Employability, Education and Diversities (EMED)

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It is evident that the Finnish labour market is experiencing paradoxical challenges: on the other hand we are facing high unemployment and, on the other hand, there is lack of (right kind of) skilled workers. In future, to create competitive economy we need to better find/utilize/develop the skills and get everybody – including the diverse population – involved productively in working life.

Currently Finland is not effective enough employing the skills of people with diverse background. This is even true with educated people with diversities (ie. youth and adults with migrant or ethnic background and/or people with disabilities/learning difficulties). If we are not taking into account the possible (and somehow self-evident) cultural and language barriers, one possible explanation is related to the fact that Finland is highly meritocratic society: you need to have a formal degree of any kind to be a ‘proper’ candidate for an employment. Because of the connection between education and employability, it makes sense to investigate the possible problems and develop better functioning options for diverse learners.

Previous Finnish studies related to the educational paths of young adults with migrant-origin compared to their Finnish counterparts show that although their educational aspirations are similar (Kalalahti, Varjo & Jahnukainen 2016) 1) their risk of dropping-out of education is higher (Kilpi-Jakonen, 2011), 2) their overall graduation rate stays lower and they are in general two years older when they graduate from upper secondary studies than youth with Finnish-origin (Järvinen & Jahnukainen, 2008). In general we can see that the immigrant youth follows rather on the path typical for native Finnish students with learning difficulties (Kirjavainen, Pulkkinen & Jahnukainen 2016) than the path of mainstream young adults (e.g. Järvinen & Jahnukainen 2008). The qualitative studies (e.g. Niemi, 2015; Niemi et al. 2010) also reveal that the options in upper secondary offered to migrant (and young people with disabilities) tend to be restricted to certain trades, which potentially is linked to the higher dropping out risk. Also the employment path of migrant population in general is found to be very different than of workers with Finnish origin: the unemployment is not only the question of ageing migrants, the employment rate of them starts to decrease already after age of 37 – people in their best working age! (Eronen et al. 2014).  Again, it reminds more the career path of people with significant disabilities (e.g. Saloviita & Pirttimaa 2007).

The sub-project Employability, Education and Diversities (EMED) of Skills, Education And the Future of Work -research consortium will explore the connection of education, support and employability of diverse learners built on two previously established, complementary study lines (see Kalalahti, Varjo & Jahnukainen 2016 and Kirjavainen, Pulkkinen & Jahnukainen 2016).


Ethnographic field work at the upper secondary

This part will produce highly valued first-hand information about the experiences of migrant-origin youth in upper secondary (vocational) studies as well as when they enter into the working life. We will be able to define the critical (supportive and non-supportive) actions in terms of these young people’s career path from school to employment in current Finnish society. This part of the substudy will be performed in close connection with the existing TRANSIT study group (PI Prof. Jahnukainen), which is a prospective, longitudinal study exploring the educational transitions of > 400 students (with/out diversities) from compulsory education (Grade 9) to upper secondary education during 4 years period.

In addition to the existing TRANSIT actions, EMED project would focus more qualitatively/ethnographically in selected upper secondary institutions with a high-intake of students with migrant etc. diverse background. The main study question for this part would be: what are the experienced obstacles/needed supports for upper secondary students with diversities to 1) graduate and 2) developed their skills needed for a successful employment during their upper secondary studies. This study will provide concrete ideas for changing and modifying the current educational practices at the upper secondary level. The timeframe of the funding applied here also allows continuing the follow-up of TRANSIT group to working life and further education during the first postsecondary year (Fall 2018 to Spring 2019). Thus, this subproject will also produce prospective follow-up information of the employability of the TRANSIT study group members with diverse background.

The main actor here will be the post doctoral researcher (Dr. Anna-Maija Niemi) specialized in ethnopraphic field work in secondary institutions (e.g. Niemi 2015). She will work in conjunction of the existing TRANSIT team. This substudy is also linked to the research done in SP6, both subprojects are partly performed in same educational institutions and the implications for new solutions will be developed together.

Register-based national follow-up

To complement the qualitative, real-life/follow-along picture of the transitions of the diverse youth, we need also quantitative, large-scale analysis. There is lack of this kind of longitudinal information of young adults with diverse background. Using the national full-population registers in co-operation with the other consortium subproject (SP10) (and external collaborator Tanja Kirjavainen), we can trace the career paths of migrant youth as well as young people with significant learning difficulties encountered during the compulsory as well as the upper secondary studies. We will be able to estimate the effects of special educational support, school and municipality funding formulas as well as regional differences on the education and working life behaviour. The analysis focuses on contrasting the diverse learners situation to other school-leavers using existing data of the nature of the support, socio-demographic and regional information. The main study question for this part is: what are the effects of different levels of Learning and Schooling supports for diverse learners in terms of upper secondary graduation and employability? This part of SP11 will provide research-based information on developing effective Learning and Schooling support services for schools, school boards and municipalities.

Researchers: Prof. Markku Jahnukainen and Post-doctoral researcher Anna-Maija Niemi


Eronen, A., Härmälä, V., Jauhiainen, S., Karikallio, H., Karinen, R., Kosunen, A., Laamanen, J-P. & Lahtinen, M. (2014). Maahanmuuttajien työllistyminen. Taustatekijät, työnhaku ja työvoimapalvelut.  Employment and Entrepeneurship 6/2014. Ministry of Employment and Economy. Helsinki: Edita.

Järvinen, T. & Jahnukainen, M. (2008). Koulutus, polarisaatio ja tasa-arvo: hyvä- ja huono-osaistuminen perus- ja keskiasteen koulutuksessa [Education, Polarization and Equality: Advantaged and disadvantaged youth in secondary education]. In Autio, M., Eräranta, K. & Myllyniemi, S. (Eds.) Nuoret ja polarisaatio. Nuorten elinolot vuosikirja. Nuorisotutkimusverkosto, Nuorisoasiain neuvottelukunta & Stakes, 72 – 81.

Kalalahti, M., Varjo, J., & Jahnukainen, M. (2016).  Immigrant-origin Youth and the Determination of Choice for Upper Secondary Education in Finland. Submitted manuscript under review.

Kilpi-Jakonen, E. (2011). Continuation to upper secondary education in Finland:Children of immigrnats and the majority compared. Acta Sociologica 54 (1), 77–106.

Kirjavainen, T., Pulkkinen, J. & M. Jahnukainen (2016). Special education students in transition to further education: A four-year register-based follow-up study in Finland. Learning and Individual Differences 45 (1), 33–42.

Niemi, A-M. (2015). Erityisiä koulutuspolkuja? Tutkimus erityisopetuksen käytännöistä peruskoulun jälkeen [Special educational paths? A study of the practices of special needs education after basic education]. University of Helsinki, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Studies in Educational Sciences 264. Dissertation.

Niemi, A-M., Mietola, R., & Helakorpi, J. (2010). Erityisluokka elämänkulussa. Selvitys peruskoulussa erityisluokalla opiskelleiden vammaisten, romaniväestöön kuuluvien ja maahanmuuttajataustaisten nuorten aikuisten koulutus- ja työelämäkokemuksista [Special needs class in the course of life. A study on the educational and working life experiences of young people with disability, Roma and immigrant background, who studied in special education classes]. Ministry of the Interior publications  1, 2010.

Saloviita, T. and R. Pirttimaa (2007). Surveying Supported Employment in Finland: A Follow‐up. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities 4 (4), 229-234.