By Gina Lund, Director General at Vox, Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning
Seven years after the financial crisis, European labour markets are still in a state of flux. Globalisation of the public and private sectors has been ongoing for many years, and will continue. New technologies and structural changes are placing greater skill demands on employees in almost all sectors and jobs.
In Norway, the latest skill barometer from the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) shows that the gap between supply and demand for skilled workers is widening. As a result, many businesses are not able to acquire the competencies needed to meet the continuous need to adapt and transform.
The mismatch between skill supply and demand seems like a paradox, as there has long been some degree of recognition of this issue. Educational authorities as well as professionals are seeking the right answers. We don’t have them yet, but I believe we have some good solutions to parts of the problem. Our challenge is to join forces across public sector and industries, put the pieces together and strive towards a more holistic strategy and collaborative approach.
To contribute to the sharing, I am pleased to present a video demonstrating the value of workplace training in Norway.
Nordic countries perform better than other EU and OECD countries in the PIAAC survey, which measures the population’s basic skills. The Nordic report mentions workplace training as one of the factors that give Nordic countries the edge.
Research suggests that we need new and flexible solutions to meet the ever-changing requirements from employers, and in particular to help equip employees with little formal education to cope with new skill demands. The authorities have the responsibility to make provisions for adults needing the basic skills they are entitled to, while at the same time, employees are responsible for their own learning.
The Basic Competence in Working Life Programme (BCWL) is a grant scheme that funds flexible training for employees with little formal education. The scheme aims to give adults the basic skills needed to cope with the demands and changes of working life. It helps individuals to manage their day-to-day work better, gives businesses a more qualified workforce and benefits society through less exclusion from working life. Around NOK 100 million is allocated each year to work based courses in reading, writing, arithmetic, oral and digital skills. Private and public enterprises can apply for grants.
Surveys show that there is a shortage of candidates with vocational training in the Norwegian labour market. It also confirms that employers prefer to train the employees they already have rather than recruiting new ones. However, employees with a short formal education may have problems in taking vocational training, since many of them have low basic skills. In many businesses, BCWL courses are the first step on the path to a trade certificate. Through BCWL, employees are “prepared” for further training as the curriculum helps to improve their reading, writing, arithmetic, IT and communications skills.
It is vital for individual employees to retain their jobs and wages during training. BCWL gives them skills enabling them to undertake further training in the workplace itself. The scheme meets the employees’ need for flexibility and economic security, and the needs of businesses for continuity among their employees.
Looking to the best
The European Basic Skills Network (EBSN) emphasises the need for governance and cohesion with regard to competence policies for adults with little education. Policies must contribute to structures and coordinate systems so that no adults “fall through the cracks". In Norway, the government will present a White Paper on lifelong learning and exclusion this autumn. This is an example of interdepartmental and cross sector cooperation to ensure cohesion and holistic policies. In this effort, we are looking for best and good practices, and I encourage the EPALE community to present the lessons they have learned and their experiences for the wider adult learning community.