Skills will power Norway’s future prosperity

by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD’s Secretary General

While in Oslo last month, I caught a glimpse of what can be achieved when social partners and governments put skills at the top of their respective agendas. This year’s annual conference of Norway’s leading employer organisation was squarely focused on the “Learning Life” and in her opening address Prime Minister Solberg set the stage. “Oil has given Norway prosperity, but it is knowledge that is Norway’s future,” she said, “Jobs will increasingly be knowledge and skills intensive.” 
The fact that the Prime Minister stayed the entire day, joined by her Ministers and most of Norway’s business elite, underlines how determined the Norwegians are to make this happen. Today, we hope to contribute to achieving this vision with the OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report on Norway
This diagnostic report applies the framework of the OECD Skills Strategy to identify 12 skills challenges for Norway as it seeks to maximise its future skills potential. These skills challenges were distilled from a series of interactive workshops held in the course of 2013 which engaged a wide range of stakeholders including employers’ organisations, trade unions, local and county governments, student associations and education institutions. The report marshals a wide array of OECD evidence, including Norway’s results from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), to shed light on the issues and offers concrete examples of how other countries are tackling similar skills challenges.
One of the key features of our collaboration with Norway over the past year has been the driving role played by the project team whose members are drawn from five ministries – education, labour, finance, industry and trade, local government and modernisation. This reflects the government’s strong commitment to cross-ministerial co-ordination in tackling skills challenges. As Norway’s project moves into the action phase this year we can expect to see innovative and practical ideas for tackling skills challenges emerge from this broad-based partnership across, and beyond, government.
So what are the main skills challenges facing Norway today? 
With regard to developing relevant skills, the report concludes that Norway would do well to focus its efforts on:
1. Ensuring strong foundation skills for all
2. Reducing drop-outs
3. Informing educational choices.
When it comes to activating its skills supply, Norway will need to tackle the challenges of:
4. Enhancing labour-market participation among those receiving disability benefits
5. Encouraging labour market attachment among low-skilled youth
6. Ensuring Norwegians remain active longer
Norway could make more effective use of the skills it has by: 
7. Engaging employers in ensuring a highly skilled workforce
8. Promoting innovation and entrepreneurship
9. Enhancing the use of migrants’ skills
Finally, Norway could improve the enabling conditions underpinning the overall skills system by:
10. Facilitating a whole-of-government approach to skills
11. Ensuring local flexibility and adaptability for nationally designed policies
12. Building partnerships at the local and national level to improve implementation.
In the coming months, we’ll also be releasing OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Reports for Austria and Korea.  It’s an exciting time, as we help map out countries’ skills challenges and work together to address them. 
As we do, we’re taking on board not just government’s perspectives but those of stakeholders. We’re learning from comparative data as well as on-the-ground experience. 
And we’re moving beyond diagnosis to action. 
For more on skills and skills policies around the world, visit:
See also the country pages on skills for Norway, Austria and Korea
Related blog posts on skills:
Skill up or lose out, by Andreas Schleicher
Let’s talk about skills, by Joanne Caddy

Image Source: OECD

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