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Norway is making ongoing local and national efforts to respond to the changes in society that result from digitalisation and Industry 4.0.

Globalisation, climate change, an ageing population, expected lower demand in the petroleum sector and technological development are changing the Norwegian industry. New materials are being used, and processes are being changed, automated and digitalised.

Norway has adopted a national policy dedicated to meeting the challenges of the fourth industrial/information age. Report No 27 to the Storting (2016-17) A greener, smarter and more innovative industry [1] describes Norway’s policy on addressing the opportunities and challenges Norwegian industry faces due to globalisation, climate challenges, the ageing population, lower expected long-term demand in the petroleum industry combined with technological developments that are changing Norwegian industry.

The white paper describes a reorganisation within a sustainable framework and the importance of access to capital. Other important elements include access to competence, research, innovation, and technological development.

This article is a chapter in the report “Vocational education and training for the future of work: Norway”. The chapter will look at the part of this white paper that deals with competence related policy measures.

Norway has also adopted a digitalisation strategy intended to meet the need for more specialised and better general ICT skills in Norwegian society. On the one hand, society needs more ICT specialists and more people with multidisciplinary ICT skills. On the other hand, everybody needs general digital skills to enable us to use the services that have been developed, carry out work using ICT, make secure choices in our digital everyday lives and protect our privacy.

The labour market is dependent on the education system providing employees who are up-to-date and who have the necessary skills to practice their vocations.

The strategy is intersectoral and addresses different focus areas with a view to improving digital competence among the population. VET plays a major role in the digitalisation strategy.

Panoramic forest scenery with green branches shaping a natural archway

The white paper ‘A greener, smarter and more innovative industry’

A work force with good competence and skills will become even more essential to future value creation. Norway must have access to skilled labour in addition to continuously maintaining and developing employees’ competence. The Government will facilitate continuous innovation in education, research and industry and proposes a number of measures [1].

Continuous innovation in education

  1. the work on ensuring basic skills for all continues. Natural sciences and technical subjects are particularly prioritised, and emphasis is placed on lifelong learning;
  2. the Government has recently issued a white paper on quality in higher education [2]
  3. a number of measures have been implemented to make tertiary vocational education more attractive, increase the number of students and academic communities, and make the sector more visible and its graduates more in demand in the labour market [3]
  4. an Official Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs has been established to analyse and present future competence needs
  5. ICT strategy has been launched for basic education
  6. a total of 146 schools are taking part in a pilot project with programming as an elective subject at lower secondary level up until the academic year 2018/19
  7. a trade certificate at work scheme has been established in cooperation with the social partners
  8. the requirement on the use of apprentices in public contracts will be followed up. This will help to increase recruitment to VET and develop competence for skilled workers and businesses;
  9. the Government has granted funding to a pilot project and supports the realisation of DigitalNorway/Toppindustrisenteret, which deals with the digitalisation of Norwegian business and industry
  10. the current cluster policy to promote reorganisation in the business sector will be developed. The cluster programme is funded by the Government and is intended to create value through sustainable innovation
  11. the Government has appointed a group, Digital21, which has launched a new strategy for the digitalisation of business and industry. The strategy recommends 64 measures divided into five different areas
  12. the Government is establishing a forum for cooperation between the authorities, industry executives, knowledge communities and social partners, inspired in part by the German Industry 4.0 initiative. The purpose of the forum is to discuss challenges with a view to achieving greater digitalisation in industry, developing a common understanding of the roles and duties of different actors, and receiving input on further policy development.
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The digitalisation strategy for basic education 2017-21

Most Norwegian pupils have good digital skills. At the same time, almost a quarter of Norwegian pupils in year nine have such poor digital skills that they will encounter problems at school and in the workplace. Although Norwegian pupils are major consumers of digital content, there are many important skills they do not learn through recreational use. There are challenges in the areas of digital judgement and security, and in subject-specific skills that require them to use ICT. The pupils also need knowledge and an understanding of the challenges that digital consumption on this scale creates – such as addiction, perceived pressure via social media and digital bullying. There is also reason to believe that Norwegian schools do not adequately equalise social differences, and that new digital dividing lines are being drawn up. Research shows that there are disparities, some of them great, between pupils’ digital skills in Norwegian classrooms. Many pupils state that they have never used a computer in teaching activities, and many only use ICT a few times a week. There are therefore grounds to conclude that too many pupils do not receive the training they need with respect to using ICT, to achieve the purpose of their education.

To address these challenges, the Norwegian Government launched in June 2017 future, innovation and digitalisation – a digitalisation strategy for basic education [Norwegian language: Framtid, fornyelse og digitalisering – Digitaliseringsstrategi for grunnopplæringen[4] The strategy intends to meet the need for more specialised and better general IT skills in Norwegian society. It sets out four key areas for initiating measures:

  1. The pupils’ learning and the content of schooling
  2. Competence
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Vocational education and training.

Vocational education and training is an important aspect of the digitalisation strategy, and digitalisation of the labour market affects several of the subject areas. Automation and robotisation, for example, will mean that skilled workers’ competence must be adapted to new tasks and content in their everyday work, such as controlling, monitoring or remote controlling processes that are predominantly manual today. The green shift and technological development will create entirely new business areas for building, electronics, industry, and transport and will also mean that the content of existing subjects will change.

A firm grasp of ICT will become more and more important for skilled workers in these areas. Skilled workers must familiarise themselves with and use different forms of digital tools for planning, organisation, coordination, communication, management, and reporting.

Digitalisation encompasses all industries and nearly all subjects. It can be challenging for the education system to keep up with developments in the various industries. To do this, the education authorities must have a close and well-functioning collaboration with the professional field. The strategy therefore emphasises that updating the content of VET must take place in close cooperation with the vocational councils and social partners, since these are aware of the labour market’s competence needs and are more in touch with developments in the industry. The strategy also states that the education authorities must work systematically to obtain knowledge about labour market needs and recommends that a survey of skilled workers be conducted to provide better knowledge about how VET matches the labour market’s needs.

Technological and digital competence is key to succeeding in a great many trades. The same is true of having access to up-to-date, technological, and digital equipment. The public sector will not independently manage to have the most upto-date equipment and technology, nor be constantly informed about the newest forms of organisation and production. A good cooperation between schools and local businesses is thereby necessary to keep abreast of the development in many trades and industries. Changes in the labour market will play a role in which trade and journeyman’s certificates are sought after and which become less relevant. The changes that are set in motion are continuous, and arenas in which the education authorities and labour market can discuss the challenges this creates are a necessity. The strategy therefore encourages the use of established cooperation forums and bodies such as the National Council for Vocational Education and Training and the vocational councils to discuss how the education system can address the changes that follow from new technology.

Particularly good opportunities exist for developing digital learning resources for VET that simulate real situations in the various vocational practices. In this way, the learning resources can help to increase learning and knowledge of more trades and vocations than the schools and teachers have the resources for. ICT can be a valuable tool for documenting and logging the parts of the training that take place in an enterprise. In the labour market, ICT is well established as a documentation tool in many trades, and the strategy asks schools to consider the possibility of developing the solutions and technology already in use outside education.

VET also requires a different and more robust infrastructure that can incorporate such learning resources and enable digital cooperation with business and industry. There is a general need to raise awareness of technical use of ICT in education.

The competence of vocational teachers is a key aspect of the quality of VET. The strategy therefore emphasises that Norway must have vocational teacher education programmes that offer up-to-date and relevant competence, and that provide good and relevant opportunities for further education.

Many of the measures included in the vocational teacher promotion initiative will therefore also be important tools in a strategy for digitalisation in basic education. There is also a wish to strengthen workplace incentives for participating in vocational teachers’ skills development. It will be an advantage for the labour market if the teachers who will be teaching the apprentices and employees of the future are as up to date as possible about new technology, new production methods and other innovations in the subjects. These are skills that traditional providers of continuing and further education do not necessarily have, and that are best provided by the industries and enterprises. In 2017, 18 competence-raising pilots for vocational teachers were implemented based on the vocational teacher promotion initiative. Five university and university college institutions are participating in a pilot project of combined continuing and further education for vocational teachers that teach programme subjects in the vocational programmes.

The pilot project is being conducted in close cooperation with the school owners. There is a total of 18 courses broken down into three thematic areas:

  1. teaching methods and vocational didactics
  2. pupil-related skills
  3. vocational skills – broad and in-depth

Some of these were particularly aimed at giving the vocational teachers skills in ICT, e-learning, and the use of new technology. The results of these pilot projects will be followed up, and consideration will be given to how the experience gained can best be continued and disseminated to facilitate more cooperation on continuing education with the labour market.

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Measures that will be implemented in the strategy period (2017-21)

  1. development of new and more relevant continued and further education programmes for vocational teachers
  2. continuation of professional development opportunities aimed at updating vocational teachers on new technology through the placement scheme and courses organised by the industry
  3. work to ensure that VET is developed in close cooperation with school owners to meet the school’s need for teaching competence
  4. continue the pilot scheme with specialist teachers in VET. The specialist teacher scheme is designed to ensure that capable teachers encounter good professional development opportunities and thereby wish to continue in the teaching profession
  5. contribute to recruiting and qualifying more vocational teachers through education and recruitment grants
  6. develop a skilled worker survey that will contribute more knowledge on the extent to which VET is able to meet labour market needs
  7. in cooperation with the professional field, ensure that VET is further developed to address the changes that follow from new technology.


[1] Report No 27 to the Storting (2016-17) A greener, smarter and more innovative industry

[2] Report No 16 to the Storting (2016-17) Quality culture in higher education

[3] Report No 9 to the Storting (2016-17) Skilled workers for the future – Vocational college education

[4] Framtid, fornyelse og digitalisering – Digitaliseringsstrategi for grunnopplæringen 2017-21

*Haukås, M. (2020). Vocational education and training for the future of work: Norway. Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspectives series. http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2020/vocational_education_training_futur e_work_Norway_Cedefop_ReferNet.pdf

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Margareth Haukås
Margareth Haukås

Advisor at DIKU, Norway

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