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Engineers Finland: Talent shortage threatens the green transition

4.3.2022
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News article

According to a recent report, the green transition requires more tech talent and broader transferable skills, such as continuous learning and resilience in a rapidly evolving work environment.

Finland will require around 3 100–4 500 more engineer full-time equivalents (FTE) every year to achieve the green transition. Currently about 8 300 engineers per year graduate from universities and universities of applied sciences around the country.  

In addition, achieving the green transition will require investing in versatile teams that combine competencies from different industries and even more advanced meta-skills, such as continuous learning.  

This is noted in a research report commissioned by Engineers Finland entitled “The Effects of the Green Transition to the Employment and Educational Requirements of Engineers Finland”. The report was published on the UNESCO World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development on 4 March.  

Our main message is that efforts to achieve the green transition should not fall short because of a shortage of talent.
- Tommi Grönholm

The study examined the effects of the green transition on the employment and competence needs in the process industry and the energy and construction sectors. Together, these sectors account for roughly 72% of the total emissions of Finnish industry.  

Energy renovations and battery production require extra hands  

The effects of the green transition on the employment of engineers were examined by assessing the investment paths marked out by low-carbon roadmaps in industry, in addition to other public materials.   

Of the sectors examined in the report, the greatest need for skilled labour lies in the construction sector where increasingly common energy renovations will require approximately 1 000–1 600 more FTE/year.  

In terms of the process industry, the focus was on green hydrogen and battery production. The electrification of society will create a demand for batteries and their recycling, which the study indicates will require the second largest number of new engineers, about 1 000–1 200 FTE/year. In light of the media attention and the investments already made, it is surprising that green hydrogen production will require the fewest new engineers, the equivalent of about 100–250 FTE/year. This is partly due to the highly automated production process of hydrogen.   

The third highest demand for additional labour was in the energy sector where the production of renewable energy is estimated to create a demand for about 500–1 000 more FTE/year.  

Green transition requires the skill to rapidly respond to changes 

Many of the skills needed for the green transition are already widely taught by education providers in the industries under study. In addition to technical skills, the green transition will require investing in meta-skills, such as continuous learning, communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork and resilience.  

– Although mathematics and science will continue to be the core areas of competence, the green transition will create even more complex working environments where you need to be able to cooperate with experts in different fields and find solutions based on diverse paradigms. The pace of development also requires resilience when it comes to learning new skills, says Jussi-Pekka Teini, Sustainable Technology Society Specialist at Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK. 

Although mathematics and science will continue to be the core areas of competence, the green transition will create even more complex working environments where you need to be able to cooperate with experts in different fields and find solutions based on diverse paradigms.
- Jussi-Pekka Teini

When it comes to improving skills for the green transition, degree and qualification structures raise concerns.

– Education structures, particularly in construction, are already full of compulsory courses, so there is no room for any extra courses. As for the energy sector, the change is happening so fast that the two-year curriculum review cycle may be too slow, says Teini. 

Roadmaps are not enough on their own 

In the report, Engineers Finland provides recommendations for facilitating the green transition. For instance, industry roadmaps that describe the green transition are necessary, but they are only the first step on the journey towards a smooth green transition. Engineers Finland advocates a broader assessment of the competence needs and the social impact.  

– This report is a conversation starter and a rough assessment of the situation of engineers. Our main message is that efforts to achieve the green transition should not fall short because of a shortage of talent. That is why we propose a more extensive survey of labour and competence needs, says Secretary General of Engineers Finland Tommi Grönholm

The key to addressing the engineer deficit is to facilitate the successful completion of engineering education and the employment of international degree students. The labour needs identified in the report could be largely met through these measures.  

The study was conducted by Gaia Consulting.

What is Engineers Finland

Engineers Finland is an association of engineering organizations operating in Finland. It represents almost 150,000 experts with an academic degree in technology. The association promotes educational, industrial and labour market goals both nationally and internationally. 

The member organizations of Engineers Finland are DIFF - Ingenjörerna i Finland, The Union of Professional Engineers in Finland IL, Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK and Tekniska Föreningen i Finland TFIF. 

Read more: https://engineersfinland.insinoori.fi/