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Taitaja award for occupational safety puts well-being themes at the centre of task planning

Taitaja award 2022 for occupational safety went to Beauty Therapy. The officials responsible for this skills category emphasise the importance of occupational safety and well-being at work as part of vocational competence.

Päätuomari, tuomarit ja lajivastaavat Taitaja 2022 Pori.jpg

In addition to prizes handed out to competitors, awards were also presented to skills categories at Taitaja2022 Pori event. The Taitaja award for occupational safety went to Beauty Therapy.

The tasks completed by the competitors on competition days included sugaring of eyebrows and body hair, manicures and nail treatments, massages and lash and eyebrow tinting. The extensive facials task included a sales and service situation in addition to giving the treatment, and a further treatment plan provided both orally and in writing was part of the pedicure task.

Considerations of occupational safety and well-being at work had been addressed across a broad front both in the competition tasks and in the organisation of the competition in this skills category.

“For example, we focused on identifying hazards, use of personal protective equipment, tidiness of the workstation, aseptic work and work ergonomics”, says Tanja Wasse from WinNova, one of the officials responsible for this category. “We kept plasters available and organised an eye rinsing station in the competition area, taped down electrical cables to avoid the risk of tripping, had the labels of the products used in the competition on display, and provided safety induction for all those working in our area”, explains Janika Reunanen, one of the officials responsible for this skills category.

Occupational safety has an emotional aspect

Taitaja competitions are a tense situation in which young people subject themselves to other people’s attention and criticisms, and this is not easy for everyone. In addition to technical issues, Beauty Therapy also focused on making the competitors feel safe.

"We considered the fact that students needing special support may also participate in the competition. We wished to give all competitors equal opportunities to succeed in Taitaja finals. As the competition situation is very stressful, we also wanted to make sure that everyone could feel good and safe", says Wasse.

A feeling of safety was created by carefully going through the tasks and the changes made to them during the competition with both the competitors and all actors in this skills category. All instructions were additionally available in writing throughout the competition. The tension created by the competition was also alleviated by means of a joint relaxation exercise, which helped the competitors close their minds to the stimuli in the competition venue.

Addressing occupational safety and well-being at work is part of vocational competence

Tanja Wasse and Janika Reunanen have both separately noted that young people do not always realise how important it is to pay attention to such things as ergonomics. Consequently, the two officials responsible for the skills category consider it very important that the themes of well-being at work and occupational safety play a large role in studies of this field. “This is the cornerstone of working in the occupation”, Wasse sums up.

Reunanen finds, however, that today's students are better off than their predecessors when it comes to occupational safety. “When I finished my beauty care studies more than twenty years ago, little or no attention was paid to working shoes, for example.”

Hot competition in the finals

Tanja Wasse and Janika Reunanen knew that the skills category of Beauty Therapy would meet the criteria required for the Taitaja award. Nevertheless, the fact that they received this recognition caught them by surprise. "We had very tough opponents," Wasse describes the skills categories of practical nursing and infrastructure construction that they were up against in the final.

To her, winning the award was also a surprise because you cannot always assess your own work and the achievements of your skills category through the eyes of an outsider. “You are so busy with what you are doing”, she says.

Reunanen describes the award as the icing on the cake. "Rather than to win awards, we came here because we are proud of our occupation and vocational skills. We put our hearts into this work, and it led to us receiving this great recognition.”

The trophy and certificate of honour are now in a display case at WinNova, where they show customers in the beauty salon run by students that we do not cut corners in occupational safety and well-being at work. The recognition has already given more extensive visibility to occupational safety in Beauty Therapy, as a trade journal will publish an article on this topic written by the officials responsible for the skills category.

Wasse and Reunanen also believe that the Taitaja award is a good merit to add to your CV. "Maybe this had something to do with the fact that, shortly after the Taitaja competition, I bagged an interesting job in WinNova", explains Reunanen, who worked in Sataedu Educational Federation at the time of the Taitaja event.

Occupational safety and well-being: a rule of thumb in 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 occupational safety and well-being at work could be reflected in the competition in your skills category. Beauty Therapy is a good example of how the theme can be approached broadly.

The officials responsible for the skills category hope that Beauty Therapy will also compete for this award next year when the Taitaja competition is organised in Espoo. "Hopefully, it will become a routine for our skills category to enter the competition every year from now on. Competing for the award promotes the skills category and the entire industry”, Tanja Wasse says.

At the same time, however, the officials also encourage other categories to compete. “You should, of course, come and try to win. It brings good visibility for the entire field and naturally also builds the educational institution’s reputation”, Wasse explains.

Officials responsible for the skills category 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 occupational safety and well-being at work 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.

The actors in the skills category of Beauty Therapy thought about entering the competition for a while before they decided to participate. However, the principles of occupational safety and well-being at work had been internalised in the mindset and work practices of this skills category to the extent that these aspects kind of infiltrated into the arrangements for the skills category and competition tasks, and participation in the competition for the award did not increase the workload.

"When we noticed that our competition tasks already met the award criteria to a great extent, we decided to participate. Taitaja competitions are naturally a lot of work, but in the end, filling in the application mainly meant that we had to sit down and describe the ways in which the themes were manifested in our competition tasks, Wasse explains.

The award draws skills categories’ attention to occupational safety and well-being at work

The Taitaja award for occupational safety was handed out for the first time in its current form at the Taitaja competition of 2022. Skills Finland presented the award in partnership with LähiTapiola. 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 occupational safety and well-being at work.

However, this theme is not something completely new at Taitaja. Every year, LähiTapiola has presented its own occupational safety award to one young competitor in Taitaja. Under the rules of the Taitaja competition, all skills categories have additionally had to take the perspective of occupational safety into account. However, attention paid to this theme has varied greatly between the categories: some have excelled in it, while others have completely ignored it.

Encouraged by the new award and more detailed criteria for handing it out, the aim is to encourage more skills categories to invest in working methods that support health and safety.

Awards for sustainable development and entrepreneurship were also presented
Not only occupational safety but also sustainable development and entrepreneurship are themes that must be visible in all skills categories of Taitaja competitions every year. In addition to the Taitaja award for occupational safety, two other themed awards are also part of the Taitaja event.

The Taitaja award for entrepreneurship handed out in partnership with the Federation of Finnish Enterprises went to the TaitajaPLUS skills category of restaurant and catering services, while the award for sustainable development presented together with Touchpoint was given to the skills category of cabinet making.