President’s editorial: People need a chance to contribute throughout their lives

One of the really big challenges for Swedish competitiveness is ensuring that we have a supply of talent. Swedish employers – especially our knowledge-intensive companies – need to be able to recruit well-educated individuals who can contribute their skills over a long period.

IVA’s annual barometer measuring how the business community perceives the R&D investment climate in Sweden was published recently. It shows clearly that access to talent is crucial when companies decide where to put their R&D investments. Many R&D-intensive companies say finding skilled individuals to recruit is an obstacle. This is a warning flag. If knowledge-intensive companies cannot find people with the right skills in Sweden, their R&D investments may end up in other countries.

If our education system is to function optimally for both society and individuals, all parts of the system – from schools and universities to life-long learning – must maintain a high quality and have a long-term perspective. Schools are society’s most important educational institutions, laying the foundations so that young people can realise their dreams and contribute to society. This is one of the main reasons why the Academy, which has a long history with higher education, has launched a school project.

One of the first things to come out of our school initiative was a study focusing on teachers in various countries. The study report does not offer proposals, but it does describe the current situation and asks questions based on the research carried out. The teacher shortage is a major problem and it is predicted to increase between now and 2033. This problem needs to be solved based on a fact-based vision for changes that are possible. Another issue is the work situation for teachers. Studies indicate that teachers are stressed and have a heavy workload including a multitude of tasks beyond actually teaching students. This may make teaching less attractive and cause teachers to leave the profession. Another challenge is our decentralised and differentiated education system. Scrutiny and oversight are important but they involve a significant amount of administration and reporting. These issues need to be factored in when discussing improvements and changes to the way schools are run.

People need to be able to contribute their knowledge throughout a long working life, but with rapid scientific and technical development, this becomes more and more of a challenge. We also need to use the talents of our entire working population. IVA is therefore participating in a collaborative government programme aimed at building infrastructure for future lifelong learning. The programme has gathered many individuals and perspectives with a focus on, for example, digital infrastructure, attitudes and incentives, identifying talent and needs, attracting talent, education and transformation.

In the “Education for Competitiveness” team, which I am part of, we’re focusing on building an education system that meets the talent supply needs of business and industry as well as the individuals’ need of an education that allows them to contribute to society. There is no definitive answer to the question of what our future education system should look like. Universities will continue to play an important role, but many other actors need to be involved and contribute to the system as well. Important questions to ask are how collaboration between actors in the commercial and education sectors should work, how educational needs can be met in both the short and longer term, and how to create incentives for various actors and individuals.