Lecturer and mentor
Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen, winner of the 2017 Lecturer of the Year Award, prepares his international degree-seeking students for careers in Finland. The employment rate of recent graduates who have completed the Master’s Degree Programme in Industrial Engineering and Management is as high as 60 per cent.
The Student Union of Tampere University of Technology conferred the 2017 Lecturer of the Year Award on Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen. The award criteria emphasized internationality, diverse teaching methods and a focus on life after graduation.
WHO: Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen, 41 years
- Born in Kauhajoki, Finland.
- Education: Completed his master’s degree in industrial engineering and management at TUT in 2002, his licentiate degree in 2004 and his doctoral degree in 2008.
- Career: Joined TUT in 1999 and currently oversees the International Master’s Degree Programme in Industrial Engineering and Management that produces sales and sourcing professionals.
- Lives in Pyynikki, Tampere, with his wife and eight-month-old baby daughter.
- Hobbies: Plays schlager music with an accordion.
- WOW: In addition to teaching, Lyly-Yrjänäinen is involved in industry collaboration and has commercialized a number of inventions that improve cost effectiveness, some of which have been patented.
Unlike exchange students, a large number of degree-seeking international students at TUT come from developing countries, where the academic and corporate cultures may be distinctly different from those in Finland. The leadership style may be more top-down with clearer levels of authority and reporting processes.
“International students may not necessarily know what Finnish employers expect from graduates fresh out of university. In order to project a professional image, they should be proactive and readily identify problems and propose solutions,” says Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen.
Lyly-Yrjänäinen has adopted a coaching mentality to prepare his students for the Finnish work culture.
Industry projects and the master-apprentice model
Lyly-Yrjänäinen has been an advocate of the flipped classroom model for years. He shares his materials with students ahead of lectures to free up class time for problem-based learning. His students explore real-world company problems, but not in the conventional way in small groups but in student-teacher pairs. This prevents free riding, which is always possible in group projects.
“It also gives me the opportunity to discuss the problems in depth with my students and coach them to develop their critical thinking skills. And as we are in a university, students prepare small-scale research papers on the projects to practice their thesis writing skills.”
Majority of graduates find jobs right away
Of all the students who graduate from the international Master’s Degree Programme in Industrial Engineering and Management, 60 per cent find work straight after graduation. The majority enter private sector employment in Finland and pursue careers in international sales and sourcing. They are three times more likely to be hired than students who graduate from other international degree programmes available in Finland.
The high employment rate is the result of long-term efforts: when the degree programme was launched back in 2007, special emphasis was placed on the realities of finding a job as an international graduate.
“The profile of the degree programme relies heavily on input from an Advisory Board made up of industry representatives and other stakeholders. People who possess engineering expertise and the ability and willingness to operate in future markets are in high demand. The international background of students enrolled in the degree programme is a strength: they have first-hand cultural knowledge of potential target markets and are proficient in the local language.”
For the past five years, Finnish industrial engineering and management students have also been able to choose International Sales and Sourcing as a major. Lyly-Yrjänäinen knows that international graduates may have a harder time selling their qualifications and experience to employers than Finnish graduates.
“But international students are a diverse group. Many of them are all-round high achievers, while others need some coaching to adjust to the Finnish work culture and the expectations placed on young professionals.”
Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen has adopted a coaching mentality to prepare his students for the Finnish work culture.
Education in the fields of engineering has traditionally focused on the substance. Until recently, the development of employability skills has been largely overlooked in both Finnish-taught and international degree programmes. This is something we especially need to work on to improve the employment rate of international graduates.
“There's a lot of talk about mentoring only the best of the bunch, but I believe that we should offer career coaching services to the international student population in general to fully realize the benefits that international degree programmes can bring to society.”
Lyly-Yrjänäinen is hoping to see a more systematic approach to the planning of international degree programmes and a broader integration of employability skills into everyday instruction. This calls for new thinking and novel approaches to educational planning and teaching.
Easy-going exterior may hide a thorough professional
“Few teachers share their personal experiences, but I openly talk about incidents in my career and how they’ve affected my thinking.”
Lyly-Yrjänäinen has developed a reputation among students for being approachable and bringing his personality to the classroom. He would also like to see himself as one of the most demanding teachers at TUT, but even this is because of educational reasons.
“From my experience of working with industry and business, I know that the best experts often have a convivial air about them but should still be taken seriously.”