copy the linklink copied!Assessment and recommendations

copy the linklink copied!Assessment

Finland’s skill development system is one of the most successful in the OECD. The country’s 15-year old students have been amongst the top performers of all the countries participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) since its first edition in 2000. Its adult population has some of the highest levels of literacy and numeracy in the OECD, according to the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), surpassed only by Japan.

To maintain these remarkable performances, the skill development system needs to adapt to a rapidly changing labour market. Globalisation, technological change and population ageing are affecting the types of jobs that are and will be available in Finland and how they are carried out. Today, the vast majority of new jobs created require high levels of skills, while meta-cognitive and digital skills are becoming more important in working life. Skill shortages in the Finnish labour market are increasingly apparent and there are growing concerns about the supply of higher-level skills, given demographic change and stagnating, albeit high, educational attainment levels.

Finland’s skill development system must get future-ready. As the vast majority of people affected by these changes are already in the labour market, addressing the skills of the existing workforce will be key to managing the transition. Giving adults better opportunities to upskill and reskill will improve their economic outcomes and well-being, as well as maintain the competitiveness of Finnish firms and the economy as a whole.

Finland starts from a good basis. Its adult learning system is well developed and offers a wide range of learning opportunities at all skill levels. More than one in two adults participate in job-related learning activities every year – a high share in international comparisons. However, participation is unevenly distributed in the population and especially low amongst adults with low-skills, the long-term unemployed, as well as older adults. The current system could also be calibrated better to help all adults keep abreast with the transformation of the labour market. The report identifies the following challenges:

  1. 1. Some gaps in learning provision, including limited upskilling opportunities for adults with vocational qualifications and, more generally, limited availability of short courses relevant to the labour market.

  2. 2. A financial incentive system that leads to inefficiencies by encouraging participation in formal education, such as bachelor degrees, rather than non-formal or informal learning, such as participation in seminars and learning from peers.

  3. 3. The limited alignment of existing education and training provision with labour market needs, not least due to the lack of strong mechanisms to use skill anticipation information in policymaking.

What is more, Finland has the largest gaps in learning participation between adults with low basic skills and those with higher skill levels amongst OECD economies. This is problematic, as the employment opportunities for low-skilled adults are shrinking. Barriers to accessing learning provision are already low in Finland, with much of the provision being offered for free or at a low-cost to the individual, delivered flexibly and in principle being open to adults at all skill levels. However, given the universal nature of Finnish adult learning provision it offers little targeted support for adults with low skills, be this outreach activities, advice and guidance services or specific training programmes. This is an issue, as more than half of all adults with low skills in Finland do not wish to take up education opportunities at all. Attitudinal barriers play an important role in this, such as undervaluing the benefits of education and training, negative experiences with initial education or network effects, notably the low training participation of their peer group. Offering more targeted support for adults with low basic skills to upskill or reskill is now becoming an economic imperative for a future of work that is more inclusive and productive.

copy the linklink copied!Recommendations

The report develops in-depth recommendations in two specific areas. Firstly, it suggests that Finland must improve the future-readiness of the structure of its provision. Secondly, it proposes that Finland must improve the learning participation of adults with low skills. The system would also benefit from reforms in the areas of governance and financing of adult learning, as well as a review of incentives emanating from the social security system, although these were not the explicit subject of this report. Hence, Finland should consider to:

  • Develop an overarching vision for the continuous learning system and a strategy about how different types of provision contribute to the whole. This should also include a review of the linkages between the adult learning system and other policy areas such as initial education or the social security system. Work in this area has already commenced and suggestions for a comprehensive reform of the continuous learning system are expected by the end of 2020.

Making continuous learning provision fit for the future

To give adults the best possible opportunities to reskill and upskill for a changing world of work, the Finnish adult learning system should close some gaps in the learning offer, make the offer more labour market relevant and incentivise individuals to take-part in labour market relevant training.

Diversify the training offer

  • Consider the expansion of non-formal learning opportunities and improve the market for such provision. This must go hand-in-hand with the development of quality assurance mechanisms for new learning opportunities, such as the accreditation and certification of providers and programmes.

  • Reintroduce opportunities to develop higher vocational skills (EQF-level 6) to expand upskilling opportunities for adults whose highest educational qualification is a vocational degree and who wish to pursue further vocational qualifications. This could also help to alleviate some of the pressure on the higher education system, providing alternatives to bachelor degree study at Universities of Applied Sciences for this target group.

  • Explore the introduction of short-cycle tertiary education in selected subject-areas to diversify the number of learning options at tertiary level and provide opportunities for those who do not have the time or inclination to take part in lengthy Bachelor degree courses. These tertiary level degree courses would take between one and two years to complete. This could also reduce some of the pressures on the higher education system, as the recommendation above.

Make training offers more labour market relevant

  • Systematise the use of skill assessment and anticipation information for strategic planning and use the ongoing parliamentary reform on continuous learning as an opportunity to review current practices in this area.

  • Harness the capacity of employers to develop training programmes, for example by introducing employer-led sectoral committees to develop labour market relevant non-formal learning provision.

  • Incentivise providers to offer training in line with skill demand by strengthening the link between funding and the content of training courses.

Incentivise individuals to engage in labour-market relevant training

  • Provide better information on the labour market relevance of training, notably through a comprehensive online information portal, which brings together information on course availability, participant outcomes and satisfaction, as well as more general information on skills and occupational labour market demand.

  • Review and calibrate financial incentives in order to: i) address the current bias of the incentive structure towards participation in formal education; and ii) introduce incentives for individuals to take-up training for skills in demand.

Improving learning participation of adults with low skills

Finland’s adult learning system should take into account the specific needs of adults with low skills and develop appropriate policy responses.

Provide comprehensive information and guidance services

  • Strengthen the capacity of TE-offices to deliver comprehensive career advice and guidance to adults with low skills, including through training of guidance staff and increasing funding for the public employment services, which have experienced significant budget cuts over the past decade.

  • Additionally, develop physical one-stop guidance services for adults with low skills addressing the complexity of their barriers to training. Consider streamlining these services with existing one-stop shops for specific target groups (i.e. youth, adults with a migrant background, the long-term unemployed).

Develop tailored education programmes

  • Develop a programme of short courses tailored to adults with low basic skills that aim to improve motivation towards learning. These ‘taster courses’ can provide an entryway to rekindle their interest towards learning and should have limited emphasis on learning outcomes, grading or exams. They would provide contextualised learning, linked to everyday aspects of adults’ lives, such as their workplace, community or their role as parents

Reach out to adults with low basic skills

  • Fund outreach activities for adults with low basic skills through trade unions, NGOs or members of the group themselves.

  • Improve understanding of the target group by collecting and analysing data on its characteristics, participation patterns and outcomes.

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