“TEK has been measuring cross-cutting sustainability skills in the same way for years. Most fields of education show an increase in both the perceived importance of sustainability skills for one's career and in their development during studies. With information technology, we see an opposite pattern: the mean value describing perceived importance has been decreasing in recent years among graduates in information technology,” he says.
Universities should address the issue
Universities play a key role in placing more emphasis on green skills. Some higher education institutions are already addressing the issue. For instance, LUT University has integrated sustainability themes into their study programme in information technology. The University of Turku is currently revising its curriculum.
“Universities need to demonstrate value leadership and educate students to better understand the role of information technology in building a more sustainable world. The talent shortage that businesses face is not reason enough alone to educate ICT professionals. We will need digitalization in the green transition. This side also has to be built into the study programmes,” says Arttu Piri.
According to Jussi-Pekka Teini, who works with sustainability themes at TEK, the change will not necessarily require new majors or even new courses.
“You can go a long way just by fine-tuning the contents and teaching methods of existing courses. Projects are an important part of studies in technology, and their briefs or assignments provide great opportunities to include sustainability themes in courses. Instead of only focusing on technology and financial profitability in the projects, they could aim at designing sustainable products and services right from the start. It all comes down to the approach,” says Teini.
Where do we find 100 000 green ICT experts?
Technology Industries of Finland has estimated that Finland will need 100 000 new ICT experts in the next ten years for a successful green transition. Experts in information technology are crucial to the success of the green transition, Jussi-Pekka Teini points out.
“The field of information technology has not been leaning towards the green transition. It has not portrayed itself as a field that solves sustainability challenges, so students tend not to choose the field on this basis. What's more, ICT education has not made much of an effort to include sustainability in its contents. Perhaps the reason for this is that, unlike, say, the forest or energy industry, ICT has not had to make an effort to ensure that it will still be relevant 10 years from now. However, information technology is a key part of the sustainability transition. Without the ICT industry, the green transition will not succeed,” Teini says.
Conducted by TEK and Finnish universities, TEK Graduate Survey is a feedback survey for newly graduated academic engineers and architects. In 2022, a total of 1 785 students answered the survey.