The Federation of Icelandic Industries takes part in planning vocational and technical education along with educational authorities and various organisations. The federation has a representative on the board of the educational organisations of industry which have for a number of years organised continuing education for tradesmen and managers.

  • SI own and run with others: the National Center for Construction Education, the Icelandic National Council for Education and Training in the Metal Industry, the Graphic Arts Institute and The Educational Board of the Food and Catering Branches. 
  • Courses for untrained workers. SI have representatives on the board of Starfsafl which is a fund for the educational support of untrained workers in the greater Reykjavik area and on the board of the Occupational Council.
  • SI promote the importance of technical and vocational training in conjunction with, among others, the Society of Technical Colleges.
  • The value of industry, education and jobs is promoted at every level of  the educational system, for example through the idwebsite IDAN.IS.
  • SI have signed an agreement to support a position at the University of Iceland.
  • Occupational work groups and school boards are working towards a better technical and vocational education tailored to the needs of industry.
  • SI is a member of an organisation which purpose is to improve technical and vocational education and science teaching in schools.
  • Education of  foremen and middle managers is our task.

Education – cultivating human resources

The role of the education system is to cultivate people’s knowledge, intelligence and skills and thereby support economic prosperity. A strong education system links up human resource skills to the needs of business at any given time, with the emphasis on effectiveness and efficiency. The level of education of a society has a significant effect on its prosperity.

The Icelandic education system is facing many issues, with many different challenges to be met. It is important for there to be policies on future education in Iceland to enable Iceland’s human resources to match up to the best on offer. In addition, this future vision should only not be based on the new world view up ahead, but also set out the areas in which we wish to carve out our own niche, including education and skills. A high-quality industrial policy is the basis for decisions in this context in both the long and short term.


While Iceland spends the most money relative to GDP on primary education of all OECD countries, performance indicators such as PISA reveal that Icelandic students considerably underperform as compared to their peers in other countries. Achievement in sciences has fallen over the last decade, and the proportion of students unable to read for their own benefit has risen considerably. Drop-out rates from secondary education are among the highest in the OECD, and fewer Icelandic secondary-school students opt for vocational and professional training than their peers in other OECD countries. Research shows that the study choices made by Icelandic students are often not in line with their interests, meaning that they end up following or are directed to the wrong study path. Investment in university education is low in comparison to other countries, despite the fact that the demand for university studies has increased considerably over recent decades. It is, however, a fact that more money is no guarantee of more success. 

A skills mismatch has emerged in Iceland. On the one hand, there is a shortage of workers with vocational education. On the other, there is a shortage of people with scientific and technological qualifications to meet the needs of business in the 21st century. This impairs competitiveness of the human capital in comparison to other countries. Effective reforms are needed in the Icelandic education system to counter this crisis.

Future vision

The year is 2050. Differences in prosperity between countries stem from the different skills of their human resources, innovation, technology, craft and ingenuity. Technology has taken over jobs which are highly repetitive and are performed in a predictable and organised environment. However, many sectors based on craft and ingenuity continue to play an important role in the economy, despite the fact that skill requirements have developed. The innovation society has taken shape, but trades are still on a firm footing. The education system has developed to effectively and efficiently link up human-resource skills to the needs of the economy. Efforts are based on skills forecasts, employment policy and targeted development activities. The education system cultivates people’s knowledge, intelligence and skills, thereby promoting economic prosperity and quality of life.

Primary education focuses on analytical thinking, creativity, technology and methodology, in line with the skills characteristics of the jobs of the future. Innovative educational technology has taken over from traditional pedagogical techniques, with a concomitant increase in productivity and efficiency. Considerable efforts are made to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the fourth industrial revolution, while building on the strengths of Icelandic society relating to the country’s small size and level of flexibility.

Personalized studies, which capitalize on each person’s strengths and values is now a central feature of the Icelandic education system. In this way, the education system guides students on the right path in their secondary and university education and works with the skills of individuals. The system also offers numerous avenues and opportunities for foreign workers and students. Special focus is on re-education and training, career development, skills assessment and adult education, in step with rising life expectancy.

Possible improvements

The following three factors are essential to developing a future vision:

  1. An extensive consultation forum for industry, schools and authorities on future education policy.
  2. Targeted policy-making, perseverance and long-term vision across political party lines.
  3. Research on the characteristics of the Icelandic education system and gathering of improved data with international comparison in mind.

Objective 1

Getting more people with vocational training onto the labour market

  • 20% of primary-school students to opt for vocational education by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
  • Address the systemic problems of vocational training as regards study progress, graduation and post-study opportunities.
  • Take targeted action to bolster the image of study and jobs linked to vocational training, including combating prejudice and image issues, and raise awareness of the importance of vocational training.
  • Combat the gender stereotypes surrounding work in vocational training.
  • Support rural areas by making study opportunities available locally, e.g. by raising the number of traineeships in the workplace, increasing funding and improving flexibility.
  • Give greater weight to arts and crafts subjects in primary schools by reviewing the reference timetables for arts and crafts at that level.
  • Ensure schools are following current criteria on arts and crafts in primary education at all times.
  • Provide more focus on job and study presentations and make efforts to ensure that such presentations reflect both vocational training and academic study.
  • Target efforts to come up with proposals for ways to reorganise study at the secondary-school level to ensure continuity between primary school and secondary school.This will better enable people to choose studies and jobs. Social factors, place of residence and employment experience will have less of an effect than now.A greater focus on a common educational background is useful for both vocational training and academic study.

Objective 2

Promoting innovation-driven economy for the future

  • Proportion of university students graduating in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to be 25% by 2025.
  • Put greater focus on the skills of the future in the education system.
  • Bolster and encourage innovation and innovative educational technology at all levels of education.
  • Put greater focus on programming and science and technology subjects from the youngest levels of primary education.

Objective 3

Improving educational resources for those working in the labour market today

  • Increase the offer of skills assessment in Icelandic and foreign languages.
  • Improve resources for foreign workers, develop targeted skills assessment and lay the foundations for distance academic study.
  • Review the regulatory framework for adult education and training to enable more employers to offer retraining and bring more leeway and flexibility to the system.
  • Introduce study at vocational universities in co-operation with secondary schools and universities.
  • Develop and introduce skills assessment at the university level.

Objective 4

Greater support for teachers’ working environment, teaching methods and teacher training

  • Review teacher training with a view to shortening the length of the study to three years, plus one year of paid on-the-job training.
  • Put greater focus on internal and external quality assessment in school activities.
  • Define new criteria for teacher training in science and technology subjects.
  • Review teacher qualification training for those teaching arts and crafts subjects part-time and those teaching trades in vocational training, with the aim of increasing the number of teachers with professional expertise in these jobs.

Objective 5

Improving dialogue between business and schools on necessary systemic changes and targeted decision-making

  • Clamp down on drop-out rates in secondary schools, by means of analysis and measures at the primary-school level and close co-operation with business on presenting study and work opportunities.
  • Review the role and powers of occupational boards and set up a solid consultation forum for business and schools with a clear purview.
  • Ensure work conducted on skills forecasts and needs in the labour market follows a formal procedure for the country as a whole and individual regions.
  • Put forth effort to effectively introduce a skills framework for Icelandic education, with the focus on skills criteria for jobs.
  • Gather more information on the Icelandic education system, with a view to international comparison.