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Swedish agreement provides upskilling and reskilling for white-collar workers

28 September, 2023Upskilling and reskilling for everyone without losing income is a major intention of the Swedish tripartite agreement. This agreement which benefits all workers is especially of great importance for white-collar workers.

Last year Swedish social partners concluded two national agreements on skills development. These agreements are connected to a new set of legislation that was adopted by the Swedish Parliament in June 2022, which provides the necessary financing for training, reskilling, and upskilling through grants or loans. Swedish white-collar workers' unions Sverges Ingenjörer and Unionen were two of the unions at the forefront of this agreement. 
These are historic agreements for Swedish unions, and it is at a scope that has not been visible in the Swedish labour market for a very long time. 
The development or digitalization and artificial intelligence have a significant impact on the skills that are needed. In such context, these agreements are key to enable high skilled workers, who are exposed to new developments, to keep with the skills requested by these new technologies, retain their employability and transition to new jobs.

Engineers must stay updated with new technology and this agreement gives individuals the opportunity to stay in the job market longer, as it allows for doing something new or changing career paths. 

“If we take the car industry as one example many engineers have been trained on the combustion engines and need to be reskilled towards electrification. It can also be the case that an engineer is approaching retirement and wants to transfer knowledge and teach mathematics or science, this agreement allows for these situations. It is also good that it has a tripartite backup from the government even if it was the parties on the labour market who bargained until the final signatures.”

Says Ulrika Linstrand, president of Sverges Ingenjörer.  

The agreement called the education support for transition establishes the right to training union members. The new education support for transition applies to individuals who have worked for at least eight years during the last 14 years. The agreements will run parallel to the existing education support system. The grant will replace 80 per cent of the net income, up to a maximum and an additional loan can be added to that. 

It can be a financial strain for anyone working full-time and who wants to start studying again, this new grant is more generous than the existing education support system and workers can receive it for a shorter period, up to 44 weeks for full-time studies. Employment transitions, improving skills and job security for employed workers and the promotion of continuous learning are elements of this new agreement and companies now have a more productive and skilled workforce, as a result. 

However, there are challenges when new reforms are launched. For Unionen, the authority that deals with the grant has not been able to administer all the applications in time because of a lack of resources and this could be managed with the new budget. Another challenge is the lack of educational places, both at university and vocational university, targeting members who need shorter qualified courses. 

“We welcome this agreement and Unionen has been one of the driving forces behind the realization of it. We have worked with reskilling, upskilling, and further education since the 1970’s but mainly focusing on when our members are losing their jobs or when they are unemployed. This is a recognition that we also need further education when we have a job because of a constantly changing labour market due to digitalization.”

Says Annakarin Wall Unionen international secretary. 
IndustriALL assistant general secretary, Christine Olivier said: 

“These agreements on skilling and reskilling are key to enable a Just Transition. It is important that these agreements cover all workers, including white-collar workers who are under great pressure to keep up with, and be adequately trained for new technologies.”