Looking to global hands for continued growth

The Norwegian economy has never been in better shape. While this is obviously good news, it’s also a problem: Norwegian companies don’t have enough qualified personnel to handle high-tech applications and advanced Norwegian technology in order to keep pace with market growth. Therefore, Norwegian businesses are eager to recruit skilled labour from all around the world.

For foreign employees there are good opportunities for challenging and interesting jobs in areas like oil and gas, the maritime sector, the health professions, research environments with the need for scientific competence, the high-technology industry, and building and construction. Norwegian companies have not been able to fully take advantage of the market possibilities because they have been lacking the needed competence.


Norway-based Rolls-Royce Marine’s products have practically become industry standards for offshore, merchant, fishing and naval applications. However, finding enough skilled people to work for the company is still a challenge.
Maritime Industry Needs Labour
The maritime industry is a good example of this. All companies in the Norwegian maritime cluster have a common interest in investing in human capital. While these have been heady times for Norwegian shipping – and for the Norwegian economy as a whole – this also means intense competition in order to recruit the best people. British-owned Rolls Rolls-Royce Marine is located in one of the most dynamic maritime clusters in the world, the Møre cluster in the northwestern corner of Norway. Møre is unique because of the extraordinary short distances between ideas and implementation. However, despite a flourishing and attractive environment, record-high turnover creates problems to recruit enough skilled people.
Rolls-Royce Marine director of research and technology, Rune Garen, is very familiar with this issue. “We have to involve ourselves in the proper mechanisms to recruit the human capital needed for advanced shipping applications. It is unfortunate when we have to turn down business because we don’t have enough competent people,” Garen says. Even with the focus on maritime training and education, the Norwegian shipping industry cannot depend solely on domestic competence in order to handle all of the challenges from an increasingly technologically advanced industry.
Tor Espedal is the vice president of the Norwegian division of Subsea 7, one of the world’s leading subsea engineering and construction contractors. Together with the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, Odfjell Drilling and Acergy, the company wishes to recruit 50–60 Russian engineers annually to several shipowners and offshore companies. “We don’t have enough engineers, and Russia has a good reputation when it comes to educating students in mathematics and science,” he says.
Norwegian ships also depend on international experts to operate ships, and the Philippines, Russia, China and the Baltic countries are vital in providing the professionals needed. Since 1999, 1,200 Chinese sailors have been recruited and educated through the China Coordination Council for Overseas Seamen Employment. And the Philippines is the biggest supplier of sailors to Norwegian ships, with recruitment stemming from the Norwegian Training Centre – Manila.
© Øyvind Hagen/Statoil
Norwegian petroleum giant Statoil understands the importance of recruiting the best talents, regardless of geographic location. The engineer shown here working at Statoil’s Girassol field off the coast of Angola contributes strongly to production growth.
© Statoil
In Indonesia, these highly skilled engineers worked for what was once the world’s largest LNG facility. Now they are providing their competence to Statoil’s Snøhvit field.
Statoil a Preferred Employer
In recent years, the labour market for oil and gas engineers has become increasingly challenging due to the strength of the Norwegian and international economies. However, Statoil is already a preferred employer for gifted young engineers and scientists in Norway and is able to recruit top staff due to its development of revolutionary offshore technology. “Statoil is a high-tech company with very exciting challenges, securing a steady flow of recruits,” says Per Einar Weiseth, Statoil’s human resources manager for research and business development. “At Melkøya in Finnmark (from the Snøhvit field), we are leading the field in the development of liquid natural gas handling in Arctic areas. We are also developing very exciting technology for the handling and transportation of CO2. Furthermore, our subsea technology is very interesting for prospective engineers.”
Statoil has also learned that it must be flexible when recruiting needed international competence. An example of this is the 11 Indonesian specialists that have been recruited to help on the Snøhvit project; they are allowed to travel home on a regular basis. “Those who are working shifts work four-week shifts before they can spen d two weeks at home in Indonesia,” says manager of public affairs on the Snøhvit project, Sverre Kojedal. “If they are working regular daytime shifts, they are entitled to go home six times per year.” “The attraction with these specialists is operational experience, and they are providing start-up support to our facility,” Kojedal says, adding that the specialists have been recruited from the Indonesian company PT Badak. Previously Indonesia had the world’s largest LNG production facility, producing 20 million tonnes of LNG annually. The Snøhvit project will generate 4.2 million tonnes of LNG every year.
Conditions can be very cold and hostile at 70 degrees north latitude, so Statoil is supplying warm clothes for the guests, who are used to much warmer temperatures. Nevertheless, the Indonesians are pleased about working at Snøhvit, the world’s northernmost LNG facility. “The design on this facility is very compact compared to the LNG facilities we are used to, but the goal is the same – to produce LNG,” says Aslam Salimudin.
International Help to Prevent Overheating
The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) is the main representative body for Norwegian employers, and has a current membership of over 17,000 companies. Although it is happy about the economic development in Norway, there are challenges – including an expanding public sector spending more money than the NHO thinks is healthy for the Norwegian economy.
According to NHO chief economist Tor Steig, the Norwegian economy is in danger of overheating, and greater mobility in the workforce through the recruitment of skilled labour from abroad is one way NHO wants to counter this development. Norway needs excellent international candidates in order to maintain and improve Norwegian competitiveness. “Our labour market is tighter than ever before – unemployment has not been so low in 20 years, and the number of vacant positions is increasing rapidly,” says Steig, explaining that the public sector is less adaptable than the private sector in handling the demand for labour immigration, and if Norway is not able to recruit enough highly skilled foreigners, economic growth could stagnate. “One in three companies states that the shortage of labour contributes to limiting their production or activities in their enterprise. Within the petroleum technology and offshore- related industries, approximately half of the enterprises experience capacity problems.”
In companies associated with ICT, and building and construction, the situation is bleaker. “Two-thirds of these businesses have vacant positions because of recruiting problems,” says Steig. The views of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) correspond with those of the NHO. In its Economic Survey of Norway, 2007, the OECD expresses the desire for increased private research to further ensure flexibility in the public sector. “More public money will not achieve much in the absence of a greater innovation culture; in particular, businesses do need to perceive opportunities in boosting innovation. Several steps could improve the situation. The public research sector has long had a mission in knowledge transfers, but private-public research links should be strengthened further,” the report states. Norway is listed as a prime beneficiary of globalization, as the country has provided energy and other natural commodities while getting products from low-cost countries in return.
© Øyvind Hagen/Statoil
Statoil is a preferred employer for gifted young engineers and scientists in Norway and is able to recruit top staff due to its development of revolutionary offshore technology. Still, the company (and other Norwegian oil and gas companies) needs to also look outside of Norway’s borders in order to attract the required technical competence.
3 % of GNP to R&D
The signals from the OECD are very welcome at the Research Council of Norway. The Norwegian government has adopted the “Barcelona Goal”, which aims at allocating three percent of the Norwegian GNP to R&D by 2010. While recognizing that phenomenal economic growth is mainly based on the utilization of hydraulic power, oil and gas, and seafood, the council also would like to recruit scientists in new areas. Nina Therese Maubach works with international recruitment at the Research Council.
“We are looking into the possibilities of exploiting new, potentially huge natural resources in areas like bioprospecting and thorium,” says Maubach. Bioprospecting is the search for valuable, biological active compounds from organisms which can be used in advanced medicines. Thorium, meanwhile, compared to radium, could be a more environment friendly, alternative nuclear fuel producing emission-free energy. “To do research in these areas, we need scientists with advanced competence in science and technology. Like most postindustrial countries, Norway experiences problems in recruiting candidates choosing to emphasize on mathematics, natural sciences and technology,” she says.
“To do this, we need a make a formidable recruiting effort in a competitive international market,” Maubach says. “Many large nations have aggressive strategies for ‘brain gain’, and we want to compete with countries like the United States, Great Britain and France to recruit the best and the brightest.” There are a number of arguments for highly-skilled scientists to consider Norway. Annually the Research Council spends more than 555 million Euro funding research and development of new technology, making a creative environment in which scientists can thrive. “We have a lot of companies in need of vital competence. In the petroleum industry, the scientists are mostly from abroad,” says Maubach, explaining that Norwegian companies and universities in the 1990s did not have a good enough strategy to educate their own scientists. “Aquaculture, resource and environment technologies, ICT and space research are also areas where we are dependent on more academic intellect from around the world,” says Maubach. Although Norway is not known primarily as a space nation, it has competitive companies that deliver vital know-how and parts for the industry.
Not Reaching Full Potential
The Federation of Norwegian Industries organizes 2,000 member companies with approximately 110,000 employees. “Norway’s industry is Norway’s future, and we shall contribute to renewed industrial growth in Norway,” says managing director Stein Lier-Hansen. For the federation it is vital to improve Norway’s competitiveness and to recruit a skilled workforce, wherever in the world it might be. Therefore it also provided funding for the Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research to conduct a survey about the use of foreign skilled labour in Norwegian industry.
According to the report “Hunting for Expertise”, the amount of foreign workers among the members of the Federation of Norwegian Industries is about eight percent. This figure does not include a great number of subcontractors gaining access to the Norwegian market because of the free flow of capital and labour in the European Economic Area. But eight percent is not enough to cover the needs of the industry. “If the companies had free access to the correct competence, there would be a 15 percent rate of foreign skilled labour in these companies within a few months,” says Åsmund Arup Seip, the researcher in charge of the survey.
Arup Seip also believes that Norway would benefit greatly from a more effective and smooth labour immigration process, along with easier rules to acquire necessary work and residence permits. “Immigration policies should facilitate the recruitment of a foreign work force and ensure a cultural and knowledge-based exchange,” the researcher says. Although Norway, unlike Canada for example, does not have special regulations for work immigration, getting work permits should not be a huge problem because the quotas have not been filled. “Today’s laws and regulations do not hinder the employment of, for instance, health personnel or engineers from abroad. Both nurses and engineers from outside Europe could be hired if they have the needed competence and language skills,” says Arup Seip. In this situation, Norwegian authorities and companies have not done a good enough job in informing about the opportunities in Norway. “When the companies are not hiring more, some of them have blamed the regulations because they think they hinder the necessary recruitment,” he says.

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