The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) recently published evaluations of four fields of study. The evaluations highlighted skills that higher education (HE) graduates need in working life as well as the need for describing competencies. The discussions about HE student employment in the media earlier this year also touched on these issues.
It is often claimed that entering working life is hard. Still, statistics show that higher education graduates find employment more easily than others. So the problem is not that students do not gain knowledge and skills during their studies, but rather that it is difficult to describe these competencies.
Universities should get better at describing the skills and competencies of their students. In the evaluation of different fields of study, FINEEC pointed to the need to improve the description of competencies, especially in the fields of humanities and social sciences. In our opinion, describing skills and competencies is something all fields of study should focus on.
Students should be offered better opportunities to gain an insight into different career options and taught to more effectively make clear what competencies they have. Offering high-quality study and career guidance to all students is key in achieving this.
It is important for everyone to improve skills needed in working life and to be able to identify and describe our competencies. It is easier to find yourself a job when you know what you are good at. What students are to learn on a specific course and how it can be applied in working life is something that needs to be improved. This would help students have a better sense of what their skills and knowledge can be used for. Combined with adequate study guidance and mentoring, students can think about what they are interested in pursuing career-wise and what they could specialise in during their studies.
Master students graduate with broad competencies and that is just as it should be. The changing needs of future working life require wide-ranging competencies as well as skills in problem-solving and continuous learning. Mastering these skills makes it easier for graduates to quickly update their competencies. According to FINEEC, the strengths of the humanities and social sciences are that students learn critical thinking, problem-solving skills and the ability to grasp complex entities. These are just the kind of skills and attributes needed in a constantly changing working life.
The mission of universities is to produce knowledge and research as well as to foster students to critical thinkers with the ability to change the world. A diverse offering of courses and high-quality career guidance help students find their own path. A broad competency profile and the ability to describe one’s skills meet the changing requirements of working life. You never know what surprising knowledge or skill might be of use in working life.
Vice President, working life
Board Member, education policy