Skills Intelligence Publication

In the international literature, Finland has had one of the top performing education systems for more than two decades. Its innovation performance rests on a high trust model of business innovation and quality public services funded through the public purse in areas such as education, research and social welfare. Today, the sustained success of its approach now depends on creating the building blocks for a better future of work in a context of rapid technological advances in AI and related technologies, where it seeks to be a world leader of human-centred digital innovation.

The country, therefore, provides a unique opportunity for understanding the narratives, policy interventions, which shape perceptions the future of work and education in Europe. Finland has more recently introduced three major strategic initiatives:

  • The AI strategy: Finland’s Age of Artificial Intelligence
  • The Future of work 2030
  • The reform of continuous learning

In this respect, the government’s approach to the implementation of the continuous learning reform with the establishment of the National Service Centre for Continuous Learning to stimulate further supply of short skills-based courses, and the strategy and vision proposed by the innovation fund SITRA through a model of localised ecosystems of skills formation and based on systematic experimentation present two distinct scenarios for realisation of Finland as a learning intensive society. The latter model could situate Finland as a globally leading country showing new avenues to a digitally inclusive society and a future of work underpinned by a sense of personal agency, competence, and personal meaning. In such a scenario learning in ecosystems may materialise in ways so that working life renews competence and competence renews working life.

Through the lens of the Finnish AI strategy process and the recent continuous learning reform, the paper discusses the deployment of foresight as a means to address critical uncertainties and plausible futures as means of long-term policy making. Secondly, the paper illustrates that even though Finland has built substantial futures capabilities, challenges remain when it comes to policy implementation. Issues emerging relate to who is invited to the table and the latent risks of groupthink. More importantly however, Finnish experiences suggest there is a need to consider how foresight methods can inform policy implementation processes, and what that would entail in terms of institutional arrangements and capabilities