Partnerships produce solid results for the labour market of the future


The Swedish labour market is currently suffering a skills shortage in many areas while at the same time, Sweden has high unemployment. Could a data-driven solution help to resolve the mismatch? Many of the members of the partnership group for Skills supply and lifelong learning think it could.

When society and the world of work is changing and developing, there is a growing need for skills development and career change.

“For the individual, education, training and lifelong learning opportunities are an important factor in increasing their likelihood of a long and lasting career,” says Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan, with special responsibility for the Government’s innovation partnership programmes.

The Skills supply and lifelong learning innovation partnership programme has highlighted developing digital services to strengthen the position of individuals on the labour market and meet the skills needs of the private and public sector as being essential. To meet this need, several challenges must be addressed, and the data infrastructure of government agencies is one of them.

Government assignment to several agencies

In the light of this, the Government has tasked a number of agencies with making data and digital information on education and the labour market more accessible. This also includes establishing ways of administering joined-up data infrastructure for skills supply and lifelong learning. The purpose of this assignment is to foster effective skills supply and lifelong learning for the long term, and facilitate transition in the labour market.

Marie Wall, project manager of the innovation partnership programme, thinks that the work that led to the government assignment is an excellent example of where partnerships can lead:

“The assignment that the Government has now decided on demonstrates the strength of partnerships between representatives from different areas of society. The work will be done by a number of government agencies but the business community has played an active part in pointing out the needs that the agencies’ data infrastructure has to meet,” says Marie Wall.

Comments from some of the members of the Skills supply and lifelong learning partnership group:

Jannie Jeppesen, CEO of Swedish Edtech Industry

Jannie Jeppesen, CEO of Swedish Edtech Industry, the trade association for the Swedish educational technology sector, is a member of the partnership programme and headed the working group on Digital infrastructure for lifelong learning. In autumn 2020, the working group surveyed needs and obstacles to producing joined-up digital infrastructure capable of unleashing the potential to use data as a strategic resource. The aim was to make it easier to develop effective digital services that meet the needs of individuals, employers and society for education, surveying skills, validation, matching, guidance and career change, Jannie Jeppesen explains.

“We put together a large working group comprising more than 30 experts from six government agencies, several universities, the business community and municipalities and regions. It was very exciting to combine everyone’s scenarios of digital infrastructure needs and challenges and gain consensus, and above all a holistic picture. Several problems were able to be solved simply by rendering them visible in the first place.”

The overarching result of this survey shows a major need to strengthen multi-agency approaches, with a higher degree of coordination and collaboration.

“The shortcomings in the digital infrastructure that became clear in the work of the group are to do with the way that we operate in silos; there is a gap, mainly between education and the labour market, where common agreements and rules on exchanging data are lacking, with different ways of describing qualifications and skills,” says Jannie Jeppesen.

Jannie Jeppesen praises the commitment from everyone involved.

“A large number of us were engaged in this work and we took the approach that where we found friction, differing needs and conflicts, that was where the most information and the greatest need for consensus lay. So those were the areas where we concentrated our attention. I would say that we became a team, which might sound unlikely, considering that we never met face to face,” says Jannie Jeppesen, looking forward to in-person meetings in the future.

Thomas Persson, Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education

Thomas Persson, Director General of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education, is a member of the Skills supply and lifelong learning innovation partnership programme. He thinks that the most important work of the programme so far has been in identifying problems and solutions in data infrastructure; in other words ensuring good data from three different areas: the skills needs of the business community and the public sector, individuals’ existing skills/qualifications, and data capable of consistently describing the combined education and training provision available in as many forms of education as possible.

“Once we gain access to good data, it becomes possible to develop services and programmes to run analyses of education needs more easily and more quickly, for example, or to produce simpler guidance for individuals about labour market opportunities.”

Thomas Persson thinks that skills supply and lifelong learning opportunities really are one of the big questions for society.

“It’s about giving individuals the chance to develop and succeed in the job market, while the business community and the public sector gain access to the skills they need; this is something we see clearly in the vocational higher education sector. It is also about securing the country’s competitiveness in an international perspective. When businesses have access to the skills they need, companies grow, providing a basis for financing the services of society we all share. I am delighted that there is movement in the national skills supply; this is a complex issue involving many actors from different areas of society. It feels as though we now have the chance to take some important steps forward.”

Peter Fredriksson, Swedish National Agency for Education

Peter Fredriksson is Director General of the Swedish National Agency for Education and a member of the Skills supply and lifelong learning innovation partnership programme.

“The education perspective is vital for the Swedish National Agency for Education, which is of course about enabling students to develop based on their needs and abilities, but also about equipping students as citizens. We know that education is crucial to their finding a job and being able to earn a living. I therefore think it goes without saying that the Swedish National Agency for Education needs to be an actor in this innovation partnership programme,” says Peter Fredriksson.

Peter Fredriksson appreciates the way that different perspectives are brought together around a single question, learning from and influencing each other. At the same time, he points out that partnership must not stop there:

“Ideally the partnership must lead to changed behaviour on the part of each and every one of us, and to changing the way we work together based on a shared vision and with the awareness that skills supply and lifelong learning are something created by many actors in combination.”

Peter Fredriksson says that the Swedish National Agency for Education works broadly on skills supply and that doing so demands dialogue and cooperation with others.

“Schools don’t work in isolation. Schools shape society but society also shapes schools. When society, the labour market, people’s needs and lives change, that means schools need to change too. The skills, abilities and capacities that students need to take with them when they leave school must be re-examined, as does how education is to be organised and designed. All this is important to us at the Swedish National Agency for Education when looking at the skills supply issue.”

“An important part of the innovation partnership programme is the question of how we can make the most of the opportunities of digitalisation when working on skills supply, so we can put together guidance that provides information about the labour market and different paths of study,” says Peter Fredriksson.

Linda Schön Doroci, Arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish Public Employment Service)

Linda Schön Doroci, a member of the innovation partnership programme and a director at Arbetsförmedlingen, is convinced that we need to solve Sweden’s skills supply through agile partnerships and co-creation.

“For me, it’s important to make things happen. I have therefore actively prioritised certain working groups in the innovation partnership programme where I have appointed some of the employment service’s key players as representatives. An important element for the working groups has been having the courage to think on new lines and make the most of the opportunities of digitalisation,” says Linda Schön Doroci.

As a representative of Arbetsförmedlingen she feels proud of the work that has started on joined-up data infrastructure for skills supply and lifelong learning.

“The aim is partly to develop a dynamic structure of terms for the labour market and education system, to make all data about all education and training courses accessible, open and searchable, to enable individuals to move their data and their profile easily between different platforms for training, for example. This is development work and a partnership that I think can pave the way for smart, accurate services in the field of skills supply and lifelong learning,” she says.

Linda Schön Doroci thinks that the modern job market means we all need to keep learning, both formally and informally.

“Green growth, the circular economy, increased digitalisation and automation are all helping to create new jobs while others are disappearing. Demands and the labour force skills needed change rapidly and can mean that a skill in one field will need to be converted, developed and matched in a completely different context. Here, we together, the government, local government and the business community, need to find new and innovative solutions and partnerships, similar to those we have with the Northvolt battery factory in Skellefteå, for example.”

Linda Schön Doroci thinks that the partnership programmes can be used as an important platform and as a catalyst to find new solutions to old and new challenges, focusing on customers and shared societal challenges.

“Of course it can be a little challenging for us as government agencies to take a new and more agile approach, but I’m convinced this is something we can learn from. And hopefully, the innovation partnership programmes will also help to develop our current administrative culture, both within and across agencies, but perhaps even between and within ministries. The important thing is that the work is not too theoretical and can actually be tested on the ground.”

The Government’s innovation partnership programmes

The objective of the Government’s innovation partnership programmes is to identify innovative solutions to major challenges facing society and to contribute to Sweden’s competitiveness. The themes are based on Sweden’s strengths and on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

  • Climate neutral industry
  • Skills supply and lifelong learning
  • Digital transformation of industry
  • Health and life sciences