A skilled workforce is a prerequisite for forest industry success

The forest industry is doing well. The sector is investing and developing new ideas, and there is demand for Finnish forest industry products around the world. Changes and investments in the forest industry, as well as an ageing workforce, are increasing demand for skilled labour.

Working life is changing. Digitalisation and globalisation, for example, are changing the nature of work and the skills that are in demand. We must anticipate what skills will be needed in the labour market of the future. Thus, co-operation between education and working life must be strengthened so that education can be developed based on the needs of the labour market. Co-operation between educational institutions and between different levels of education is important for achieving more flexible and efficient training programmes.

The workforce is ageing and various sectors are competing over younger, smaller age groups. By distributing up-to-date information and by communicating details about, for example, the sector’s employment outlook, its transformation, sustainability, and responsibility, the forest sector increases its attractiveness. To take this message forward it is important for the industry to participate in youth and teachers’ forums, such as fairs and various school events, and to be visible in social media. Every year, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation (FFIF), the Finnish Forest Association, and forest industry companies organise a national school campaign that reaches tens of thousands of 15-year-olds, youths that are at an age when they start to think about careers, and we increase their knowledge about the forest industry.

Vocational training must be revamped based on the needs of working life and more on-the-job training is needed

Finland’s vocational training reform comes into effect from the beginning of 2018. The reform revamps vocational training funding and guidance, the structure of degrees and education providers as well as the ways training programmes are realised. Competence, customer needs, and individual training programmes are at the heart of the reform. The reform aims to strengthen the societal significance of vocational training, to develop more flexible training, as well as to provide the labour market with skilled workers.

On-the-job training must be increased and made more diverse together with employers. In the forest industry, apprenticeships are the most frequently used mode of training after basic vocational training. We aim to develop the current apprenticeship system so that it will be more flexible and allow for individual development paths. The administrative and economic burden of employers must be alleviated.

Stronger higher education through specialisation

By focussing on their own areas of expertise, schools of higher education can provide higher quality education and research as well as increase their influence and international competitiveness. Specialisation must not be based on number, that is, on a definition of how many schools of higher education Finland needs. The specialisation criteria must be high quality teaching and research, strong co-operation with working life, as well as internationalisation. Research activities as well as stronger co-operation between schools and the business sector result in innovations that in turn result in new business.

Promoting co-operation between universities and vocational schools is a sensible use of resources. The objective, however, must not be the harmonisation of various degrees: the forest industry needs both the top research provided by universities and the practical, working life-based training provided by vocational schools. The increased co-operation should focus on making sure that the various components of education carried out at different schools can be included in degrees irrespective of where the education was acquired. This reduces overlapping studies and results in students graduating faster.