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H. Osieja

Teaching and Learning Advisor (SWEDEN)
The aim of higher vocational education is, or should be, to satisfy the needs of the labour market by providing qualified and competent staff. Higher vocational education differs from higher education in the sense that its aim is purely instrumental, namely, graduate employability. Nevertheless, and although the Löfvén administration announced that higher vocational education would be one of its priorities, there continues to be a mismatch between the skills of the graduates and the skills demanded by potential employers.

Higher vocational education in Sweden:
Higher vocational education in Sweden is less than a decade old: It dates from 2009. The main differences between higher vocational education and higher education are mainly three:
1) Firstly, the programs are of an acquisitive rather than of an inquisitive nature;
2) Employers should play a fundamental role in curriculum design, since the aim of the programs is precisely to satisfy the need of the labour market, and
3) while most institutions of higher education in Western countries are autonomous, the government decides on resource allocation for higher vocational programs, depending on whether these will promote the employability of the students enrolled.[1]

Higher vocational education under the löfven administration:
On August 16, 2015, the Swedish Prime Minister announced that the government would allocate 150 million Swedish Krona (about 15 million Euros) in higher vocational educational programs, which was a significant increase. Nevertheless, the results have not been as good as expected: According to the Industrial Employers’ Organisation, too few prospective students apply to industrial and technical programs, a situation which creates an enormous demand for specific skills. [2] Additionally, according to the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, there is a historically high labour shortage which especially affects the capital region. [3]

Aims of the study:
The author has worked in higher vocational education for more than 15 years, both in Germany and in Sweden. As an experienced teacher, thesis supervisor and link between employers and prospective interns, she has seen that higher vocational education often does not satisfy the needs of employers but is rather a political instrument which aims to improve statistics on education and employment. In spite of massive allocations of resources, the mismatch between supply and demand continues in the labour market. Furthermore, there is a tacit policy of grade inflation so that students do not drop out of higher vocational programs, which has proven quite detrimental for employers.

The author aims to identify the main problems with higher vocational education and provide solutions so that the needs of Swedish labour market are satisfied.

[1] Helen Osieja, An Assessment of Swedish Higher Vocational Education, 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, Barcelona, 2017.
[2] Swedish Industrial Employers’ Organisation Seminar on the Provision on Competiencies (Industriarbetsgivarnas Seminarium på Kompetensförsörjningsdagen i Almedalen), July 3, 2018.
[3] Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, Labor Shortage Hits Stockholm Hardest, June 19