Overview of the Finnish approach
Skills anticipation in Finland is based on two models:
The VATTAGE model, which generates the long term baseline employment forecast;
The MITENNA model, which estimates the education and training provision required to meet labour market needs.
Skills anticipation is based on extensive cooperation between ministries, EDUFI, research institutes, regional authorities, labour market organisations, ELY centres, and HE and VET institutions. This approach has several strengths:
It identifies and quantifies the main macroeconomic impacts on the labour market. It also makes use of national historical economic data as a basis for baseline forecasts;
It is comprehensive, covering all regions, all levels of education and most occupations, and is thereby useful for planning; (2)
It provides a common framework for stakeholder cooperation. The main stakeholders include the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Ministry of Education and Culture, EDUFI, Regional Councils, labour market actors, and education providers.
The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for quantifying and targeting education and training provision at national level. Its EDUFI produces national anticipation data on the demand for labour and educational needs, in order to support decision-making. The EDUFI also supports regional anticipation activities, which are carried out under the supervision of Regional Councils. The latter cooperate with the EDUFI, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the VATT Institute to develop skills anticipation tools.
The National Education Committee System (koulutustoimikuntajarjestelma), consisting of 26 committees with members from the world of work, education, and other stakeholder groups, was until recently an expert body for the Ministry and the EDUFI. Its activity included qualitative skills anticipation, promoting collaboration between education and the world of work, representing industry sectors and addressing the respective skills needs that anticipation exercises highlight. As of 1 January 2017, the tasks of the Education Committee System have been transferred to the Skills Anticipation Forum of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The aim of this change is to avoid overlapping anticipation exercises; to promote closer interaction between education and labour market actors and to improve impact of skills anticipation. (3) The coherence of skills anticipation is expected to improve through the reduction of the number of industry specific multi-stakeholder collaboration groups from 26 education committees to nine. (4) The EDUFI will implement the anticipation of skills and education needs on the basis of the action plan created at the beginning of the Skills Anticipation Forum’s four-year term.
Other skills intelligence instruments – regular surveys, interviews, databases and statistical estimates of skills needs – are used by regional institutions, education providers, trade unions, employment and economy services (TE-palvelut), ELY Centres, Chambers of Commerce, and independent researchers.
Skills anticipation policy in Finland aims to steer the education system towards meeting labour market skills needs by taking into account sectoral, occupational and geographical differences. The main aims of the skills anticipation system are to:
Prepare forecasts concerning economic growth and employment;
Anticipate the medium and long term demand and availability of the workforce;
Anticipate developments in the occupational structure;
Anticipate the educational needs of the workforce;
Estimate the national and regional provision of education places for young people; and
Ensure that young people have access to vocationally/professionally-oriented education and training.
The purpose of quantitative anticipation of educational needs is to offer evidence-based measures and a balanced view of the future (as well as alternative scenarios) as a basis for evidence-based educational planning, operational decision-making, and to generate information on how the education system can support economic development. (5)
The policy focus in Finland is to create a more coherent system in which the main elements of skills anticipation are inter-connected, with enhanced cooperation between stakeholders. The 2017 establishment of the Skills Anticipation Forum is an important step towards this goal.
There is little statutory regulation regarding skills anticipation in Finland. The 2011 Performance Audit Report of the State Audit Office (6) notes that “there is no coherent entity or system of skills anticipation, design and provision of education, and no regulatory framework based on legislation”.
Previously, Government Decree 882/2010 on the Education Committee System (7) prescribed the tasks, composition and working methods of the 26 education committees. Following the transfer of the tasks of the Education Committee System to the Skills Anticipation Forum (8) decree-level steering has been abolished, on the grounds that it had made the Education Committee System inflexible. In the new system, the Ministry makes the decision on the establishment of the steering group and the anticipation groups of the Skills Anticipation Forum and requests the EDUFI to nominate the members of the anticipation groups and organise the anticipation work.
The Finnish National Agency for Education was established in early 2017 by Law (564/2016). The Agency took over the activities of the dismantled National Board of Education (EDUFI) and the International Mobility and Cooperation Centre (Centre for International Mobility, CIMO).
Prior to 2009, the former Ministry of Labour was responsible for the national labour force forecasts. In 2009, skills anticipation underwent a re-organisation with ENKO (formerly PATKET) (Commission consortium of long-term labour and education need forecasts - taking responsibility for the anticipation of labour force trends and education needs. It comprises representatives from four ministries: Education and Culture, Finance, Economic Affairs and Employment, and Social and Health Affairs.
The 2011 audit has shown that the separation of responsibilities in the anticipation of labour and education demands has generally worked well but that there is a need to ensure better ongoing dialogue between different branches of government. (9) In particular, it indicated that VATT and ENKO should pay greater attention to the regional dimension in skills anticipation due to large regional differences in labour market developments and the uneven utilisation of regional anticipation results. These comments are increasingly taken into consideration in governance and policy design.
The role of stakeholders
In general, there is a high degree of stakeholder involvement in skills anticipation. In order to meet the national anticipation needs, authorities are facilitating collaboration among stakeholders to ensure that (a) the perspectives from a diverse set of anticipation exercises are taken into account in policy development and implementation; and (b) that anticipation methods are being further developed.
In government, the main stakeholders are departments and agencies at the national and local levels (the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Board of Education and Regional Councils, and the ELY Centres (10) and municipal authorities. Other important stakeholders include researchers, trade unions and employer and education institutions which take part in the skills anticipation process, for example through the Skills Anticipation Forum.
The VATT Institute for Economic Research in Finland is the agency directly involved in skills anticipation. It is overseen by ENKO, which sets the strategic direction for the VATT so that it supports the information needs of various government ministries. Stakeholders are involved in the anticipation process at several stages. As the main stakeholder, the government, through ENKO, provides overall guidance and sets priorities for the various anticipation exercises it undertakes at the national, regional and local levels. Previous evaluations show that the division of responsibilities in the anticipation of labour and education demands have generally worked well.
Nonetheless, there is a need to ensure ongoing dialogue between different branches of government. VATT and ENKO need to pay greater attention to the regional dimension. At the regional level, actors need adequate resources for their anticipation work, and that education institutions take part in skills anticipation activities in order to ensure that anticipation results have a stronger impact on education provision.
The EDUFI is in charge of quantitative and qualitative skills anticipation for steering education provision. The multi-stakeholder Skills Anticipation Forum with nine industry specific anticipation groups supports the anticipation work in practice. The steering group and nine anticipation groups are multi-stakeholder constellations with representatives from employers and entrepreneurs, employees, education and training providers (VET and HE), educational authorities, education staff and students, as well as research and evaluation organisations. Each skills anticipation group takes part in qualitative and quantitative anticipation, to ensure that the education system will provide the necessary skills and competences, and make initiatives and recommendations to relevant actors (i.e. the Ministry of Education, EDUFI, and education providers) regarding curricula content and labour market collaboration. Anticipation groups also enhance dialogue between VET and HE to anticipate and identify skills needs and the pathways between different education institutions. Skills anticipation groups are also tasked with highlighting areas in need of development and make related proposals for R&D.
Education institutions and non-governmental organisations, such as the main trade unions, also contribute to dialogue over skills anticipation. Other stakeholders, such as local and regional level municipalities, employment offices, Chambers of Commerce, ELY Centres, local networks and employers contribute to higher education boards which assess labour market needs, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of graduates. At a regional level, the ELY Centres play an important role in interpreting the results of skills anticipation activities and in liaising with municipalities with responsibility for certain education institutions.
The National Foresight Network, coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office and The Finnish Innovation Fund (Confederation of Industries), brings together Finnish foresight data producers (ministries, agencies, universities and regional councils, companies, NGOs and researchers) and provides a discussion and coordination forum for national foresight actors. In addition, the network promotes the use of information and futures perspectives in decision-making. A national foresight forum, FinnSight, is annually organised by the Academy of Finland, the EDUFI, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra), the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes), the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, and the Prime Minister’s Office. FinnSight 2016 focused on the change in the world of work and future learning needs in Finland. It highlighted the need for competence-based learning at all levels of education in order to meet the needs of the labour market and society.
Outputs from the VATTAGE and MITENNA models are intended for a wide range of users including policymakers, employers, education institutions, jobseekers, and researchers. The comprehensive nature of these outputs allows different groups to use them for a variety of purposes. For example, local and regional authorities may use them in order to implement central government policy, intermediaries (careers advisors) to advise young people entering the labour market or further and higher education, and researchers to inform their analyses of specific regions, sectors or occupations.
Funding and resources
Funding is usually provided by the institution undertaking the anticipation exercise. Official exercises are funded by the government via its ministries and agencies. These include the Ministry of Education and Culture as well as regional and local agencies. On the other hand, educational institutions fund their own anticipation exercises. ESF funds have been used for several cluster-based anticipation exercises to develop anticipation tools such as the MITENNA model and the VOSE project (see section “Skills assessment”).