The first Case-study intensive week was held in Riga, Latvia, 30 September 30 – October 5, 2018.
The second Case-study intensive week will be held in Gävle, Sweden, March 4 – 8, 2019.
The article about the first case-study intensive week in Latvia, written by Vaira Obuka, University of Latvia
University of Latvia participates in a project „Creating aligned studies in Resource Efficiency (Crea-RE)”. The objective is to develop aligned higher vocational education training in resource efficiency in study programs as a response to the current sustainability requirements of companies.
In the Central Baltic countries, there is a need to develop current education regarding resource efficiency, which is a relatively new and complex issue. Many Baltic Sea region countries have acquired considerable experience in the development of sustainable energy solutions and environmentally friendly technologies in various fields. However, great disparities remain with respect to both socio-economic developments and the implementation of sustainable practices. Lahti University of Applied Sciences (FI), University of Gävle (SWE) and University of Latvia (LV) are answering this need by developing higher vocational education training (VET) together to better match the needs of companies.
The objective is to develop aligned higher VET in resource efficiency in study programs as a response to the current sustainability requirements of companies through aligning and producing learning content to be used in higher environmental VET studies; through producing a channel to share aligned materials; through Implementing joint innovative cooperation between companies and higher VET to ensure better matching work opportunities of sustainable business. The activities enable the creation of the holistic view of students and companies in the theme of resource efficiency and circular economy.
Working with resource efficiency and circular economy, which are thematically relatively new and complex issues, requires swift delivery of information to those actors who can influence (companies, future workers and those teaching the future workers). Working with resource efficiency requires international cooperation due to needed holistic perspective. The joint learning materials developed in the project bring required perspective and improve VET in CB area. All partners bring their own expertise to the activities. Companies’ awareness on resource efficiency is promoted and meanwhile institutions’ better understanding of the needs of working life increases.
Project participants worked together in Latvia from September 30 to October 5, participating in lectures and visiting various companies. For example, students had the opportunity to visit the Finnish Fortum biomass co-generation station in Jelgava. It is the first co-generation station that uses local renewable energy – wood chips – as a fuel, reducing dependency on fossil fuels and making heat production process more environmentally friendly. After the establishment of the company, the amount of CO2 emissions in the city has decreased by 70%, thus contributing to the achievement of the goals set by the municipality decrease by 20% CO2 emissions and increase by 20% the use of renewable energy in energy generation.
Customers of the company are Jelgava city residents and entrepreneurs who use district heat supply services for delivery of heating and hot water for housing, office, commercial and industrial premeses. The electricity produced is sold in wholesale free market – among cooperation partners there are also the largest electricity traders in Latvia.
Students and teachers in front of FORTUM company
Also on the 3rd of October participants of the project visited one of the 21 eco-fields of the Vidzeme company ZAAO – the landfill “Daibe”. “ZAAO” offers high quality waste management services in North Vidzeme Region including waste collection, sorting, transportation, recycling and disposal in an environmentally friendly way; it is also involved in educating and informing the community about waste issues. Participants also visited Nature and Technology Park “Urda” which offers active recreational activities in nature as well as educational opportunities for different age groups of people located only few steps from the waste disposal and sorting area. offers environmental education opportunities environment for the people of North Vidzeme.”
Students also got acquainted with the activities of the largest environmental management group “Eco Baltia grupa” and its companies – AS “PET Baltija”, JSC “Latvijas Zaļais punkts” and SIA “Nordic Plast”. The visit took place at the PET bottle processing plant at the ” Eco Baltia grupa” PET bottle, where the project participants looked at the process of PET bottle recycling, as well as discussed the development of the waste sorting and recycling industry in Latvia and in Europe.
Also on the 3rd of October participants of the project visited Valmiermuiza brewery. Owner of the Valmiermuiža brewery Aigars Ruņģis, notes that the company is actively considering reducing its environmental impact. Including, Valmiermuiza’s beer is filled in glass bottles that can be reused, while draught beer in the Valmiermuiza’s beer market can be bought in glass jars that can be re-used. Merchants use paper bags and food residues compacted in the beer’s kitchen, while the by-products of the beer brewing – drabins – were handed over to the farmers. By the end of this year, the brewery will build a more powerful sewage system. The goal of the brewery in the coming years is to base the strategy on sustainable thinking, and each company can start with small things, encouraged by the owner of the Valmiermuiža’s Brewery.
Students and teachers in front of PET BALTIA company
Students appreciate the opportunities given by the project. “Crea-Re project- is an amazing opportunity for students and staff from different countries and universities to gain new contacts and international experience while solving environmental problems. Diversity of participants allows us to take look on these questions from different angles. Food manufacturing and food waste problems are being solved using other country experience and professional point of view. Collaboration between Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Russia is good example how to solve questions, which are characteristic for this region. I hope that this is the beginning of a fruitful cooperation in the future,” said the student from University of Latvia.
Foreign students appreciated the opportunity to travel around and get to know Latvia. “During the trip, we had excellent opportunities to learn about Latvia, its culture and about circular economy. Culture hours provided an excellent chance to get a more in-depth look to Latvia’s history and recent development. Company visits provided a good knowledge about the local environmental economy and gave us some insight on how different the systems are for example in Finland and Latvia. The international aspect of the trip was also one of the biggest selling points for us, as meeting and connecting with people from different countries provided a good learning experience for each and every one of us,” the experience shared student from Lahti University of Applied Sciences.
The blog text about the case-study in Latvia, written by Niko Wallenius, Student of Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Circular Economy through the Eyes of a Business Student
My name is Niko and I am an International Business student from Lahti. I have now studied about 1,5 years at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and I am soon going to be departing to Hungary to complete my student exchange at Budapest Business School. During last autumn, I got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate on a EU-funded trip to Riga, Latvia. The goal of the project was to study circular economy and find new effective ways for local companies to implement green strategies in their operations.
During the trip, our group got to experience the culture-rich city of Riga, explore the vivid countryside, and see how the local businesses are trying to make their mark on the map by using sustainable solutions and recycling. Also, we got to know the University of Latvia and their history. I don’t think you will find a student prison anywhere in our Finnish universities!
The student prison at the University of Latvia
In Finland, recycling and circular economy are already a part of our curriculum in the ground school. I quickly learned that many things that Finnish people are taking for granted, are still years of development away in Latvia. But, even though Latvia still has a lot to improve when compared to Finland, you could tell that the local companies and their owners take circular economy and sustainability very seriously.
Our group’s case-company was Fortum Jelgava, a Finnish energy production company, which was founded in 1998. Our work started with a tour around the Jelgava power plant, where we got insight on the daily operations and power distribution in the plants operating area. As a business student, I found all of this really exciting as I didn’t have any experience in the industry before the trip. At first, I felt a little overwhelmed with all the new information, but quickly learned that having “only business experience” proved itself really useful when we started working on the market side of the industry.
Students at the Fortum Jelgava power plant
Looking back now, the most valuable thing that I got from the project was the experience of working in an international group. This cannot be emphasized enough, as the cultural differences and working habits differ quite a bit from what we have used to in Finland. Of course, the possibility of experiencing Riga and the neighbor cities was alone enough to convince me of the project. Overall, I think the project was a success I learned a lot of the Latvian culture, got hands-on experience of working in an international group, and got to know some amazing people from all over the Baltics and Nordics.
Personally, getting to know how companies are contributing to the circular economy made its mark on me, as I am definitely going to be putting more effort into my daily recycling. Also, I know that a trip like this will definitely have a positive effect on making sustainable decisions in the future.