experiences, can tell us how the principles of this project can be formalised and applied in other situations.


Did you find this post interesting? Would you like to say something about it? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or start a discussion.

Equally if you think that a project like this would be useful to you please drop me a line(bob@windmillinsights.co.uk) or give me a call (+44 7554 994855)


Bob Windmill

One thought on “Teaching in Finland – Part 1: How it started

  1. Great blog and very very intresting class. Like a lot! Thank you for both to you and our school for offering this experience to us.

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