Thursday, September 04, 2014

Act now to boost Norway’s skills

by Andreas Schleicher
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills 

When Norway makes the front page, the focus is usually on the country’s vast natural resources which have generated the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In today’s economic climate, this is definitely good news.

Yet if you look beyond the headlines there is little room for complacency. Norway faces slowing productivity growth in the mainland economy, high labour costs and modest levels of entrepreneurship and innovation.

How can these challenges be tackled? In the words of Prime Minister Solberg, “Skills are the cure”. Skills are central to ensuring Norway’s future competitiveness as well as the health, wealth and well-being of its people. The economic value of Norway’s skills could be over ten times the value of its natural resources, and while the latter are finite and declining the former are infinite. The difficulty is that skills and oil don't usually mix very well. Most of the world’s oil-rich countries could do a lot better to develop and use the skills of their people. Concerted efforts are therefore needed to connect skills with jobs, productivity, prosperity and social cohesion.

The OECD Skills Strategy Action Report: Norway, published today, identifies five key actions to strengthen Norway’s skills system. They are supported by detailed suggestions on how both government and stakeholders in Norway can deliver on these actions, and are illustrated with examples drawn from other countries’ experience. The report also includes a set of concrete proposals that were developed by stakeholders during an interactive design workshop held in Oslo this spring.

So what are the five key actions for Norway?

1. Set up a “Skills Strategy for Norway” incorporating a whole-of-government approach.
2. Establish an action plan for continuous education and training.
3. Strengthen the link between skills development and economic growth.
4. Build a comprehensive career guidance system.
5. Strengthen incentives for people to move into shortage occupations.

Taken together, these five key actions constitute a strong and coherent platform for new policy development, and better implementation of existing skills policies in Norway.

The OECD Skills Strategy Action Report: Norway reflects the many valuable contributions received from a wide range of ministries, agencies and over 60 non-governmental actors in the course of 2013-2014, as part of a collaborative project between the OECD and Norway. It builds upon the extensive analysis and findings of the OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Norway, published in February 2014, and applies the OECD Skills Strategy three-pillar framework of developing relevant skills, activating skills supply and putting skills to effective use.

Maximising Norway’s skills potential is everyone’s business. Achieving this will require a shared commitment and concerted action across ministries, counties, local governments and social partners. This report will have served its purpose as a catalyst, if it inspires action in the schools, universities and workplaces where people’s skills are developed, activated and put to use. Moreover it comes as a timely reminder that the actions Norway takes today will drive innovation, productivity and prosperity in the future, while ensuring that no-one is left behind.

So when you next spot Norway in the news, take a closer look.

Norwegian skills, rather than oil, might be making the headlines.

OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Norway
OECD Skills Strategy
Survey of Adult Skills
For more on skills and skills policies around the world, visit:
See also the country page on skills for Norway
Related blog posts on skills:
Skills will power Norway’s future prosperity, by Andreas Schleicher
Skill up or lose out, by Andreas Schleicher
Let’s talk about skills, by Joanne Caddy
Photo credit: Norway High Resolution Talent Concept  / @Shutterstock

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