copy the linklink copied!Executive summary

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. Large shares of the population continue learning over the life-course, as two in three adults participate in formal or non-formal learning activities every year.

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. 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 help maintain the competitiveness of Finnish firms and the economy as a whole.

This report assesses the current system of continuous learning in working life in Finland, i.e. the system of job-related learning of adults who have completed their initial education and entered working life. Two specific aspects of the system were selected for in-depth review: i) the structure of adult learning provision, meaning the set of learning opportunities available to adults, as well as their alignment with labour market needs; ii) the inclusiveness of the system towards adults with low skills.

In these areas, the report identifies the following key challenges:

  • There are 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.

  • The current financial incentive system 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.

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

  • Finland has the largest gaps in learning participation between adults with low basic skills and those with higher skill levels amongst OECD economies, as it offers little targeted support for adults with low skills, be this outreach activities, advice and guidance services or specific training programmes.

To address these challenges, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • Develop an overarching vision for the continuous learning system and a strategy about how different types of provision contribute to the whole.

  • Diversify the training offer by i) considering the expansion of non-formal learning opportunities and improving the market for such provision; ii) reintroducing opportunities to develop higher vocational skills (EQF-level 6); and iii) exploring the introduction of short-cycle tertiary education in selected subject-areas.

  • Make training offers more labour market relevant through i) systematising the use of skill assessment and anticipation information for strategic planning; ii) harnessing the capacity of employers to develop training programmes; and iii) incentivising 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 by i) providing better information on the labour market relevance of training; and ii) reviewing and calibrating financial incentives in order to address the current bias of the incentive structure towards participation in formal education, and introducing incentives for individuals to take-up training for skills in demand.

  • Provide comprehensive information and guidance services for the low-skilled, notably through i) strengthening the capacity of TE-offices to deliver comprehensive career advice and guidance to adults with low skills; and ii) developing physical one-stop guidance services for adults with low skills addressing the complexity of their barriers to training.

  • Develop tailored education programmes for the low skilled that aim to improve motivation towards learning and link to everyday aspects of their lives, such as their workplace, community or role as parents.

  • Reach out to adults with low skills by means of i) funding outreach activities through trade unions, NGOs or members of the group themselves; and ii) improving the understanding of the target group by collecting and analysing data on its characteristics, participation patterns and outcomes.

This report encompasses four chapters: Chapter 1 sets out the changing policy context for skills policy in Finland. It discusses changes in skill demand and supply, as well as patterns of participation in adult learning opportunities. Chapter 2 presents information on the basic features of the current system of continuous learning in working life, how it is governed and financed. Chapter 3 provides an in-depth analysis of the current structure of the adult learning provision, as well as its alignment with the changing skill needs of the labour market. Chapter 4 assesses the situation of adults with low skills in the continuous learning system, reviewing their participation patterns and the learning provision available to them. Both Chapter 3 and 4 highlight the key challenges arising from the current situation and make recommendations on how to tackle these, based on international evidence.

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© OECD 2020

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