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As the coronavirus pandemic shakes the world, questions of future competence needs have become increasingly urgent. Image: Shutterstock

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Skills gap analysis for the future

Authors: Torhild Slåtto Published:

As the coronavirus pandemic shakes the world, questions of future competence needs have become increasingly urgent. Image: Shutterstock

Global pandemics, technological development, climate change, migration and aging populations all affect the types of skills that are needed in societies. The Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs was founded to better predict and prepare for these changes.

In the future, Norway will need more health workers to care for the sick and old, more carpenters and construction workers, more nurses and more ICT developers. These are the key conclusions from the latest report by the Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs, which was released in early 2020.

There are various reasons behind the skills shortage in these specific areas: first of all, these professions are in high demand but at low educational capacity. Lack of student interest, high dropout rates, popular part-time work practices and other industry-specific challenges are also contributing to the situation.

These are exactly the kind of challenges that the Committee on Skills Needs aims to tackle. It was established in 2017 by the Norwegian government to provide the best possible evidence-based assessment of the skills and competences needed in the future.

In 2020, the government decided to extend the committee’s work to dig more deeply into the conditions that affect competence development and needs.

A new task for the committee is to consider more specifically the role of education as part of the government’s skills reform. The goal of the reform is to promote lifelong learning and to provide workers with updated skills.

Societies need restructuring capacity

As the coronavirus pandemic shakes the world, questions of future competence needs have become increasingly urgent. These challenges are not unique to Norway but apply to countries around the globe.

“In a crisis, it is even more important to maintain and develop the competence of the population. It is wise to use this crisis to better equip people for working life after the coronavirus pandemic is over. At the same time, it is necessary for Norway to undergo long-term restructuring, regardless of the current crisis,” said Minister of Research and Higher Education Henrik Asheim when presenting the skills reform proposals to Parliament.

So, what are the skills and competences needed when faced with urgent changes?

Liv Sannes is a member of the Committee on Skills Needs and a representative of the National Workers Union. She says that, first and foremost, societies worldwide need good restructuring capacity.

“We know from research that people with poor competence often lose their jobs during a crisis and have trouble getting back in when the labour market improves, so it is important for the entire population to have solid basic skills. A completed upper secondary education is also important.”

Tormod Skjerve, another committee member and representative of Norway’s Employer’s Federation, highlights the importance of interactive skills and strong co-operation models.

“This means that representatives from the authorities, the business community and NGOs sit around the same table and use their expertise to find and implement actions together. This helps people feel involved and take responsibility for maintaining jobs and society as a whole.”

Change brings new challenges to tackle

Even outside global pandemics, the word is being affected by major and unexpected changes.

In future, many of us will have to change jobs and maybe even professions during our careers. The need to replenish competence while working is increasing, and the new skills needed are being strongly influenced by megatrends such as technological development, climate change, migration and an aging population.

Tormod Skjerve believes that, in the future, climate and environmental challenges will determine the framework for all learning and work.

“Physical climate change such as wind, weather and water, as well laws and regulations related to climate change mean that companies must understand how this will affect all business development in the future.”

In Norway’s case, Skjerve sees creating a stronger connection between skills policy and other policy areas as the key task for the future. “The government and politicians are launching many objectives on digitalisation, climate and the environment, integration and inclusion, but are not saying anything about the skills we need to achieve these objectives.”

Liv Sannes adds that ethical competence and critical thinking are also crucial skills for the future.

“Technological opportunities and increasing information resources can confront us with new dilemmas. Migration is helping to make the population more heterogeneous, which is important to consider in education and skills development programmes.”

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Torhild Slåtto is a Norwegian journalist, sociologist and former CEO of Fleksibel utdanning Norge (Flexible Education Norway). Show all articles by Torhild Slåtto
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