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The JA Start Up programme – entrepreneurship and career advice for students

A Sitra-backed scheme is helping students across Finland get a valuable taste of entrepreneurship.


In the autumn, the JA Start Up programme for entrepreneurship education (under the Junior Achievement network) was expanded to cover 17 universities and universities of applied sciences in Finland. More than 250 students have already signed up for the programme. They will be running their own mini-businesses for one year.

A mobile sports app (Activer), a café on wheels (Kaffillari) and an online art store ( are a few examples of award-winning ideas that have taken flight with the JA Start Up programme from JA Finland.

The JA Start Up programme for developing entrepreneurial abilities and skills has been run successfully in a few Finnish universities for several years now. In autumn 2015, the programme was expanded nationwide to make it attainable for all higher education students: so far, more than 250 students have signed up for it in universities and universities of applied sciences around Finland, from Helsinki in the south to Kajaani in the north. The students form some one hundred businesses on a trial basis, to test the products and services they have developed on actual customers.

Entrepreneurship is one path to working life

Entrepreneurship and self-employment have started to interest more and more students as a potential way of entering working life. Many universities and other higher education institutions have had entrepreneurship studies included in their curricula before, but there is definitely room and demand for a novel approach.

“JA Start Up is different from a traditional entrepreneurship education programme in that it is based on learning by doing. The mini-business approach gives the students the opportunity to hone their entrepreneurship abilities in practice – whether they dream about starting their own business or not,” says JA Start Up Senior Advisor, Petri Katajarinne.

Most of the respondents of a survey of the programme participants say they will become an entrepreneur at some point in their career. “Based on previous experiences, as many as 20% of those who complete the programme will continue as entrepreneurs,” Katajarinne adds.

Skills and attitude are what count

The goal is to offer and improve the competences needed in working life and the business environment, such as teamwork, brainstorming, identification of personal strengths, and networking, alongside more traditional entrepreneurial skills, such as marketing, invoicing and product development.

The programme is implemented with the same formula in all 17 universities, thus offering broad-based networks for teachers and students as well as opportunities for co-operation among the universities. In addition, a common web portal and competitions organised throughout the year support peer learning among students living in different cities. Study points are awarded for the programme and which contribute towards completing a degree.

“Working life is undergoing a rapid transformation. Although not all professions and jobs change to the same degree, a project-based structure, creativity and team work are highlighted in working life across the board. Co-developing ideas and putting your competencees into practice are good ways of learning to work as a team, which is important, as is understanding what your strengths are,” says Sitra specialist Milma Arola from the Transformations of work focus area.

JA Start Up is part of the operations of JA Finland. Sitra is one of the main partners of the programme.

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