Vantaa invests in supporting the wellbeing and studies of the young

Special youth workers at Varia

During the next few years, Vantaa will focus on supporting the wellbeing of the young as well as on reducing the number of dropouts. This year Vantaa will hire altogether 15 special youth workers to support students at junior high schools and at Vantaa Vocational College Varia. The new operating model aims to support the young in life situations critical for their future. The special youth work operating model, began in Vantaa, is a novelty in Finland, and it has gradually been expanded in Vantaa's educational institutions.

The city also strives to tighten cooperation between instruction and student welfare at Varia, so that all Varia's employees will be trained in guiding and supporting the students. The city is also arranging leisure-time activities for the students on Varia premises.

“Instruction not only entails increasing the young persons’ vocational competences, but ensuring their overall development while acting as their advisor. The young nowadays have a greater responsibility than before for the progress of their own studies. Not everybody has the resources to bear the increased responsibility. Vantaa youth’s mental health is most usually challenged by anxiety and the sense of loneliness,” comments Satu Heinonen, youth and adult education project specialist.

Special youth workers can participate in instruction and in other team activities, and cooperate closely with curators, psychologists, nurses, study counselors and teachers. The special youth workers at six junior high schools spend half their working hours at the school and the other half with the youth in their leisure time, which gives them a comprehensive idea of the lives the young lead and makes it easy for the young to approach them in case of problems. Cooperation with special youth workers is voluntary and will in no way obligate the students. Special youth workers can also cooperate with guardians of minors.

“The earlier we are able to support a young person in a challenging life situation, the better we will be able to avoid serious marginalization. Almost 25% of Vantaa's 20—29-year-olds are young people who have no degree after basic school. Lack of education constitutes a serious risk of marginalization. The new operating model supports the young in life situations critical for their future: transfer from basic to secondary education,” says Riikka Åstrand, director of youth services.

This year the city will finance the special youth work conducted at educational institutions by almost €0.5 million, taken from the city's Regional Program of Positive Action. The program aims to promote Vantaa residents’ equal possibilities for wellbeing by targeting resources and support measures at places where the need for support is the greatest. To further support students and develop their wellbeing, the city has launched the Increasing Encounters for Preventing Dropouts project, which has been granted financing by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Published: 6.9.2019 
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