Tartu Vocational Training Centre welcomes internships abroad. Six students from Czhech Republic, Karvina will spend three weeks training in Tartu’s supermarkets. Helping hands are needed in the retail sector, and among other things, the trainees stock the shelves with Christmas goods and traditional blood sausages.

Marie Murkova and Dominik Rockar, who are studying business and law in Karvina, are busy at Ringtee Selver. “Commerce is one of the subjects we study,” notes Dominik. According to the young people, they have learnt a lot more about this field while working here. “For me, working in a shop is a completely new experience, which I have learned about. Here I have learned responsibility,” explains Dominik. Marie adds with a smile that she has also learned Estonian words such as ‘tere’ and ‘käru’. They are also fascinated by interacting with people in the shop. “Communicating with people is interesting,” Dominik says.

Of course, it is difficult for young Czech speakers to communicate with Estonian-speaking people. There have been occasions when trainees wearing red Selver jackets had to ask customers to speak in English. There are some of them who are annoyed by this, but there are also those who appreciate the efforts of the trainees. In addition to the language barrier, young Czechs feel that the shops are different. “Yes, the shop here is very big, everything is sold in one place. In Karvina, there are smaller shops and, for example, beauty products, shampoos and cosmetics are sold separately, not in a big supermarket,” Marie explains one of the differences.

Geidy-Ly Kirsch, the trainees’ supervisor, admits that because of the language barrier, the young people can fulfill more of these tasks where they don’t have to interact with customers. “They’ve been checking the ‘best before’ dates of goods and removing goods that are about to expire. Helping to put arrived goods on shelves is a daily task, and now there is also time to clean the shelves,” she lists the tasks that trainees have been doing at Selver. “We’ve also introduced them to the meat and culinary departments and the whole checkout system,” she says, adding that it is still not possible to employ young people at the checkout. So the trainees have been doing a lot of the tasks that until now have just been waiting to be done.

Geidy-Ly herself is a recent VET school graduate, so she remembers the joys and sorrows of the apprenticeship well. “I was studying e-commerce but got into Selver at the invitation of a friend. I’m a category manager and my job is to order goods, organise their display and so on,” she explains. “There’s always a shortage of people in the retail sector and our apprentices have given us a lot of help. And they were very independent, I’d give them tasks in the morning and when they were done they’d come back and ask for more. Well done,” he praised the young apprentices from Karvina.

In addition to working in the trade, the young people have had time to get to know Tartu, Tallinn and Pärnu. “Tartu is a very beautiful city, although the goods are more expensive here,” said Dominik. Marie adds that she likes the helpful and kind people here. However, an interesting example of IT development is the self-driving car and the parcel delivery robot, which has not been seen in the Czech Republic.

According to Andrei Atškasov, International Relations Coordinator at Tartu Vocational Education Centre, the group of Czech young people are the first foreign trainees in Tartu for a long time. “The pandemic put the trips on pause, but now we have already sent our apprentices to Tenerife and Barcelona, and we hope to increase the number of trainees in the second half of the academic year,” he said. The mobility is supported by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme.