Me and my city

During this school year, a vast majority of Finland’s sixth-graders will try working, running a business, making money and perhaps managing a team. It’s all part of a program called Me & My City – and YOUNITE is contributing in a major way.

It’s an idea that’s really taken hold in Finland: for one day, Finnish sixth-graders get to work, perhaps as a Telia CEO, a grocery salesperson or as the Mayor of Helsinki, through the initiative Me & My City. Having spent the first part of the year studying the basics of economics, professional life and entrepreneurship in their Social Studies class, the 12 and 13-year-olds get to put what they’ve learnt into action. In all honesty, it is a role-playing game. The kids are part of a schoolchildren’s society, a miniature city, for example. In it they then act as consumers and citizens, as part of Finnish society.

The concept was developed by TAT, an organisation that links together Finnish industry with educational institutions. The first Me & My City was opened in 2010, and this year over 75 percent of the Finnish sixth-graders will take part.

And Telia YOUNITE volunteers are joining to guide the kids through their first day at work.

Today, as the Telia news team gets to come along, Head of Telia Finland’s B2B Jari Rapo joins Me & My City as a YOUNITE volunteer. Since 2017, Telia has encouraged all its employees to participate in YOUNITE activities. Jari Rapo in turn, is joined by seven other volunteers from across the Telia organization.

His task is to guide the kids, who are working in Me & My City companies, and have just about settled into their working places.

“Hey, we have to organize a team meeting,” says one of kids. "Do we really need to build a base station?"

Anyone can become a leader

In charge of today’s dramatization with the 70 children, is teacher Heidi Lindholm. She has written a script for each job, together with participating companies.

“For many schoolchildren, working life appears to be quite scary,” Lindholm says. “However, in Me & My City anyone can become a CEO. We see how working here improves their self-confidence. Often teachers say that they have come to know completely new sides to the kids.”

In the meantime, it seems to be hectic at the Helsinki City Hall. Petra Valjakka, who just started his job as mayor, is preparing for the municipal elections. The citizens are asked to vote for which new public service should be established, a swimming pool, a police station or a library.

During the day, the kids can also visit a bank to apply for their own bank card, go to a café or shop in stores. The amount of money they spend registers as a clip in the mock-up bank card. So, if you buy an ice-cream, maybe you won’t have enough money for candy.

“I never realized it would be so busy in the café,” says Eerika Laakso, while putting vegetable pies into a microwave.

All the CEOs of the Me & My City companies gather together for a meeting, where Taneli Teelahti, one of the volunteers, asks them to check the financial status of their companies on their tablets. For some, it will be a surprise to see how part of their revenue has gone to workers' pensions.

The teacher of class 6B, Eveliina Hiekkala, has a coffee while watching the hustle and bustle in Me & My City.

“The kids have really looked forward to this day. At school, we have learned about tax rates, public services and job interviews. Here we can use all that in practise.”

Jari Rapo advises Miro Kutvo, who has taken over as CEO of another company, to find out why the company has received an invoice for 5,000 euro.

"I will probably have to get rid of the worker who caused this," Miro plans, while looking at his tablet in despair. His work jargon vocabulary may not be extensive yet yet, but he has a strong desire for success.

Jari Rapo smiles.

"Young people have such a huge drive," he says.

At lunch, Sulav Salim, who took over the pretend role as Nokia's sales manager, says he would have preferred another job because he wants to become a successful surgeon in the future.

“I didn’t realize that you need to take care of so many bills and pay loans. There's a lot of work to do,” he says.

Waleed Ahmed, currently “working” as principal for a school, says:

“In this position, you get to talk a lot with people. I already have sales experience from my father's candy store, so it's not that difficult.”

Original text: Kaisa Viitanen