Interview: Jouko Sarvi

Video Tabs

Are students prepared for today’s job market and for the future? 
Yes, and no. It depends on what angle you are looking at it. 
But as the labor market evolves more rapidly obviously there is a gap between the skills of graduates and what the labor market needs. 
And there is also a gap in the aspirations of the youths vis-a-vis what the future holds. 
So therefore increasingly it is important to focus on what the worth of youth is, and how we can enhance and improve their skills for the labor market and for their future. 
There has always been the debate whose responsibility the training is. 
And of course, on the job training, when a student or graduate has been employed, is as important as the training the student has received initially in the training institution. 
So the role of private training providers is becoming increasingly important. 
Quite often, the government or the government training institutions try to do a dual role: preparing regulations and policy for training, and also providing the training. 
This is increasingly becoming an arrangement which is not sustainable. 
Increasingly the trend is that the training is shifting to private training providers while the government needs to concentrate on the role of providing an enabling environment through better regulations and quality control assurance of the training provided.
In terms of details of training programs, what needs to be strengthened, is to make them more competency based, and define the competency more accurately. 
Quite often the mistake is that countries aim to define and prepare a national competency framework for all skill areas and for all industry areas. 
It is quite a challenging task to do as one step. 
It’s better to start from the private industry areas and together between the government and the private sector to find a consensus what are the competencies required for those industry areas and how those competencies can be received, acquired through training. 
And then after that initial step to expand to other industry areas. 
From a government perspective, matching skills with jobs is not always easy. 
But obviously there is a need and way to improve labor market information systems and the projection of what kind of skills are needed for the future. 
The basis for this is of course that there is a clear economic vision for the country, to which to link human resource development needs and then also concrete training programs.
Knowledge sharing in vocation training and education overall is very important. 
And it is important to support knowledge exchange between countries, south-south cooperation, north-south cooperation and so forth.
I always try to emphasize the need to avoid the concept “best practice.” 
There are always good practices around to discuss and share knowledge about, 
and once a good practice is adapted correctly to certain circumstances, it can become a best practice in those circumstances. 
It’s not feasible to adopt directly a model from one country to another. 
Knowledge and models China can consider is somewhat challenging given the huge labor market in China, and the labor force challenges in a country like China. 
But obviously China has had very good progress in recent years in the manufacturing area and needs to expand more the services sector, especially the modern services sector, which requires higher-order skills. 
It is becoming increasingly obvious that once the modern services sector is expanding and there is a skilled workforce for that area, that will also benefit manufacturing. 
Because the manufacturing industry is increasingly becoming technology-driven and you also need high-order skills there. 
In the past, occupations in manufacturing were mainly categorized as “white collar” and “blue collar”: managers and those who were working on the manufacturing chain. 
Increasingly, there are also now so-called “gray-collar” workers, or knowledge workers needed in manufacturing. 
And here is the link between the service sector higher-order skills and manufacturing higher-order skills. 
Improving in tandem expanding service sector and human resources for the service sector and also for more higher-order manufacturing industries is one model that I believe would benefit China. 
One of the challenges in China and in East and Southeast Asia in particular in human resource development is also the aging population. 
The workforce is declining, 
on the other hand, the aging workforce remains in good health and they still want to be active in creating services for that part of the population 
and skills for that kind of service industry is something which the future holds as a challenge for this part of Asia.