H.E. Arne Sannes Bjørnstad, Norwegian Ambassador To Serbia:

Entrepreneurship Creates New Jobs For Youth

Norway is supporting Serbian pupils in acquiring entrepreneurial skills, thereby contributing to economic development and reducing the number of pupils that drop out of school. Furthermore, through several projects it is helping to bring practical entrepreneurship skills to the Serbian youth through informal education

Unlike the German approach to dual education, where the country is more likely to educate the right amount of qualified workers for available jobs, in Norway just a fraction of pupils opt for a vocational education, while others pursue higher education.

What makes the Norwegian approach to dual education specific compared to other models?

– In Norway the term dual education is understood slightly differently than in Serbia. The term as it is referred to in countries like Germany means that a company participates in a student’s higher education, but this is not common practice in higher education in Norway.

At the high school level this is much more common – all vocational high school education in Norway requires practical experience; vocational high schools in Norway provide four years of education. The first two years are spent in school, learning the theoretical part, but also taking classes in subjects like Norwegian, English and Maths, in accordance with the curricula. The two last years are spent as a company apprentice. The companies that qualify for these apprenticeships are those that have relevant tasks enabled by the training and curriculum standards set by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.

What percentage of Norwegian school pupils attends schools of this kind?

– Vocational schools represent a small percentage of all education in Norway. There are around 72,000 pupils studying at vocational high schools (in 2015-2016). This accounts for about 40 per cent of all high school pupils. Of the pupils that start vocational high school education, only one in three complete all four years and receive their diplomas. Many pupils will later finish high school, but with general studies, so they can later start higher education.

How does the education system respond to the fast pace of technological change and for which professions are most pupils currently being educated?

– Norway is a small country of five million people, with an unemployment rate that is relatively low on a European scale (4.8%). Vocational education has so far provided the country with suitable amounts of skilled workers. The Norwegian school system is also focused on teaching basic skills in, for example, IT, which seems to be very beneficial for the country in the long run. Most vocational high school pupils choose subjects from either health or technical and electrical studies. Here we can also see a clear, traditional gender division.

How flexible is dual education when it comes to higher levels of specialist studies?

– Dual education probably gets less flexible with the level of your degree. Norway currently doesn’t have a flexible dual education system when it comes to higher education. Still, there have been attempts to focus more on entrepreneurship. This is already a priority in the curricula, and it appears as though that focus will continue to increase. In this area, Norway probably has a lot to learn by looking to the dual education models of other countries.

How do businesses participate in the directing of educational programmes?

– When a pupil is working for a business as an apprentice, the business is responsible for the execution of tasks, but the learning goals of the pupil are set by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. Businesses participate to a very limited degree in the administration of the educational programmes to this date.

When it comes to apprenticeships, the pupils are free to apply for the position themselves. There is some degree of flexibility, but the job description needs to follow the curricula set by the Directorate.

The Norwegian school system is focused on teaching the pupil basic skills, including in IT, which seems to be very beneficial for the country in the long run

How is Norway contributing to the introduction of dual education in Serbia?

– Norway has been involved in several projects related to youth and entrepreneurship in Serbia. Examples of this include a project on the development of entrepreneurship in the curricula for high school pupils. Here the aim was to provide young people with basic skills for entrepreneurship, thereby contributing to economic development and reducing the number of children that drop out of school.

Another example is the Business Innovation Programmes. BIP is a Norwegian organisation that has had several projects with the purpose of introducing practical entrepreneurship skills through informal education to youth aged between 18 and 35 in Serbia. Their aim has been to create a pool of trainers and training methodology, and to provide efficient and practical training in business planning.

Human resources represent the greatest national capital today. How does Norway approach the management of its human resources in this era of globalisation?

– The Directorate for Education and Training has the overall responsibility for supervising nursery schools, education and the governance of the education sector, as well as the implementation of Acts of Parliament and regulations. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV) is responsible for implementing labour market policy. Their objective is to facilitate a match in the labour market between job seekers and vacant positions, and to ensure a comprehensive follow-up of people who need work-orientated assistance to find employment.

How important is HR for state institutions and how important is this issue for Norway’s state administration?

– The HR organisation for state institutions is very important and must be seen as a tool to implement the goals of the particular state institution. It needs to be flexible in order to respond to new challenges and change in the demand for competences.