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A total of about 300 students and influential people from higher education institutions and the business world attended the Inssiforum. Photo: Ditte Wärn, Metropolia AMK

Inssiforum 2015 – Finland to succeed with engineering expertise

Tiina Leiponen

What expertise does Finland require to be internationally competitive and safeguard local well-being in the future? Does Finland provide an innovative environment that spawns new businesses? How can engineering education be organised efficiently but without compromising on quality?

These and other topical issues were discussed at the traditional engineering education forum, which was held on 28–29 January 2015 in Wanha Satama, Helsinki. The event was a continuation of the forums held in Hämeenlinna (2010) and Tampere (2012), and the main organiser this time was the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

The forum was a meeting place for engineering teachers, companies seeking to recruit engineers, stakeholders, and partners. Trends in the future of engineering education were considered from many perspectives, as was the expertise required by engineers. The forum also discussed how to go about developing teaching and learning.  Another of the forum's objectives was to share experiences of reforms concerning universities of applied sciences from the perspective of education in technical fields. This year, the forum particularly wanted to involve corporate representatives and initiate dialogue to promote cooperation between education and working life. A project competition for students was also organised in conjunction with the forum, and the results were announced at the event.

CSC was involved and, with the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK), provided information about training for data centre experts and competence requirements for information security at data centres. Urpo Kaila, Head of Security, spoke on behalf of CSC on Thursday 29 January, while Joona Tolonen from KAMK gave briefings on data centre training.

Selected quotes from Inssiforum 2015

"Finland's success lies on the shoulders of engineers, as about 90 per cent of Finland's exports come from industrial products. Increased productivity enabled a rise in Finnish living standards, but work will no longer get more productive."

"The only way to solve this issue is to make increased investments in education," said Pekka Lundmark, President & CEO of Konecranes, in his speech on the opening day of the forum.

Lundmark said that a clear and incredibly rapid decline in students' skill levels can be seen in Western countries, and quite the opposite in Asia. Finland is also far behind Asian countries in the digitalisation of all levels of education.

"I've seen this in practice through the education of my own children."

Closer cooperation between higher education institutions, companies and students turned out to be a key theme on the opening day of the third Inssiforum.

"We support a dual model for universities and universities of applied sciences. It's now time to focus on developing content and quality," says Metropolia's President, Riitta Konkola.

According to Hannu Sirén, Director General of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the quality of education in Finland is currently suffering due to scattered resources both at country level and within institutions of higher education. Sirén believes that universities of applied sciences now need to pull together and understand that secondary-level education must also be improved.

Panel discussion with Anita Lehikoinen, Mervi Karikorpi, Hannu Saarikangas, Riitta Lehtinen and Jukka Tolvanen (panellist Juuso Konttinen is missing from the photo). Photo: Ditte Wärn, Metropolia AMK

In addition to an increase in engineers' basic competence, the panel discussions indicted that Finland would also receive a boost from people skills, entrepreneurship, and flexible working methods.

Anita Lehikoinen, Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Culture, believes that things will go pear-shaped if Finland does not teach entrepreneurship, leadership, responsibility, and innovativeness. She thinks we must work out how to establish loci that spawn world-class expertise.

In addition to personal competence, Metropolia's Director Riitta Lehtinen also mentioned teamwork skills as being vital for Finland's success: both the ability to work in a team and to lead one.

Other topics covered during the Inssiforum included the efficient use of resources at higher education institutions, profiling and cooperation, an idea for 'innovation vouchers', and increasing the business expertise of members of the Boards of higher education institutions.

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