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The hunt for skills

| Text: Gunhild Wallin

A central feature of developments is the hunt for skilled personnel. Developments are taking place so fast that it is necessary for people to constantly upgrade their knowledge. For instance, it is estimated that there will be three generations of technology during a graduate engineering course. The various countries are now going in for skills updates.

In Iceland, IT training establishments are full and many IT companies are training their own staff. There is a major lack of manpower and unemployment is almost non-existent. The current challenge is therefore to raise the skills levels of the unemployed.

A 3-year project for those with a low level of education is currently in progress and it is funded with money from unemployment benefit schemes. «Our unemployment benefit fund has a surplus due to our low level of unemployment and we are now conducting a drive to build up the skills of those who have not undergone a vocational education,» says Gissur Pétursson, head of the Iceland Directorate of Labour.

In Finland, 62 projects are in progress under the aegis of the Ministry of Labour, in private companies and in municipalities.

«It’s a matter of developing knowledge about the area surrounding the new technology - although many of us now use PCs just like any other office tool, this isn’t sufficient because the potential of the new technology is not being exploited. Many employees are in reality being denied the opportunity to renew any aspects of their jobs,» says Matti Salmenperä at the Finnish Ministry of Labour.

World's largest Internet College

In Norway, a unique collaboration around skills development was started recently – the Competence Network of Norwegian Business and Industry, NKN. Behind it are several major players in Norwegian trade and industry like the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry, NHO and the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, LO. It will be the world’s largest Internet college and, just over a month after its opening, interest is so great that, until further notice, NKN needs to ask individuals interested in skills development to wait until the new year.

Denmark has had a scheme aimed at disseminating fundamental skills, and on 21 August, Hanne Brus Sørensen was the 50 000th recipient of a PC ‘driving licence’. «The PC ‘driving licence’ is an important building block that will
help to make Denmark a leading IT country. It is an example of lifelong learning,» says Research and Development Minister Birte Weiss when she handed over the PC driving licence.

Within labour market training, for instance, resources have been devoted not only to training in specific IT skills, but also to raise the level of IT skills on the basis of the fundamental training people already have, in order to introduce IT skills into all occupations.

One example is training in the electronics industry that aims to train people to be able to keep themselves updated within this area of technology. A ‘dynamic knowledge bank’ has been created,» relates Tove Deneyer at the National Labour Market Authority.

In Sweden too, many skills enhancing projects are in progress. For instance, in Kista, the Swedish Silicon Valley in Greater Stockholm, which is situated in a suburb with a high density of immigrants and a similar level of unemployment, trials are in progress to interest the inhabitants of the surrounding areas in receiving training in the new technology.

The City of Stockholm is also the first Swedish municipality to introduce a trial skills account, which means that employees can save up towards their skills development costs, with the employer contributing a corresponding amount each month.
There is a lively debate in most of the Nordic countries as to whether the skilled labour force will be sufficient in the future.

Several representatives of the IT industry are very sceptical and contend that the national action plans are not sufficient. Others, like Rolf Jensen, Director of the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies in Denmark, maintain that skills are not the problem.

«The greatest challenge is to get people to be amenable to change,» he says.

The Competence Network

A nationwide Internet-based learning network to "upskill" the Norwegian workforce is established by The Competence Network of Norwegian Business and Industry (NKN), a coalition of the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO).


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