The results of the most recent PISA survey were published on Tuesday. This particular survey was particularly focused on the mathematical skills of young people. The results for Finland continue the downward trend of recent years, this time dropping more dramatically than ever before. The declining skills of pupils are a global phenomenon.

Finnish lower secondary school pupils still do rather well in the international ranking of the PISA survey. Even though, on average, the skills of Finnish pupils are still ranked higher than other OECD countries, we cannot ignore the accelerating degradation that has taken place during and after the COVID pandemic. The decline has been particularly steep in mathematics. Good news is that, according to the survey, Finnish youths are the least likely to experience anxiety towards mathematics; maths lessons or assignments are not seen as a source of fear or nervousness.

The PISA results are an interesting topic as the pupils participating in the study will soon have some decisions to make about their future and careers. They face the challenge on choosing whether to attend upper secondary school or vocational school, whether to choose the advanced or intermediate mathematics syllabus and whether to train as a process operator or a baker-confectioner, for example.

The forest industry will also need skilled, young talent in the future. It is already difficult to find competent workforce, especially for positions requiring education and training in technology, which is no wonder as most of the job descriptions in the forest industry have something to do with technology. Among those working for the forest industry, about 60% have a degree or a qualification in technology.

Among those working for the forest industry, about 60% have a degree or a qualification in technology.

The forest industry finds it important to raise young people's awareness of the opportunities offered by the STEM fields by providing information through various channels. One significant channel is the Forest of Opportunities, a school campaign currently on its 11th run, aimed at introducing lower secondary school pupils to the forest industry. We should also set up more activities outside the school hours, such as science and maths clubs, to inspire youths to take on STEM subjects. The Action Plan for the Finnish National STEM Strategy, partnered by the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, also calls for STEM-based hobbies and activities outside of school.

Scientific and mathematical skills are useful in various forest industry positions, such as the development of production processes and innovation and implementing new technology. STEM skills are needed in jobs of all levels, from manual labour to knowledge work. The green transition, which is currently transforming the industry in many ways, also requires STEM skills and the practical application of knowledge learned at school.

The interest of pupils  in studying STEM subjects depends not only on the ways they are taught at school but also on how meaningful and valuable the subjects are found in general. A young person's passion for maths can stem from noticing how mathematics and science help understand everyday phenomena and solve problems. STEM subjects should not be approached as something incredibly difficult and challenging but rather as subjects that provide excellent skills and resources for existing as part of this changing world.