Banana republic is country whose economy is largely dependent on the export of a single, limited-resource product. Finland is a banana republic.

There are two significant natural resources in Finland: wood and engineers.  Due to the decline in the demand of many types of paper, the importance of wood has dropped. Thus, the role of cheap engineers is increasing.

Abundant cheap product

Finland has the highest number of engineer workers per capita in Europe and the highest number of researchers per capita in the labor force of all the OECD countries. As good engineering is always in short supply, when new products and services are developed, Finland has a potential pool of core raw-material of technology based industries.

I have been recently starting branch offices of a Finnish IT infrastructure start-up in other Nordic countries. The difference in the salary level of engineers has been surprisingly high.

The monthly cost of Finnish engineers is 30-40 percent lower than in Sweden and in Denmark.

Of course, a foreign entrant has to pay more than established local companies, but the difference is still surprisingly big.

Are the products good enough?

Even though in the Northern European context, the price and supply of Finnish engineers is good, the global supply of engineers is high and the cost of many types of engineers is still clearly lower in India and in Far East. There are plenty of Indlish speaking products capable to conduct routine tasks with a cost level unreachable in Finland.

Thus, the value of the main Finnish natural resource is dependent on the quality of it. Our engineers need to be better than their Indian or Chinese colleagues. As the general intelligence level in Finland is not significantly higher than in the Indian population generating engineers and is lower than in China, it cannot be the main source of higher quality.

Be more flexible or closer to the customer

If we cannot be smarter than our competitors, we have to be faster than them, have better understanding on the situation we are coping with, or have better customer relationship.

It usually demands flexibility and capability to react to changes in needs to be able to be faster than competitors.  It usually helps that you understand the environment and culture, from which the need emerges to be able to understand better the situation. It usually helps that you and the customer speak about the same language and share same worldviews to be able to have a good customer relationship.

The previous paragraph gives a good guideline, what is needed in engineering education in Finland besides teaching the basic skills: capability to understand and react to the needs of users, decent English skills, and increasingly practical living experience in the cultures of the main markets.