Adult Education Centre – when language teaching inspires and customer service ignites

Fast-paced, organised, hard-working, approachable and eager to help. It does not take long for Language Education Coordinator Paula Fiskaali and Study Secretary Ulla Kontola to come up with a list of features that are useful in their work at the Adult Education Centre of the Tampere Region.
Two people are sitting at a table in front of a full bookcase.
Study Secretary Ulla Kontola and Language Education Coordinator Paula Fiskaali work at the Adult Education Centre of the Tampere Region.

Paula Fiskaali has always loved languages, which led her to study them. Working as a Language Education Coordinator at the Adult Education Centre offers her excellent opportunities to fulfil all her passions. She gets to speak several languages every day – and also teach them.

– I find teaching very inspiring. My energy levels spike before a lesson and when I enter the classroom and see the students, Fiskaali explains.

Fiskaali is responsible for the immigrant education provided at the centre, planning the courses and teaching some of them. At the same time, she gets to learn more about immigrants' languages and cultures, which is also inspiring for her.

Finnish-language students may need a lot of help to get started in their studies. At the Adult Education Centre of the Tampere Region, Fiskaali is often the first person new and prospective students meet.

– I know just a few words of Arabic or Farsi, for example. If there is no common language, I'll use Google Translate or try to illustrate the situation by drawing. If you have the desire to help, there's always a way, Fiskaali says.

Every day is different

Study Secretary Ulla Kontola has numerous tasks, most importantly responding to customer contacts when students and those interested in the courses call, communicate or visit. Kontola can usually be found at the Valo Education Centre in Ylöjärvi, but she also visits Sampola in Tampere regularly.

Study secretaries are responsible for the customer register, enrolments, entering discounts and many other tasks necessary for the practical operation of the centre. Kontola's job description also includes making space reservations and key management in Ylöjärvi.

– I enjoy customer service and the fact that I have to react quickly. In this work, you must accept that even if you have a plan for the day, something more urgent is likely to come up, Kontola says.

Kontola's work involves a lot of sorting things out and finding an agreement. For her, it is not tiring, as matters are there to be resolved. Fiskaali, too, enjoys work where there is always something going on and you get to play several roles every day. 

Two people are standing in the spacious lobby of the Workers' College, looking at papers.
Paula Fiskaali and Ulla Kontola's tips for local residents: the centre's great language selection; popular home economics courses in Ylöjärvi. The Adult Education Centre strives to organise courses according to customers' wishes and demand, if only suitable facilities and competent teachers are available.

Finnish language courses open many doors

More than half of Fiskaali's total workload is related to the teaching of immigrants and Finnish in one way or another. At the Adult Education Centre, the basic courses in Finnish get filled up quickly, and most of the advanced courses are also full.

– The range of students is very wide. With some, we are learning the letters, while with others, we are already writing complex stuff. It's wonderful that language enables so many different approaches, says Fiskaali.

– The Finnish language courses are an important meeting place for immigrants and help them find employment. I hope that all these benefits are taken into account when making decisions on the funding of Finnish language training for immigrants, Kontola adds.

Fiskaali says that a representative of Tampere Vocational College Tredu may visit the Finnish course to explain the opportunities for education and employment. In other words, courses in Finnish and other languages are much more than just mere language learning.

– You often hear that the atmosphere in our courses is really positive and open, not performance oriented. The most important thing is that the student shows up, gets to know people, enjoys their time and learns the language on the side, says Fiskaali.

Adult Education Centre brings significance to life

Doing meaningful work is a factor in job satisfaction. The Adult Education Centre is useful and enjoyable for many.

– First of all, the Adult Education Centre offers courses for people of all ages, from children's music classes to senior groups. Secondly, this is an affordable way to engage in hobbies, develop oneself and find meaning in one's life, says Fiskaali.

The affordable offering is partly because some of the activities are funded by society, while others are paid for by the students themselves as course fees. Based on a study published by the Foundation for Municipal Development in 2019, it appears that every euro invested in the centres produces up to five euros of good: savings in social and healthcare services expenditure for society, well-being and skills for students.

– I would like to highlight the fight against loneliness in particular. If people find the courage to attend courses that interest them, they are certain to meet like-minded company, Kontola says.

Adult Education Centre of the Tampere Region

  • Finland's oldest and one of Finland's largest adult education centres
  • Provides more than 2,000 courses each year, attended by more than 15,000 individual students
  • Activities in several locations in Tampere and Ylöjärvi
  • Employs 30 full-time employees and some 400 hourly-paid teachers
Text: Päivi Stenroos
Photos: Laura Happo
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