It seems that the Government has forgotten the long-term development of Finland’s competence level in its rush to boost short-term employment figures.
So whatever happened to continuous learning? The political debate is swarming with terms like ‘technological development’, ‘change in economic structure’ and ‘skill shortage’. It’s obvious to all that faced with such challenges, people need to upgrade their skills and take on new careers. The Ministry of Education and Culture has estimated that up to half a million people will need retraining or extensive further education in the near future.
During the previous government term, a parliamentary reform concerning continuous learning was carried out, with the aim of creating a common view, to be carried across future government terms, on how continuous learning should be reformed in the 2020s. Despite the extensive work done, the final report of the reform states that in order to reach the long-term goals, further action will be required from the following government. The report mentions, among other things, raising the financing for the Service Centre for Continuous Learning and Employment and the implementation of the continuous learning strategy of higher education as necessary further development measures. The stakeholders interviewed for the preparation of the final report also considered it a failure that there was no debate on the financing responsibilities for continuous learning.
How will the Orpo government try to meet these challenges? Early on in the Orpo government’s term, a goal was set to discontinue the adult education allowance, an allowance that enables more than 30,000 people each year to change careers and upgrade their skills. So far there is no guarantee that a system to replace this will be created. The government is also planning to allocate a large proportion of starting places in universities to first-time applicants, making it increasingly difficult to pursue a new career.
SYL considers it obvious that the working-age population cannot be directed to continuous learning services simply by shutting degree education doors in their face. Firstly, entering a new career may not be possible without a degree in the field. Secondly, it is not realistic to imagine that there will be demand for any other than degree training if no other reasonable alternatives are available.
The government must therefore address the issue of continuous learning in addition to what measures have already been planned. This requires commitment to the higher education Digivisio 2030 project, development of smaller study modules and implementation of the higher education continuous learning strategy. We also continue to have pretty fundamental challenges to solve, such as the financial responsibilities for continuous learning.
I hope that the government will take the development of continuous learning seriously and allocate the necessary resources for it. So that won’t be left with nothing once AI has taken our jobs.