Collaboration

Artificial intelligence to tame ICT labour shortage

Juha Tuominen
There has been labour shortage in the ICT field for a long time. The field-specific competence deteriorates quickly with time and companies’ needs for digitalisation of business operations are growing increasingly. Based on forecasts, up to tens of thousands of ICT professionals are needed by 2030. At the same time, the digitalising working environment calls for continuous update of competence.

A joint project of TAMK and Tampere University searches for a new, flexible solution to tame the labour shortage in the ICT field. Employees’ and companies’ needs were earlier solved through further and continuing education as well as retraining. However, long degree educations and general continuing educations respond quite poorly to companies’ changing and individual needs.

“Now we base our work on companies’ development needs and search for the most appropriate competences and professionals by means of artificial intelligence. Employees’ lack of competence is fixed through individual study paths and generally available education and training,” Teacher and Project Manager Juha Tuominen summarises the contents of the ICT For Need (ICT4N) project.

ICT4N brings companies and professionals together in Tampere Region

Companies and field-specific professionals are now brought together. Professionals are searched for among higher education graduates who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment. As non-Finnish-speaking professionals also have difficulties in finding employment in the field, the project also supports them. Many non-Finnish-speaking professionals do not have the needed networks and thus have difficulties in demonstrating their competence. The ICT4N project focuses on searching for professionals among immigrants with a higher education degree.

“We have a lot of unused potential. It helps immensely in global business if we can use persons who already live here and have the right language and culture background and networks in the destination country,” tells Tuominen.

Tuominen has experience in this due to his prior work history in the business life and TAMK’s TOITA (Talents of Immigrants to Activity) project in 2016-2018.

“In the TOITA project we showed that new kind of learning is possible. Now we want to develop the model further and create solutions to the employment mismatch in the ICT field and the huge retraining need in Finland.”

Artificial intelligence as help

The other project coordinator, Tampere University, has prior experience in using artificial intelligence in continuing learning projects. The artificial intelligence based service developed by Headai Ltd aims at finding professionals for companies’ acute needs among current competence descriptions.

“We have 15 participating companies with mapped needs. The service also shows and searches for competence needs in vacancy databases. It shows in real time which competences have most demand and which participating companies need them. Thus we can find the most suitable professionals for the companies’ needs. The companies and professionals then meet face to face,” Tuominen tells.

When the company and professional have found each other, the artificial intelligence based service recommends individually suitable continuing education for the professional to fill in the gaps between the company’s needs and the professional’s profile. The ICT4N project does however not produce education apart from general training on Finnish working life and language education. Artificial intelligence suggests suitable free courses and open online courses. Based on the suggestion, an individual education path is planned for the employee together with a software engineering specialist.

“Use of artificial intelligence brings many benefits but it has to be remembered that the best result is achieved in cooperation between the machine and human being. The project specialists and their instruction, guidance and mentoring also have an important role during the project and workplace learning,” Tuominen reminds.

At the end of the ICT4N process, the participants receive a certificate of the three-month studies and three-month practical training in a company.

The first group is being put together and it will start its ICT4N path in October. The second group will start in autumn 2021. The flexible model enables taking of new companies and professionals along the path, even if the project already has enough participating companies and some in the queue, too. 

New model to respond to challenges of changing work

Even if the primary objective of the ICT4N project is to develop an operations model to facilitate the employment mismatch in the ICT field and employment of immigrants with a higher education degree in the Tampere Region, Tuominen sees the project’s possibilities as much more extensive and far-reaching.

“Some jobs will disappear and job contents will change, which affects competence needs of the working-age population and requires massive retraining and continuing education. The education system also has to be developed. It needs more flexibility and openness. We need open learning materials, education provision built together with working life and solutions to flexible development of existing competence. The project is creating a new scalable model to respond to these challenges.” 

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ICT4N (ICT For Need) is a project funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). The two-year project, which started in spring 2020, is implemented by Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University.

Further information: Juha Tuominen, teacher and project manager, International Business, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, juha.tuominen [at] tuni.fi

 

 

Text: Helena Pekkarinen

Photo: Saara Lehtonen