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The EU invited young top talent to Brussels – "Once in a lifetime experience”

Two Finnish gold medallists, Saga Naumanen and Linn Ahlskog, were invited to the Meet the Champions of Excellence event by the Commission.

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Linn Ahlskog (left) and Saga Naumanen. Photo: Skills Finland.

The European Commission invited 40 young European top talents to Brussels. The Meet the Champions of Excellence event brought together European gold medallists from previous WorldSkills, EuroSkills and Abilympics competitions as well as EU Commission officials and vocational students from across Europe. The purpose of the event was to highlight the opportunities offered by vocational education and training and to inspire young people to find their own path.

From Finland, Saga Naumanen and Linn Ahlskog, who won gold in international vocational skills competitions last year, were invited to the event. Saga, who studies Media at Luovi, won gold in Character Design at Abilympics. Linn, who graduated from Yrkesakademin i Österbotten, won gold in Health and Social Care in the EuroSkills competition. After graduating as a practical nurse, Linn has continued her studies to be a nurse.

Speciality is a superpower

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Saga Naumanen (right) in the high level panel. Photo: EESC.

Saga Naumanen participated in the discussion panel with the nominated speakers. These included European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Oliver Röpke, and CEO of WorldSkills Europe Laurence Gates. In the panel, Saga talked about her experience at the Abilympics competition and how it has affected her life.

"Competing gave me confidence and new professional skills. I also learned interaction and communication skills and developed my English skills", Saga said.

Saga participated in the Abilympics 2023 competition in France, which is a vocational skills competition for professionals with special needs.

"For me, speciality is a superpower that helps to focus on things I am interested in. I encourage all young people to seize different opportunities, such as competitions. Usually, you are your own worst critic, and ultimately everything will go well", Saga said and received applause from the public for her bold words.

Interviewing the Commissioner

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Linn Ahlskog interviewing the Commissioner and EESC President together with Hungarian gold medallist Tamás Bandúr. Photo: EESC.

The second gold medallist from Finland, Linn Ahlskog, was able to interview Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and EESC President Oliver Röpke together with a Hungarian gold medallist, Tamás Bandúr.

Important issues were addressed, such as how to increase the attractiveness of the health and social care sector and what was the Commissioner’s opinion on the fact that there were more men than women who had won gold medals.

"The interview was a new, slightly exciting, but interesting experience for me. In the end, everything went really well even though I didn't have much time to prepare", Linn says. "The entire event was a pleasant experience and it was fun to see other countries' medallists.”

For Saga, the event was also a positive experience. "After some initial nerves, my speech went really well. I was also flattered by the good feedback I received. After the panel, a lot of people came to thank me for having the courage to talk about my experiences. My skill, Character Design, was also interesting to many.”

"Going to this kind of event feels like a lucky experience, once in a lifetime," Saga concludes.

More information

EuroSkills is a European vocational skills championship held every other year. In the EuroSkills competition, vocational students and those who have already received their qualifications test their mettle in around 50 different skills categories. Competitors can be at most 25 years old. The next EuroSkills will be held in Denmark in autumn 2025.

Vocational skills competitions for professionals requiring special support promote worldwide awareness and appreciation of vocational special needs education and increase cooperation between educational institutions and workplaces. The Abilympics competition is held every four years, and the next competition will be held in Helsinki in May 2027. There is no age limit for the competition.

In addition to the EuroSkills and Abilympics competitions, Finland participates in the WorldSkills competition, which will be next held in autumn 2024 in France. It is also possible to compete nationally in the Taitaja competition, which brings together Finland's best talents every year. The next Taitaja competition will be held in Kuopio in May. Vocational skills competitions are free of charge and open to the public.

Skills Finland organises the Taitaja event together with its partners and sends Finland's professional teams to international competitions. Skills Finland is a non-profit association established in 1993 whose supporters include the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Finnish National Agency for Education and vocational institutions as well as key labour market and educational organisations.

Luovi Vocational College is Finland's largest vocational special education institution and operates in more than 30 localities in different parts of Finland. Luovi offers education and training for people who need strong special support in their studies and employment. Luovi offers vocational qualifications, preparatory education for an upper secondary qualification (TUVA) and preparatory education for work and independent living (TELMA). Approximately 2,000 students study at Luovi every year, and over 900 experts are employed there.

Yrkesakademin i Österbotten (YA) offers Swedish-language vocational training in the area of Ostrobothnia in Finland. Studies are organised in approximately 20 fields and more than 50 basic, further and specialist vocational qualifications are available. Approximately 2,700 students study at the YA with a staff of over 200 experts. The school is owned and operated by the joint municipal authority Federation of Swedish Municipalities in Ostrobothnia for Education and Culture.

Katja Katajamäki

Communications Manager
+358 40 732 0691