Reforming continuous learning 

Continuous learning will be reformed, the focus being on the skills of working age people. The reform will respond to the educational needs arising from changes in the world of work and seek solutions to combine work and study. 

The changing demands of work will significantly increase the need for upskilling and continuous learning. The term ‘continuous learning’ was introduced in Finland to emphasise the importance of upskilling and reskilling as opposed to lifelong learning, which takes place occasionally during a person’s lifetime. 

In Finland and many other EU countries, the greatest demand in the labour market is for highly skilled workers. People in high-skill jobs are also the ones who most actively express that they need to learn continuously. Demographic changes also create new challenges. Our workforce is ageing, and it is increasingly more important to make sure everyone’s skills are up-to-date so that people can remain employable. Immigration introduces new, different groups of people, some of whom possess advanced skills that we should take into use as swiftly as possible, while some lack proper basic education and even the ability to read and write.

To raise the employment rate, Finland needs a supply of skilled labour. Continuous learning responds to the need to develop competence at different stages of people’s lives and careers.

The policies for reforming continuous learning cover areas such as the provision and financing of education, identification of prior learning, and student income. 

The measures include increasing opportunities for retraining, continuing professional development and professional specialisation education throughout working life, developing apprenticeship training as a channel for reskilling and adult education, and providing flexible opportunities to study in higher education institutions. Study leave and financial aid for adult students will be developed, and the opportunities for people to study while looking for work will be improved.

This challenge requires a comprehensive and systemic approach for developing education and learning, taking into account many policy sectors. Education systems will also need to cooperate more closely with working life. One of the key questions is, how non-formal and informal learning can be more efficiently exploited in competence development, and the learning outcomes made visible.

The education system and its financing and guidance will be developed to better support learning in the workplace. In addition, common principles will be set out for recognising prior learning acquired outside formal education. Services will be created to facilitate lifelong guidance, and such services will also focus on supporting groups that are currently underrepresented in adult education. 

Vision and objectives

The reform of continuous learning examines especially the potential for upskilling, reskilling and developing competence over the course of people’s careers.

The vision and objectives of the reform are that:

Everyone develops their skills and competence during their careers.

  • Opportunities for everyone to upskill and reskill proactively, so that they can develop in their work, find a new job and advance in their careers.
  • More equitable participation.

Everyone has the knowledge, competence and skills required for employment and a meaningful life. 

  • A higher level of competence.
  • A higher employment rate.
  • A higher number and proportion of 25 to 64-year-olds with a higher education degree and lower number and proportion of 25 to 64-year-olds without a post-primary qualification or degree.

Competence renews the world of work and the world of work renews competence. 

  • A labour force that is skilled supports sustainable growth, innovation and competitiveness, and consequently wellbeing.
  • Skilled workforce for employers. 
  • Workplace communities advocate learning new things.

t the end of 2020, the reform introduced policies which included a vision and goals for 2030, and 27 measures to achieve them. 

The reform is based on information that provides a shared view of the current situation, formed by collecting statistics, data from researchers, interviews with experts and citizen surveys, among other things. The OECD assessed the current state of continuous learning in Finland and issued its own recommendations.


Saara Ikkelä, Senior Specialist 
Ministry of Education and Culture, Kansliapäällikön esikunta 0295330109