Skills are valuable! Creating equal opportunities for young people to identify and develop their skills

Published: 6.9.2021 8.00Updated: 8.9.2021 7.24
Alexander Wessberg's special talent is freestyle football.Photo: Heidi Turunen

Alexander Wessberg, 26, founded his own business and got help from the City of Espoo and the summer entrepreneurship programme of Economy and youth TAT. Now he teaches children and young people technical tricks and “taming the ball” at his own freestyle football school.

Alexander Wessberg, 26, played football as a child, admired the ball handling skills of Maradona and Ronaldinho and compared his own skills with those of his friends. His desire to show off and competitive nature drove him to practice tricks for hours on end. Eventually his interest turned from traditional football to freestyle football. It involves impressive and elaborate ball tricks.

- I started school a year later than my age group. Because of my hearing impairment and Finnish-Swedish background, I belonged to two minorities in my Finnish-speaking school and I did not fit in easily. Juggling a ball became a safe-haven for me, and I often practiced in a flow state, losing all sense of time.

Alexander gained his first experiences of performing in the Talent Finland competition, where he went through to the live broadcast round. He then started performing as a street artist and at various events, won four Finnish championship titles and competed with the world’s freestyle elite in international competitions.

Now Alexander is also an entrepreneur. He teaches children and young people technical tricks and “taming the ball” at his own freestyle football school. In summer 2021, Alexander participated in the summer entrepreneurship programme by the City of Espoo and Economy and youth TAT. The programme teaches entrepreneurial skills and supports young people in trying out their business idea with the help of personal mentoring. 

We need all of Espoo to work together to be able to utilise the skills of all young people

Supporting young people’s entrepreneurial skills through the summer entrepreneurship programme is a part of a more extensive set of actions and measures, through which we are building services that promote basic skills and give young people the opportunity to identify and develop their skills.

- Our vision is to create a skills guarantee in Espoo, which will give all young people in Espoo equal opportunities to develop their basic skills, which will support them in their studies, working life, daily lives and coping in society, says Kirsi Eskelinen from Employment Espoo.

The vision is being carried out in cooperation with Espoo comprehensive schools, youth services, immigrant services, Employment Espoo and Omnia. In Espoo Skills Guarantee, we pay particular attention to young people aged 15–30 who do not have a clear path towards further education and working life and who need support in identifying and developing their skills.

In traditional urban employment services, unemployed young people gain access to various services that develop their skills. However, these services are often made available to them too late. That is why the identification and development of skills should also be promoted in preventative work at various educational levels, in basic education of immigrants and in the transitional phases of reintegration into working life.

Cooperation is also needed in order to be able to take full advantage of all learning environments and opportunities! We professionals need to search for and identify places where competence and skills are acquired more extensively than we are used to. Young people, in particular, often accumulate skills in informal environments, such as the gaming world or the sale of homemade products. How can we identify these skills and guide young people to activities and services that further develop them?

- By maintaining an extensive view and cooperating throughout the city, we will be best able to promote the identification and development of young people’s skills.

Skills are the basis of well-being and vitality

Skills and competence is accumulated in a variety of environments, regardless of people’s age. Skills are first and foremost a means of self-expression and they contribute to our overall well-being.

In addition to entrepreneurial skills, the Espoo Skills Guarantee focuses on the development of job search and working life skills as well as digital skills. By focusing on three sets of competence, we will be able to develop young people’s basic skills extensively: skills are interlinked so that they complement each other and improve young people’s prerequisites for coping in various situations in life. In addition to skills package contents, we will also create competence packages that ensure that the young people have an understanding of the competence they have acquired and that it also has recognised value in post-graduate studies and working life.

For Alexander, freestyle football, which emphasises individuality and personality, was a more suitable sport than traditional football. Childhood ball games with friends later grew into identity, lifestyle and eventually also a business. During his years of successful competing, visibility, contacts and sponsorship deals were offered to Alexander on a plate, but running consistent and goal-oriented business operations was something he had to learn:

- Suddenly I was not being approached everywhere I went, but had to start actively marketing my business idea. This is where my brief work experience at telemarketing in my twenties came in handy: I still have the courage to pick up the phone and communicate my message. When running my freestyle football classes, I have also noticed that my own childhood experiences have left me sensitive to recognising difference in groups of children. During the summer entrepreneurship programme, I drafted a business plan and gained new perspectives on marketing and customer profiling. The programme also enabled me to share experiences with other summer entrepreneurs. I might also be interested in working as a mentor in the future.

Espoo aims to halve youth unemployment by the end of 2022. Through our #YouthToWork plan, we aim to shorten and prevent young people’s unemployment periods through three sets of measures: improving service guidance, developing basic skills and promoting working life opportunities.

In honour of the #RevealYourSkills theme weeks, we want to highlight the value of skills and competence. The Skills Guarantee measures included in our Youth to Work plan allow us to promote the development of young people’s skills and their understanding of their own skills as well as their ability to utilise this understanding in building their own learning careers, finding employment and keeping up with the ever-changing working life.

Ask more

Kirsi Eskelinen

Network Manager040 639 3351
  • Entrepreneusrship
  • Employment