Supporting employability through peer guidance

Pyry project TAMK
Educational institutions cooperate and share expertise to improve employability of young people and adults with special needs.

TAMK leads a pioneering project in the Tampere region. The project PYRY Competent Groups aims to support unemployed adults with partial work ability and special needs, individuals outside the workforce as well as students at the final stages of their vocational studies.

“It is important to empower these youngsters and adults and to develop their professional self-confidence, and consequently give them tools for lifelong employment,” emphasizes Minna Seppälä, TAMK Senior Lecturer in Pedagogical Innovations and coordinator of PYRY Competent Groups project.

Minna explains that identifying and valuing one’s own skills is at its weakest among jobseekers and graduating students who receive special support. In Finland, young adults with special needs are rarely employed after graduation and often end up in state-subsidized work. The Pyry project aims to give personalized career training to individuals and encourage local employers in diversifying their workforce.

During the project (January 2020-October 2022) a total of 185 people will participate in the project activities. The greater majority is young people, approximately 100 individuals, while the total is completed by adults as well as employers from the Tampere region.

Sustainable design

This novel project is funded by European Social Fund and ELY Centre for Central Finland. The project partners are Luovi Special Vocational College, Kiipula Vocational College, SASKY Municipal Education and Training Consortium and Valo-Valmennusyhdistys.

PYRY project is designed with a desire to be sustainable. The participants are given tools and guidance on how to succeed in entering the job market. At the same time, they are also participating in the development of the project.

“The project was designed closely with all partner institutions, and now the participants’ input is crucial for its continuation. Every time we meet, the participants give feedback on the process and the improvements they have noticed,” says Minna Seppälä.

Supportive networks

The participants have been working in groups of jobseekers or students. The groups support peer learning and offer new perspectives on employment, earning a living and becoming active in society.

As Seppälä comments, finding a job is more than finding a way to earn a living. For many, it means belonging in a team of peers and having a common goal.

Each group is assigned two mentors: a representative of the project partner institutions and one of the group members act as peer mentors. Through workshops and peer support, own skills and strengths are recognized. Together the participants find fitting and creative ways to highlight their personality and expertise during job applications and interviews.

Tools for the job market

During joint workshops and small group meetings, the participants learn to recognize their skills and strengthen their self-confidence using peer guidance and mentoring. The monthly workshops allow the teams and individuals to process and work on their learnings.

During the joint workshops, the participants are trained on searching for work, best practices for applying for various workplaces and even explore different employment options, such as entrepreneurship.

The participants are currently producing creative videos highlighting their skills and strengths, with the title “Minä pystyn” (transl. “I can”). These videos will enrich job applications in the future and compliment their cover letters.

Building bridges

The jobseekers and students participating in the project are preparing to enter the workforce. They have expressed interest in various industries. The desired fields include for example practical nursing, business administration, property management, IT, sanitation, and hospitality services.

On the other side, the companies also need support during the employment journey. In their case, the needed support is information. The PYRY project aims to provide information related to students’ skills, needs, pay, and more.

Local employers have been invited to explore the competences each participant can bring to their companies, on 23 April 2021. The participants will present their videos and have an opportunity to network with company representatives.

Although the first batch of participants is about to exit PYRY the project continues. In September 2021, the project will restart with new groups of students and jobseekers.

Pyry project logo TAMK

Read more about the project here.

Project Lead:
Minna Seppälä
TAMK Senior Lecturer in Pedagogical Innovations

Feature image: Marcus Aurelius from Pexels  

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