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New ways of recruiting skilled labour

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-Chief

2023 has been designated the European Year of Skills by the EU Commission. Skills are about more than simply having knowledge, it is about having the ability to use them to carry out tasks and solve problems.

That is why skills are important in the face of the green change and all other challenges thrown up by demographic changes and digitalisation. But it is not only employees who need to be skilled. We need skilled recruiters too.  

Because young people are not queuing up to get training. More and more sectors face labour shortages. Recruiters must therefore be both innovative and less biased.

Åland has taken this to heart.

“In all my conversations with tech companies, one issue keeps coming up – the lack of people with different types of digital skills like system developers and coders. Demand far outstrips supply and traditional educational institutions do not train enough people,” says Fredrik Karlström, Åland’s Minister for Industry and Trade. 

He has been one of the drivers behind the grit:lab project, a two-year programme for coders which opened in Åland in late August this year. No former experience is needed, but the aim is for students to learn more than what the teachers know – and actually, there are no teachers. Instead, students will be solving tasks together. Read our story about how this is going.

It is a paradox that the Nordic countries, which often top all kinds of gender equality rankings, have such gender-segregated labour markets. Men dominate technical occupations while women dominate the care sector. Many measures have been launched to get the underrepresented gender to choose differently.

But getting more people of the other gender into jobs does not work as long as the view remains that certain occupations “belong” to a certain gender. A conference hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers together with several Norwegian government ministries and authorities focused on just this issue. 

Among the participants were representatives from Boss Ladies, a Danish organisation where women in the construction and other male-dominated industries visit schools to talk about how it is to work in those sectors. They also advise construction companies that face demands to take on both male and female apprentices. We followed one Boss Lady ambassador to a workplace in Ørestad, where she met men who rarely or never have had female colleagues.

Less gender-segregated workplaces might also lead to more motivated employees and a better work environment. But it does not lead to more people being available to do jobs. Iceland’s tourism industry has recovered quicker than expected after the pandemic. 8 % of jobs are now vacant. The leader of the country’s travel and tourism organisation, Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, despairs that paperwork to hire a person from outside of the EEA can take 36 months.

In Finland, Norwegian recruiters try to tempt Finnish nurses to Norway. Double pay for half the effort is a message that sounds tempting but does not represent a long-term sustainable solution. It is not just enterprises that need new competence. Ragnhild Lied, who heads the Unio trade union confederation, worries that the medium age among trade union activists is too high. In Denmark, trade unions also face competition from the Krifa union, which is founded on Christian ideals and does not believe in strike action as a weapon. It is a cheaper alternative than traditional trade unions and a few years algo Krifa also opened a Norwegian chapter. 

In this edition, we also report from the Council of Nordic Trade Unions’ congress in Oslo, where crises and the climate were top of the agenda. The Nordic trade union confederations coordinate their work in the European Trade Union Congress, but how has the issue of minimum wages impacted on their relationship with trade union movements in other European countries? Will Sweden or Denmark go to the EU Court of Justice to try to nullify the directive on minimum wages? 

This could be difficult for Sweden, which takes on the EU Presidency in the first half of 2023. In Denmark, nothing will happen before the general election on 1 November. The change of government in Sweden on 18 October has already had consequences. The new Minister for Employment, Johan Pehrson (Liberals) has said he wants to “tinker with” the new student support which was introduced on 1 October. This makes it possible for Swedish wage-earners to study while taking home 80 % of their pay. We look at how that support works, and talk to one of the first people to apply for it.


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