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Europe is looking for solutions for lifelong learning

BLOG 18.10.2019 9.10
Janne Metsämäki, Managing Director of the Employment Fund

Lifelong learning and adult education are topical issues not only in Finland but also elsewhere in Europe. This was realised a couple of weeks ago at a seminar on social security and knowledge in the world of artificial intelligence that was organised by the EU Commission and the French and German embassies.

Technological development is transforming current job roles at an accelerating pace. In the seminar, I participated in a panel discussion that highlighted how lifelong learning and the changes in work have been taken into account in one’s own country.

A strategy is needed for continuous learning

Adult education allowance such as in Finland and the opportunities it offers for developing vocational skills or learning a new profession are not a common model in Europe. It was great to point out that around 25,000 people in Finland annually improve their skills through adult education allowance. Most recipients of the allowance receive the support as full, meaning that they are studying full-time. In the future, the reform of adult education allowance, which is due to enter into force in August 2020, aims to facilitate the harmonisation of work and study.

I also told about the reform of lifelong learning that has just begun in Finland, the preparation of which started at the end of August. It is estimated that in the next few years as many as half a million people will need skills upgrading in Finland. Companies and employers need a skilled workforce and, on the other hand, retraining improves employment opportunities.

Germany is also following a similar path: a national knowledge strategy has been drawn up, which includes tripartite objectives and policies to better support continuous learning and skills development. The Finnish lifelong learning project is likely to produce an entity similar to this strategy in due course.

Training account experimented in France

In France, the vocational education reform includes a personalised training account with an annual accrual of EUR 500 or EUR 800 for those who need extra training due to lower educational level. The account accrues the employer's contribution over a period of ten years, which can be used for vocational training. The account model will be launched in autumn 2019. As the introduction of an account model has also been proposed in Finland, it will be interesting to follow the French experience.

Although the popularity of adult education allowance has been increasing year by year, those working in the industry, men and those over the age of 45 don’t appear in our statistics. Most importantly, in the future, education and learning opportunities should be accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of location, age and occupation. The aim is that the reform of adult education allowance will increase the use of the allowance for larger groups. In addition to this, other means are needed, including those that are planned in the preparation for the reform of lifelong learning.