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Report: How to recognise competence?

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 3.6.2020 8.45 | Published in English on 3.6.2020 at 16.03
Press release

People accumulate competence and skills needed in working life not only through formal education but also at work and through participation in leisure activities. It is important that we have the ability to identify these existing skills so that they can be put to efficient use in the labour market, and to ensure a better match between employer needs and employee skills.

“The Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government highlights the role of continuous learning and a continuously developing education system. To gain a full picture of continuous learning, we must go beyond the formal education system and consider various other learning paths such as on-the-job learning and leisure activities. But first we need to jointly agree on rules and develop models for identifying skills,” explains Teija Felt, Labour Market Counsellor at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Owal Group Oy prepared a report exploring the methods, implementation models and various parties involved in the identification and recognition of skills and competence in Finland. The report also described good practices, processes and implementation models used in the identification and recognition of skills and competence in the selected reference countries. The report, which was published on 3 June 2020, was funded by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra.

“Sitra provides information from different perspectives for a comprehensive reform of lifelong learning. We now have the opportunity to use advanced technology such as artificial intelligence to identify and recognise skills. This way, workplaces have access to competence accumulated outside the formal education system, and we can use it to promote the wellbeing of people. With this approach, Finland can continue to lead the way in recognising learning,” says Project Manager Helena Mustikainen from Sitra.

The report shows that how well a person’s skills and competence are identified and recognised depends largely on the person’s own level of initiative and guidance provided. However, not everyone in need of guidance receives it. Furthermore, guidance services provided to people to have their skills identified and recognised are often project-funded and temporary, which makes long-term work more difficult. Especially those in working life need more guidance in identifying their skills and having their learning recognised.

Competence counts, not when and where it was acquired

The report identified three key methods for identifying and recognising competence in Finland:

  1. Educationalisation
  2. Skills-based competence
  3. Digitalisation and electronic systems

Educationalisation refers to a process in which skills acquired through informal learning are incorporated into the person’s studies and accredited read as part of their qualification. According to the report, on-the-job learning or skills acquisition will be more widely educationalised during studies.

Skills-based competence means that competence is essential; it is identified and recognised on the basis of competence objectives, regardless of when and where the competence was acquired. In working life, the ability to identify and articulate your skills is very important because pay systems are increasingly based on skills and competence, and requirements change constantly.

Vocational education and training institutes have made good progress with educationalisation and skills-based competence: competence demonstration performed in a workplace and in real-life work processes is recognised as demonstration of skills and competence as part of vocational upper secondary education and training, and as part of completing a qualification of parts thereof. Universities of applied sciences have made more progress in this respect than universities.

The report recommends the use of electronic systems for the identification, documentation and recognition of skills. According to the report, higher education institutions have also begun to explore opportunities of using artificial intelligence for student guidance and for identifying and recognising competence.

The report also looked into current practices in eight selected reference countries: the Netherlands, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, France, Sweden, Scotland and Denmark. The findings will be used in later work.

Information provided in the report supports the ongoing learning reform being carried out by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government. The Government will prepare a report on education policy by the end of 2020 with the objective of identifying shared long-term methods for increasing the level of education and competence. The findings of the report will also be used in the Ministerial Working Group on Promoting Employment and in the preparations related to its work.


Janne Savolainen, Chief Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 067 042
Perttu Jämsén, Specialist, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, tel. +358 294 618 294

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