The way to the top: APO - target-oriented supplementary education
FISITA Education Committee talked about life-long learning a long time ago with professor Antti Saarialho. He introduced a learning model to the entire FISITA, but that time it was not ready for the system, so SATL decided to continue with the Finnish trade and repair organization the development of this system.
Life-long learning has become a necessity to everyone who wants to thrive on the job market. In order to cope with the fast development of technology, increasing competition and cost-cutting, individuals and organizations must be willing to change and learn continuously.
The automobile branch in Finland has decided to respond to these challenges by creating a system which offers the staff a comprehensive educational ladder from the performing level up to the management. There has been no such channel of advancement this far.
The APO system (APO = competence program for the automobile branch) is a uniform structure of qualifications divided into four different levels. The training is customized to the needs of the automobile companies and their staffs. The APO-program is grounded on a competence-based qualification system for adults, in which the courses are selected from a large supply of options already available, and combined in a meaningful way.
The program proceeds in stages: after finishing APO one it is possible to move to APO two, and consequently to the following steps of the APO ladder. Thus the four-stage APO path (APO I, APO II, APO III and APO IV) form a qualification channel, which motivates the student to a long-term effort. The program is designed for automobile professionals with some working experience.
APO I is intended for employees such as technicians and salespeople, APO II for supervisors and customer service personnel, APO III for middle management and APO IV for the executive level. Each APO includes three levels of qualification: a vocational qualification, a specialist qualification and a final degree. The objectives of the different levels and the criteria of approval, which are founded on a general competence-based qualification system, are determined by an APO executive group.
Improved results and competitiveness
APO is a systematic and motivating way for the companies in the automobile branch to train new specialists in the core competencies of the organization. Companies benefit from the program since it combines the development needs of the individual person and the organization and increases the know-how, cost-awareness and effectiveness of the staff: this improves the competitiveness of the company. The staff becomes more motivated, committed to the company and willing to change. The APO program is a way to respond to the challenges of the learning organization and life-long learning. The companies benefit from the fact that APO creates a comprehensive structure of qualifications for the branch and offers the possibility to finance the studies partially with the aid of the society (competence-based qualification system).
Recruiting personnel becomes easier, too, because the image of the automobile branch is improved and made more attractive.
Towards new challenges
APO offers the possibility to a systematic and long-term on-site qualification within the profession. It also opens a way towards more demanding or different tasks: the employee can feel more secure on the job market. Through APO it is possible to participate in acknowledged study programs and exams in the branch, and the individual study units are integrated into a practical entity. APO is an alternative for those unable to engage in full-time studies.
The program starts with drawing up a personal study plan. The studies can be composed of several different modules which should serve the development needs of the student and the company. Courses can be selected from different educational institutions such as vocational schools, polytechnics and universities. The studies can also consist of in-house training, other training within the branch, self-instruction and diverse projects.
APO is backed up by the automobile organisations
APO is carried out by Autoalan Keskusliitto ry (The Central Organization for Motor Trades and Repairs) and Suomen Autoteknillinen Liitto ry - SATL (The Association of Automotive Technical Societies in Finland) in cooperation with RastorCollege, responsible for the coordination of the program. RastorCollege is a national adult educator specializing in distant education and enrolling more than 4000 students yearly. Its task as the coordinator is to define with the employer the student's professional capabilities, the actual level of the skills, and the goals. If necessary, the coordinator draws up a personal development and study plan, arranges for the admission and registration of the new students, supervises the implementation of the training and takes care of the follow-up and the reports.
The APO-program can be financed in various ways. The alternatives are self-financing (either by the student or the company or the two together), financial support for self-motivated training provided by the county, labour policy training support, or financing of apprenticeship training.