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New Taitaja award calls attention to sustainable development principles in Competition tasks

Taitaja award for sustainable development 2022 went to the skill of Cabinetmaking. The winners appreciate the visibility the award brings to their skill.


The first Taitaja award for sustainable development was presented to the skills category of Cabinetmaking. The competition task at Taitaja2022 Pori event was to build a solid wood cabinet by hand. In this task, the principles of sustainable development were observed not only when making the cabinet but also in its packaging and transport.

Consequently, this year’s Taitaja award for sustainable development went to a skills category in which sustainable development had been addressed across an exceptionally broad front.

Kari Murro from WinNova, the official responsible for this skills category, points out that rather than large and revolutionary things, sustainable development means taking small details into account when planning the competition task. "Sustainable development is not a separate issue that you should put under specific scrutiny. It is about small everyday choices. It is a mindset, and once you adopt it, you no longer need to think about it separately", he explains.

Jury’s choice criticised

The jury's choice was also criticised straight away by some. “Someone told me that it is easy for the skills category of Cabinetmaking to snatch an award like this because our competition assignment was made from wood”, Kari Murro says. He points out that the material choice alone is not enough to make any product sustainable.

In addition to ecological materials, attention was paid to such aspects as the product’s sustainability, minimising losses, reusability and recyclability of components, and the tools needed to complete the task and the electricity they consume.

For competitors, the challenges created by the sustainability mindset included having to know how to cut the material cost-effectively and recycle any waste correctly. "Winning is never easy", says Jaakko Järvi, Managing Director of Puulon Oy. He was the main judge of the skill and has also personally participated in vocational skills competitions.

Sustainable development as the guideline for planning competition tasks
The award will be presented again next year, which is why now is a good time to consider how the principles of sustainable development could be incorporated in the competition in your skills category. Kari Murro and Jaakko Järvi wish to encourage all skills categories to find their own way of thinking sustainably.

"Going for the award can spice up the planning of the competition task, which is why taking part is definitely a good idea", says Murro.

Jaakko Järvi sees the award as a way of gaining visibility for the skills category, above all. “Our category is not very media sexy, which is why the visibility brought by the award was welcome. It is easy for winners to sile, and participating in the competition for the award is definitely worthwhile.”

The skill must apply for the award

The skills category must enter itself in the competition for the award. In practice, the official responsible for the category fills in an online form, describing how the principles of sustainable development are followed in the competition. Before the week of the finals, a pre-selection jury goes through the applications and selects three skills categories for the final. During the week in which Taitaja finals are held, the actual award jury interviews the actors in the skills categories and makes a final decision on the winner.

“Admittedly, we ended up burning the midnight oil to fill in the application form as we were very busy with the other competition arrangements. But it was worth it”, Murro laughs.

Nevertheless, he did not consider filling in the application hard work, as the principles of sustainable development had been incorporated in the competition task from the beginning. “In practice, we just had to write the descriptions”.

The award draws skills categories’ attention to sustainable development

The Taitaja award for sustainable development was handed out for the first time in its current form at the Taitaja competition of 2022. The award was presented by Skills Finland in partnership with Touchpoint, a company that makes ecological working clothes. In the future, Skills Finland together with a business partner will present this award each year to a skills category that has shown exceptional attention to the principles of sustainable development.

However, sustainable development is not a completely new theme at Taitaja. Under the competition rules, all skills categories have had to take the principles of sustainable development into account even before, and the categories have also been eligible to apply for the award. However, attention paid to this theme has varied greatly between the categories: some have excelled in it, while others have completely ignored it.

Motivated by the renewed award and more detailed award criteria, the aim is to encourage more skills categories to invest in sustainable development.

Jaakko Järvi has noticed that corporate social responsibility is emerging strongly in the business world, and the young people participating in the competition will come across sustainability issues at the latest when they move on to the world of work. “Customers will ask about certificates and green electricity. For this reason, there is no harm in familiarising yourself with the principles of sustainable development while you still are a student.

Awards also presented for occupational safety and entrepreneurship
In addition to sustainable development, occupational safety and entrepreneurship are themes that must be visible annually in all skills categories of Taitaja competitions. In addition to the Taitaja award for sustainable development, two other themed awards were also part of the Taitaja event.

The Taitaja award for entrepreneurship handed out together with the Federation of Finnish Enterprises went to the TaitajaPLUS skill Restaurant and Catering Services, while the award for Occupational Safety presented in partnership with LähiTapiola was given to the skill of Beauty Therapy.