Pass a special test to get a Hygiene Passport
A learning difficulty, a sensory impairment or poor Finnish language skills will not prevent you from obtaining the Food Hygiene Proficiency Certificate, commonly known as the Hygiene Passport. At the Helsinki-based Keskuspuisto Vocational College, tailoring hygiene proficiency tests to meet the needs of different participants is part of the daily routine.
A missing Hygiene Passport should not become an obstacle to career advancement for anyone, even those who are unable to take a regular proficiency test. Hygiene and other proficiency tests can also be arranged as so-called ‘special circumstances’ tests. Teachers at Keskuspuisto Vocational College have experience in this respect.
"At our college, special tests have been arranged for deaf students as well as for those with mild intellectual disabilities, among others," says full-time teacher Mervi Rantanen. The college has also arranged tests for blind or vision-impaired students.
Keskuspuisto Vocational College is an upper secondary vocational special needs education college training students to become skilled workers for businesses operating in the commercial sector and in tourism, restaurant and leisure services. The college also arranges various tests required in the world of work for non-students.
The Food Act requires everyone working with unpacked perishable foods to hold a Hygiene Passport. You must obtain a passport if you work for more than three months in this environment. Without a Hygiene Passport, your career at a café or in an institutional kitchen may hit a wall, or you may not get a job at all. While students on Food Production programmes can obtain a Hygiene Passport directly as part of their studies, others must prove their competence by sitting a proficiency test.
Satu Meririnne, Senior Inspector at Evira, the Finnish Food Safety Authority, advises that if a regular proficiency test does not work for you for some reason, you should discuss special arrangements with educational institutions or other proficiency examiners certified by Evira. Evira’s website includes a list of about 2,000 proficiency examiners.
A special test always requires an advance discussion where the proficiency examiner charts the individual participant’s needs.
A special circumstances test does not mean that a participant would somehow coast through more easily. The questions are the same and the screening process is just as strict as for everyone else. However, there is more time to complete the test than in a regular test situation. ‘Special circumstances’ may also mean that the questions are read out loud or translated in advance into plain language, as required. Those with a weaker grasp of the Finnish language may be allowed to use a dictionary.
"Even though a student understands what they have been taught and is aware of the significance of hygiene in different work phases, it may be difficult to grasp the meaning of the test statements on paper," Mervi Rantanen explains. "Reading the multiple-choice statements out loud helps those who have difficulties with reading or writing, for example."
Hygiene information is also available in plain language on the Internet for autonomous learners. However, Rantanen does not recommend relying on this information on its own, but encourages everyone to study more extensive material alongside. The college also makes frequent use of plain-language materials in parallel with regular materials on its upper secondary vocational programmes.