Digitalisation and robotics are revolutionising more lines of business all the time. Job roles are changing dramatically and several roles are disappearing completely. At the same time, the population is ageing and we should expect to continue working at least until we are 70 years old. This is a demanding equation, but it is not impossible to solve. It just requires a new kind of attitude towards work and post-graduate education.
Many traditional jobs, such as those with office routines, are disappearing. Today, having a good education does not protect us from these changes. However, we should not worry about robots taking over all our jobs, as humans will be needed in the future, too. I strongly believe that, for instance, interpersonal skills, creativity, and the capability to plan and lead will continue to be in high demand.
It is realistic to say that fewer and fewer people can work through their careers with only a single degree and profession. A growing part of our studies will take place in adulthood and along with work.
We can take an interesting snapshot of the need for adult education by looking at the participants of the Henley Business School Flexible Executive MBA programme. They have one or more degrees – some even a doctorate – in economics, engineering, law, medicine or humanities. Despite these qualifications, they still want to study and learn more about leadership.
I hope we will have a vivid discussion on how we can encourage more Finns to update their skills or even get a degree in a totally new field of study.
More incentives needed for adult learning
In Finland, the taxes we pay are not enough to cover the costs of more than one degree per person. We therefore need to build a model similar to those of other European countries, where people pay for a second degree themselves or share the costs with their employer. However, current legislation and taxation practices in Finland lag behind, and clear incentives for this are missing. For instance, it should be possible to deduct the costs of professional adult education from one’s taxes, without any exceptions. And all professional adult education should also be exempt from VAT, which currently amounts to 24% in Finland.
In other European countries, incentives have already been put in place. For instance, taxation practices in Germany and Denmark are a lot more favourable for students than those of Finland. If Finland continues to lack support and high-quality opportunities for further education and re-education, we will inevitably lose skilled people to other countries. Many of our top talents are already studying somewhere else in Europe, since you can make several flights to the country of study with the VAT sum you would need to pay in Finland. A significant number of those adults who study in another country also find a job there. Can Finland afford this?
A step in the right direction was the advanced ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland to exempt the Henley Business School Executive MBA programme from VAT. The reasoning was very clear: the Henley Executive MBA is officially a higher academic degree. Now, Henley’s MBA students in Finland can study and develop their expertise without being punished with a VAT bill of more than EUR 10,000. This is a great development, but all professional adult education programmes should be exempted from VAT. This change would benefit Finnish business and our society as a whole.
It’s time to start making these changes! The expertise of many people is fast becoming outdated, and we need to encourage them to renew their skills soon. Good education is always a very profitable investment. For example, people with an academic degree typically earn EUR 500,000 more over the course of their careers than those with a secondary level degree. But the readiness to invest one’s own money in education demands incentives such as VAT exemption, and the possibility to deduct study expenses against one’s taxes.
Our 100-year-old Finland needs new energy and know-how to succeed in the future, and so every educated young person is very precious. In addition, companies need fresh expertise combined with the experience and vision brought by age. When people stay active in working life for a long time, everyone in Finland benefits.