Who will find jobs in the future, and what type of skills will be required for employment? During his career, Markku Jahnukainen, professor of special education, has approached this question from the perspective of how the school system treats young people of immigrant backgrounds or those who are otherwise in need of additional support.
He will be able to really sink his teeth into the topic once the strategic research project focusing on the subject launches, thanks to funding from the Academy of Finland. The project is a continuation of the TRANSIT project which studied the different study paths young people take.
Support and guidance over obstacles
In the new project, Anna-Maija Niemi, postdoctoral researcher, will go into an upper secondary school and a vocational school to make ethnographical observations on practices in the schools.
“We are specifically interested in the things we cannot see from the paperwork,” says Jahnukainen, referring to the way the school staff work, the related processes and the guidance provided to the pupils.
“Many of our schools do excellent work, but there are also major discrepancies between teachers and the internal cultures of our educational institutions.”
For example, it is interesting that the additional support provided to secondary-level pupils is focused on vocational schools. Pupils entering upper secondary school are thought to be able to manage on their own – often the only form of special support is that a special education teacher from outside the school comes to test the pupils for dyslexia before the matriculation examinations.
According to Jahnukainen, things tend to go well when the teacher knows his or her pupils.
“When they're working with huge masses of pupils, they must use mass-level processes and the individual pupil is lost in the mix."
Part of an extensive research theme
Jahnukainen’s study is part of the strategic research project funded by the Academy of Finland, entitled “Skills, education and the future of work”. The project features researchers from seven different organisations.
This form of strategic research funding is relatively new, and Jahnukainen has high hopes for its political impact. The schedule includes meetings with representatives from ministries and the Parliament. The consortium boasts an extensive list of stakeholders, from the OECD to the vocational colleges of Keskuspuisto and Kiipula.
Jahnukainen criticises the Finnish labour market for being inflexible, and for the employers’ unwillingness to hire people from special groups. On the education side, Jahnukainen suggests focused training periods which would be shorter than a full vocational programme.