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The Finnish Army

Developing the expertise of salaried personnel

Army Academy
30.6.2017 8.09
Press release
Maavoimien täydennyskoulutuskalenteri 2018, Puolustusvoimat, kansikuva.

Impacted by the continuous changes affecting the operating environment, the Finnish Army and its personnel need to sustain substantial capability for overall learning, development of practices and renewal of abilities. Developing the expertise of salaried personnel presupposes accessing a versatile selection of methods that aids in both bringing about novel expertise and deepening, broadening as well as updating the already existing skills, knowledge and knowhow. All this entails developing a given individual’s expertise to meet the set organisational needs in accordance with the current or prospective requirements in a particular task position. Structured and systematic, the development of expertise resorts to methods involving facilitation of further education, in-service learning as well as task-based familiarization and mentoring.

Developing the expertise of the Finnish Army personnel relies on the Personnel Strategy of the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF), the norm directives guidance of the Defence Command as well as the set requirements of the Finnish Army branches and the specifications outlined in the branches’ development programmes. The FDF Personnel Strategy describes the long-term objectives and strategic requirements for developing the expertise of the FDF personnel, whereas the Defence Command’s binding norms define the set objectives, structures and key principles for this development. According to the Personnel Strategy, the notion of expertise equals an entity consisting of knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes utilisable in reaching the set objectives. In developing the expertise of its salaried personnel, the FDF ensures that this expertise meets the requirements for implementing its capabilities in operating under normal and exceptional circumstances. Drawing from the FDF Personnel Strategy, the professionalism of the FDF personnel stems from sustained high quality basic training, in-service and on-task learning as well as learning from the examples set by superiors, subordinates and peers complemented by opportunities for continuing education and advanced training.

The premise for developing the expertise of the Finnish Army personnel relies on the statutory tasks of the FDF, namely, defending Finland’s land areas, supporting other authorities in securing the vital functions of society, and taking part in international crisis management tasks assigned to it. By means of leadership and command, this implementation of the Finnish Army’s primary mission turns into the tasks carried out by individual employees. The availability of the type of expertise necessary in carrying out the set tasks is ensured by sustaining and developing a specific system for expertise development. In the Finnish Army, the administrative units are responsible for the planning and implementation of the expertise of the personnel in their respective units. On an individual employee’s level, this development of proficiency relies on the annual performance appraisal which involves the employee and the subordinate discussing the needs and tools available for expertise development complemented by drafting a plan for achieving this goal.

As the Finnish Army personnel comprises a versatile group of professionals employed for a wide selection of assigned tasks and demonstrating varying educational backgrounds, the further development of the expertise of salaried personnel is bound to be informed by this setting. Furthermore, a significant number of civilian employees serve alongside military personnel, including, for instance, civilian substance matter specialists or officer specialists recruited on the basis of their key expertise beneficial for the organisation deemed optimal to be recruited from outside its own ranks. As regards further developing the expertise of these specialists, the emphasis is on enhancing their comprehending concerning the specifics of the FDF’s operational environment and those prevailing under exceptional circumstances. By contrast, developing the expertise of military personnel focuses on developing the type of proficiency necessary for operating in one’s assigned position.

The trainer is pointing on a screen on a cannon

According to the FDF Personnel Strategy, it is the high quality tuition and training that provide the foundation for the expertise of salaried personnel. Within the FDF, apart from implementing a versatile array of tasks, the Finnish Army functions as its most substantial training organisation. As an employer functioning as a trainer, the Finnish Army trains its own personnel, which in turn enables recognising in detail the particular post-graduation assignments that await the students in their prospective assignments. Thus the process of defining and describing the set competence requirements becomes somewhat straightforward in comparison to that witnessed in civilian educational establishments due to the obvious inseparability of work life and training settings.

As part of the planning process for continuing education, the range and selection of continuing education available vis-à-vis the support needs for competence development of the personnel are planned as a process linked to the previous year. This allows for allocating the necessary resources and ensuring that the expertise development requirements, as specified by the leadership of the service branches, will be met. As the service school of the Finnish Army, the Army Academy executes the majority of the continuing education and advanced training provided in the Finnish Army, and also offers high quality officer education. As a matter of fact, while on active duty, each Finnish Army employee ends up developing his or her expertise by undertaking training organised by the Army Academy. In addition, Finnish Army personnel undertake advanced training in other FDF educational establishments and centres of excellence.

Usually a commissioned officer career equals transiting between on-task oriented in-service training and studying on specific courses until retirement from active duty. Typically this involves education and training from six to eight years depending on the targeted educational level, complemented by branch- and task-specific continuing education and advanced training. As regards planning the expertise of other personnel groups, the goal is in increased competence sustained on a rising scale throughout the career. This means that the enlisted non-commissioned officers’ education and training system draws from developing the proficiency required at the given competence level under normal and exceptional circumstances with bespoke studies aligned with task advancement. Highly educated civilian employees and officer specialists are offered a learning path that guarantees the type of comprehension described above concerning the FDF operating specifics under normal and exceptional circumstances.

Even though a significant proportion of in-service competence requirements may be fulfilled by means of basic and continuing education, there is still room for on-task learning and internalising by learning from the example set by others. Since this type of learning tends to take place both ex tempore and as planned, and although both forms of learning are valid as such, it is by planning only that the critical key expertise will be brought about systematically. In the Finnish Army, specifically planned on-task learning allows for acquiring the types of proficiencies that are specific for given administrative units and focus on, for instance, training the operating of a piece of equipment. For this particular purpose, the Finnish Army administrative units have an on-task learning system that covers on-task learning settings both nationally and in an international operating environment. Consequently, when serving in crisis management tasks, the personnel will be able to develop their given on-task proficiencies complemented by honing communication skills in foreign languages, developing readiness concerning the planning and implementing of multinational operations as well as accruing hands-on experiences in functioning in crisis management settings.