POKE Vocational College is quick to adapt to the needs of working life

The Northern Central Finland Vocational College (POKE) is developing its operations and growing according to the needs of regional development. Forestry is the most significant employer in the region, especially after the completion of the new bioproduct mill. That is why the Vocational College is also investing heavily in the training of future forestry professionals.

POKE, the Northern Central Finland Vocational College, is an educational consortium formed by 13 municipalities in Northern Central Finland with facilities in Viitasaari, Saarijärvi and Äänekoski.

Jouni Kurkela, Director of the Consortium, says that many young people and adults graduate from POKE, entering many different professions. Some examples of the fields of education offered by POKE include the transport and technology sector, various service sectors, such as the hotel and restaurant sector, as well as the social sector, the commercial and administrative sector and the natural resource sector in Tarvaala, Saarijärvi.

– All of our fields of education are connected to the entire region's economic structure. Most of our students come from this area of 13 municipalities. Having vocational education available reasonably close serves the area well. Some people will always move away, of course, but some of them will also come back at some point, Kurkela says.

The bioproduct mill being built in Äänekoski has had a significant impact on the operations of the school located in the city, as it will triple the need for truck drivers in the area, for example.

In addition to Viitasaari, driver training has also started in Äänekoski, and forest machine drivers are being trained in Saarijärvi. Even though the mill itself will not provide more jobs than before after completion, there will be a tremendous growth in the transport of timber. The applicants, both young and old, have also noticed this, as the number of applicants is far greater than the number of new students admitted to the school.

– We have of course reacted to the situation and acquired machines and equipment, built a repair shop and otherwise done everything we can to increase the number of students admitted to make the intake correspond better to both the number of applicants and the amount of workforce needed. People who are looking to change jobs seem to be particularly interested in the forest machinery and truck driving sectors.

POKE engages in diverse cooperation with local businesses, and the teaching is systematically being moved away from classrooms to actual, practical work. Kurkela says that the students will have a lot more freedom of choice in the future: people studying in the car and forest machinery driver programs, for example, can choose specific parts of the program according to their interests and workforce needs. Repairing heavy machinery requires special expertise, which cannot be taught using mass production practices.

– Students often carry out the final part of their studies in working life. The maintenance of heavy machinery really is a job of its own, and it must be learned through practice. Our students have requested training from Ponsse, for example, and our cooperation with Agcon and Valtra has also been good. We customize our training according to the needs of the working life, as it serves all the parties involved the best.

Northern Central Finland Vocational College
+358 14 5192 11

Established: 1961
Slogan: Education tailored to the needs of the employer and employee in Northern Central Finland