In one of the world's most rapidly aging countries, the Finnish construction industry is faced with a large number of senior workers who need less physically demanding roles so they can continue their careers. Meanwhile, unfortunately too many students drop out of Finland's vocational schools, placing them at risk of being excluded from the job market – at great cost to society.
An innovative approach
Together with partners, we developed an innovative program that helps solve both these issues while developing our construction workforce. The program, which we call 2+1, combines a yearlong paid apprenticeship – during which participants are trained and coached by our mature skilled workers – with two years of study. It's an adaptation of the age-old apprenticeship model.
The practical element distinguishes it from similar programs, which typically contain three years of theoretical studies.
"Our senior employees take on a new role as trainer and coach to pass on their expertise to the younger generation," says Kirsi Mettälä, Skanska’s Executive Vice President in charge of Human Resources.
Communication and interaction between those beginning their careers and senior employees also enhances diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Students bring fresh insights and supervisors are broadened by new ways of thinking from the younger generation.
Fifteen participants have completed the 3-year program, and 80 percent of them are now regular Skanska employees.
"The program benefits society by helping 16- to 17-year-olds find their way in life and into tax-paying employment, while providing Skanska with new skilled workers and offering senior employees a special opportunity to share their knowledge," says Kirsi.
"I learned so much more"
Riku Nurkkala recently completed the 2+1 program, helped by coaching from Risto Kortteisto, a construction worker with 35 years of experience.
"Risto carefully explained things based on his own experience," says Riku. "During those nine months on-site, I learned so much more than I would have at school in two years."
Risto, the mentor, also felt that he gained from the project.
"I've always enjoyed working with young people," explains Risto. "Now that Riku is a permanent Skanska employee, it’s great to run into each other at times."
In 2017, the 2+1 program received an award for its innovative approach from Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the Finnish Work Environment Fund. In their motivation, the jury described 2+1 as a practical model replicable in other industries.
We're working to expand 2+1 so it has a greater positive impact to the Finnish construction industry, and to the wider society.