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Chemical Industry Federation to Lead a European-Wide Million Study on Skills Needs

It is quite clear that Finland cannot excel in the competition of skills alone – perhaps not even Europe.

A skills project led by the Chemical Industry Federation will investigate the capabilities needed for the industrial green transition throughout Europe.

The decline in the level of skills and the challenge of finding skilled workers have been hot topics in Finland, especially over the past couple of years. Our neighboring country, Estonia, is performing better in learning comparisons, companies are increasingly concerned about the declining level of skills, and after the summer vacation, there has been anxiety about whether education is really under the new government’s special protection, ensuring that funding is available to cover the backlog in education.

In the chemical industry, we are particularly concerned about where we can find future natural science and mathematics experts, not only to work in production tasks but also to innovate future energy solutions and develop new technologies, so that we can meet the ambitious carbon neutrality goals for the industry by 2045.

We need strong dialogue not only between the industry and the education sector but also between the industry and decision-makers. Additionally, we need well-researched information on the needs and opportunities of each actor. It is certain that Finland is not alone in the competition of skills; the same challenges apply to almost every European country. This is both a strength and a weakness because the competition for skilled workers is undoubtedly going to intensify.

The European Chemical Industry Federation (ECEG), based in Brussels, fully recognized the skills challenge a little over a year ago when the discussion about skills needs started gaining momentum in the European capital. The chemical industry is not only a strongly skill-dependent sector but also the entire industrial sector in Europe, which is subject to a lot of regulation and various new legislative initiatives. It is an industry where safety and responsibility issues have been at the forefront for years and it wants to lead the carbon neutrality change as part of Europe’s green transition.

This transition is built not only through industrial policy but also through education policy decisions in every EU country. If we do not invest in skills, we will not have the drivers of the green transition, innovators, or engineers. The natural science and mathematical skills must be well taken care of for the competitiveness of Europe as well.

ECEG wants to contribute to the European skills discussion by examining the capabilities, supply, and opportunities in essential education areas for the chemical industry. This will be done through the ChemSkills study, funded by Erasmus+, and it is intended to be used as an aid for political decision-making to meet the needs of the industry in the best possible way. The study is the first of its kind and covers the entire chemical industry sector extensively, from rubber, plastics, and pharmaceuticals to renewable fuels and fertilizer production.

The study involves organizations, educational institutions, higher education, and companies from various European countries, comprehensively from Italy to the Nordic countries. The total funding is around four million euros, spanning four years, and the work will be led by the Chemical Industry Federation in addition to Brussels. So, Finland has a unique opportunity to gain a pioneering reputation as a country that takes both the entire industrial carbon neutrality transition and the development of related skills seriously. We can regain our leading position in education!

It is quite clear that Finland cannot excel in the skills competition alone – perhaps not even Europe. However, we must jointly ensure the competitiveness of our skills, i.e., having the right skills and strategically investing in skills development; this is everyone’s shared responsibility. With the right skills, we also secure the competitiveness of all of Europe in the global environment.