Chapter 3. Apprenticeships in a hyper-rural setting in Nordland, Norway

This chapter assesses the apprenticeship services available to young people in the hyper-rural Norwegian county of Nordland. Challenges associated with the county’s geography and density are also analysed with respect to their impacts on youth participation in employment and vocational education. Two case studies of a local employer and vocational education provider are described as a lens for the broader implementation of the Norwegian apprenticeship system.

  

Key findings

  • Nordland is a hyper-rural Norwegian county that features a diversified economy with active agricultural, mining, tourism and research industries. Many of the county’s enterprises employ fewer than ten people and experience seasonal or variable demand.

  • Nordland faces specific challenges to developing, attracting and retaining skilled labour, including aspiring apprentices. These include Nordland’s particular geographical and logistical constraints associated with its hyper-rural geography, suggesting a need for flexibility in programme design and implementation to address local challenges.

  • Despite current skills shortages and projected increases in the demand for skills in the county, there is also a consistent number of aspiring apprentices who are unable to find suitable training places. This can also exacerbate drop-out from vocational pathways in upper secondary education. This suggests a need to engage employers in local apprenticeship delivery to better align vocational course offerings to meet market demand.

Introduction

Norway is a unitary state that is divided into nineteen first-level administrative counties (fylker). The counties are administrated through directly elected county assemblies who elect the County Governor. Additionally, the King and government are represented in every county by a fylkesmann, who effectively acts as a Governor. As such, the Government is directly represented at a local level through the County Governors’ offices. The counties are then sub-divided into 430 second-level municipalities (kommuner), which in turn are administrated by directly elected municipal council, headed by a mayor and a small executive cabinet.

Norway has a total area of 385 252 square kilometres (148 747 sq mi) and a population of 5 165 800 people (2015). The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden (1 619 km long). Norway is also bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak Strait to the south, with Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea.

Nordland is the second largest of Norway’s 19 administrative counties. It is divided into 43 municipalities and covers an area of 38 460 km2. The county has many islands and features twelve airports, while railway systems only reach half of the county. It is located in the north of Norway, and has around 241 000 citizens. Bodø, located just north of the Arctic Circle, is the largest urban area and city in Nordland county, and the second-largest in North Norway. Bodø is the regional capital city, with 50 000 inhabitants. The county is divided into traditional districts, including Helgeland in the south (south of the Arctic Circle), Salten in the centre, and Ofoten in the northeast. The archipelagoes of Lofoten and Vesterålen lie in the northwest. Nordland extends about 500 km from Nord-Trøndelag to Troms and is one of the least polluted areas of Europe.

Policy context

Nordland is one of Norway’s leading exporting counties with a small number of key industries, notably fisheries and offshore petroleum. Nordland is well known for codfish fishing and salmon farming. Its main export markets are Germany, Scandinavia, Britain, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, Russia and Japan.

Coastal Nordland has many small businesses but few larger ones, with only 115 companies employing over 100 workers. The rate of unemployment (at the end of October 2015) was at 2.7%, and was not rising at the same rate as elsewhere in Norway. As well as the unemployed there are others that are not available for work or working less than they wish. This includes:

  • Work assessment allowance 7 700

  • Sickness benefits 7 500

  • Unemployed 3 500

  • Partially vacant 1 700

  • Jobseekers at measures   800

Figure 3.1 sets out the sectors of employment in Nordland. Tourism is important, mainly in the summer season, although there are some winter visitors for skiing or Northern Lights trips. Tourists are attracted by the scenic coast, especially Lofoten, which is also visited by many cruise ships in the summer, while the rest of the county is often ignored by tourists. Mountain hiking is popular among natives and some tourists. Whale watching attracts tourists to Andøy and the Tysfjord /Lødingen/Svolvær area, and fishing is also popular along the coast and in the rivers.

Figure 3.1. Employed persons in Nordland in Quarter 4, 2014 by industry
picture

Source: Statistics Norway (2014).

Norway has significant numbers of hydro-electric plants and Nordland has the largest hydroelectric potential among Norway’s counties. There are many dams to provide hydroelectric power to the power-intensive factories in the region and across Norway.

Farming is important to the regional economy and consists mainly of dairy farming and livestock such as sheep and domesticated reindeer, which graze the inland highlands. There is also some forestry, particularly in the Helgeland district, and further north.

There was once a long history of mining but this has been discontinued for economic reasons. There are several limestone, marble, and dolomite quarries in Vefsn, Fauske, Sørfold and Ballangen. The port of Narvik has a direct rail connection to the well-known and profitable Kiruna-Gällivare iron-ore fields in Sweden.

Nordland has an increasingly diverse economy, with fledgling research and development in aerospace and space exploration at the Andøya Rocket Range, which primarily is known for its satellite launches. Nordland has been traditionally important for NATO, and the Royal Norwegian Air Force has stationed two squadrons of F-16 fighters at Bodø Airport and all of its P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft at Andøya Air Station. The decommissioning of military bases has led to a regional shift towards a more knowledge-based economy. Bodø Airport is the busiest airport, and a hub for many smaller airports in Nordland.

Problems associated with education and apprenticeship in rural areas

Young people living in rural areas face a number of uniquely rural barriers, particularly concerning access to transport, careers advice, employment and training support, and youth services.

Most apprenticeship positions can be found in larger companies, which tend to be concentrated in urban areas. It can therefore be difficult for young people in rural areas to find suitable places, and they are often forced to follow more “academic” educational routes. However, traditional academic pathways may not suit everyone and does not always prepare young people for the world of work. A lack of apprenticeship opportunities locally could also limit the broader rural agenda and economy, which may force people to move to urban areas for their careers. Rural areas also tend to have more seasonal employment, which can affect the ability of employers to provide continuous apprenticeships.

There are a number of elements that affect access to education, employment and training for young people in rural areas. These are discussed briefly below as they impact the availability of apprenticeships. Despite improved communications and transport technology, the population of Nordland has decreased slightly since 1990, as many young people have moved to larger cities in Norway. Bodø is the only municipality in the county that has experienced a significant growth in population. Between the period between 2006 and 2016, Nordland had the lowest annual average rate of growth in population among all Norwegian counties.

Transport

Young people in rural areas are more dependent on public transport to access education and training than their urban counterparts. However, the cost and low availability of public transport in rural areas can be a significant challenge for young people, and can act as a barrier to their educational choices and overall progress into employment. In Nordland, the local authority provides subsidised transportation to combat this.

The impracticality of young people commuting from the most rural areas and from the islands to school is addressed through housing schemes with local families. A number of youth and education centres also hold regular events (almost every night in Bodø) to meet the needs of the school-aged children.

Employers in rural areas often believe that working with apprentices is unappealing to training providers because of the distances and consequent costs. Travel is a particular challenge for young people who attempt to access apprenticeships (Commission for Rural Communities, 2012).

Careers advice and guidance

The provision and availability of good quality, independent careers advice for young people while in compulsory and post-secondary education or training is crucial to enable them to make sound choices about their futures. Careers advice providers are less likely to engage more isolated areas of the country because economies of scale are more difficult to achieve. There are inevitable concerns that advisers will have insufficient knowledge of local economies, local labour markets and the range of employment, education and training opportunities available within rural areas. Some advice is available online but some young people living in rural areas have limited access to broadband.

There are several measures that aim to enhance the attractiveness and career guidance in VET in Norway. Norway has a twofold counselling service which includes both career guidance as well as guidance in social or personal matters. The Education Act (Opplæringsloven) states that all pupils have an individual right to both types of guidance according to their needs. Guidance counsellors in primary and secondary education provide guidance to pupils in school, whereas counsellors in the County Follow-up Service (Oppfølgingstjenesten) provide guidance to youth from 16-21 who are out of school and/or do not have an occupation (CEDEFOP, 2014).

There are careers advisors in school and available elsewhere to help young people to understand where careers may lie and what apprenticeships may be best for them. Inevitably, parental and family influence over career choice is considerable. Careers advice and guidance in secondary schools is typically delivered by teachers who have either taken professional short courses or have received extra formal training (30 or 60 credit points) to become professional career advisers.

Employment, training and progression

Young people in rural areas are more likely to be in low paid work, insecure employment or working within smaller firms than their urban counterparts. An acute issue for young people is the difficulty in progressing in work, particularly due to questions over the range of employment in rural areas, and concentration of small firms which offer limited opportunities for young people to upgrade their skills and take up training (Commission for Rural Communities, Ireland, 2012) (Institute for Employment Studies for CRC, 2008).

While the level of education and training opportunities affects many rural residents, it has a particularly strong impact on poorly qualified youth. For those who dropped out of a particular course, there are also problems in re-engaging as the choices of alternative courses or institutions tend to be limited. A number of young people who attended courses outside of their home area find that they are unable to continue due to financial pressures, and those who dropped out of courses tended to drift into low skilled employment or Government training schemes (Joseph Rowntree, 2000).

Young people in rural areas who are part of the low wage and low skill economy are more vulnerable to downturns in the economy and many therefore exist in a state of insecure employment (EOTEC, 2006). Evidence also suggests that there is a lower uptake of benefits by eligible young people in rural areas due to the perceived complexity of claiming benefits by those in seasonal or irregular employment (EOTEC, 2006). Consequently, employment programmes are at particular risk of not reaching such individuals (IPPR, 2006).

Employment and training providers experience a range of difficulties when delivering programmes in rural areas. These are often related to transport and small numbers of customers and businesses. As a result of higher delivery costs, the provision of employment and skills services in rural areas is more limited and sometimes of a lower quality than in urban areas.

Technology offers apprenticeship providers greater potential to support learners, especially in rural areas. While this is sometimes restricted by limited access to broadband, this approach can address some of the issues faced by small businesses and their apprentices in striking a balance between job experience and classroom work. For example, IT can be effectively used to enable learners to submit work, hold group discussions with assessors, and record evidence of work. In Nordland, apprenticeship providers utilise e‐portfolio systems to enable closer links with apprentices.

Box 3.1. Flexible programme delivery in Nordland

In Nordland, apprentices are now able to complete training requirements, provide documents and access government assistance through specialised e-platforms. One popular system known as OLKWEB has been optimised for use by training offices, who are able to follow up on their apprentices and generate reports that document the apprentice’s activities and outputs. Training providers are able to perform a number of key functions, including:

  • Access the contacts and details of member companies.

  • Analyse and monitor the apprentice’s progress through curriculum goals provided through traditional means or through the use of films, images and mobile apps.

  • Access details of grants and general accounting.

Apprentices are also able to interact with each other through the system, and can use the interface to record meetings and receive information. The employer is also able to monitor the apprentice’s progress in off-the-job training.

In the context of Nordland, the customised apprentice interface allows apprentices to fulfill their training requirements without travelling vast distances. E-platforms also remove administrative burdens and allows young people to flexibly complete their apprenticeship requirements.

Employer engagement

The greatest challenge facing most apprenticeship schemes is maintaining and expanding employer demand for apprenticeships (Evans, Dean and Crews, 2011). Often sectors that have the greatest modelled potential for expansion are also the sectors with the largest number of existing apprenticeship learners. Sectors with a tradition of taking on apprentices are the sectors with the highest proportions of existing apprenticeship delivery. An issue for those planning and delivering provision within Nordland County Council is whether to focus on these successful sectors or try and build interest in sectors where penetration is currently weak, but where there is potential for expansion.

There is no difference in apprenticeship support for SMEs and larger companies. All training companies receive a grant. In 2014, the grant equals approximately Kr 23 990 (USD 2750) for each apprentice, and covers the whole training period. New companies who take on apprentices receive an additional grant of Kr 10 000 (USD 1147). In some cases, extra grants are given to companies either offering apprenticeships in small trades/crafts worthy of preservation (små og verneverdige fag) or for taking on apprentices with special needs.

In order to reduce the administrative burden of the individual enterprise and ensure that apprentices are given the correct training, groups of SMEs often establish umbrella organisations – Training Offices (opplæringskontor) – which assume responsibility for the training of apprentices and formally enter the contractual agreement with the Training Office at the county authority. The county authority must still approve each individual training enterprise that is to take on apprentices.

Norway has a long-standing tradition of close co-operation between education and training authorities and the social partners at the secondary level. The overarching aim of the tri-partite co-operation is to train Norwegian VET students to meet expectations about working life. Through the tri-partite co-operation structure, changes in technologies and labour market and their implications for training needs are communicated from the market actors to the decision-making bodies. The social partners give advice concerning a wide range of topics for upper secondary VET. According to the legal framework, the social partners have representatives, most often the majority, in all important advisory bodies at national and county level for upper secondary VET.

Rural enterprise skill needs

Rural enterprises need to be able to source and retain the right skills. The OECD (2012) recognises that this is one of two important skill issues facing the rural economy which contend fewer available skills than urban areas due to a smaller labour force and less diverse employment. Not all rural businesses experience skill shortages or deficiencies but those that do may encounter specialist or industry-specific skills gaps. Other skills shortages may be temporary and out of a need to retrain or recruit as employees leave (Frost, 2014). The needs of enterprises in rural locations proximate to urban centres will also differ from the needs of those rural locations which are remote and beyond commuting distance. Many rural businesses operate in the hinterland of urban areas and can access the local labour supply or source labour from the commuting population within the catchment of the urban area.

Those responsible for identifying opportunities for employers in Nordland recognised that companies tend to be smaller and it can be difficult to get predictable apprentice intake. On the positive side, they felt that attitudes towards apprenticeship provision were moving in a positive direction.

Policy context

Norway’s education system

Education in Norway is mandatory for all children aged 6-16. Norway has the third highest spending on education among OECD countries, with a cumulative expenditure per student between 6 and 15 years at USD 123 591. The OECD average is USD 83 382. The Norwegian school system can be divided into three parts: Elementary school (Barneskole, ages 6-13), lower secondary school (Ungdomsskole, ages 13-16), and upper secondary school (Videregående skole, ages 16-19).

In Norway, a growing share of the population has a higher education. The share has been rising steadily for many years and now almost 1 in 3 people have a higher education. Women aged 25-39 years have higher educational attainment than any other demographic, with more than half with a tertiary education degree.

The number of women pursuing higher education has been increasing for many years, and the share has increased more among women than among men. The share of men with a higher education is now generally lower than for women. Approximately 28% of men and 35% of women aged 16 years and over have completed higher education.

However, a higher percentage of women complete higher education degrees of shorter duration, namely 27% in comparison to 19% of men. Additionally, the share of men with an upper secondary education as their highest level of education (45%) is larger than for women (38%). The share of men who have completed higher education courses of a longer duration is two percentage points higher (10%) than for women (8%) (Statistics Norway, 2015).

The Norwegian VET system

All young people leaving compulsory school have a statutory right to attend three years of upper secondary education over a five year period. They may choose from three general studies programmes and nine VET programmes. The majority of the pupils who embark on upper secondary education choose a vocational programme. Norway has a well-developed upper secondary VET apprenticeship system, which enjoys a high degree of confidence among stakeholders. The upper secondary VET usually leads to a trade or journeyman’s certificate (fag- og svennebrev). The majority of upper secondary VET pupils are in the age group 16-21 years (CEDEFOP, 2014).

Upper secondary VET normally includes two years at school, followed by two years of formalised apprenticeship training and productive work in an enterprise or public institution. This is known as the 2+2 model. The first year (upper secondary level 1) consists of general education and introductory knowledge of the vocational area. During the second year (upper secondary level 2), VET students choose specialisations and the courses are more trade-specific. In addition, an in-depth study project offers hands-on training in workshops at schools and in enterprises during the first two years. The priority of VET education is to provide a large portion of the training in a company. The current government policy emphasises providing even more opportunities for training in a company during the tuition hours of the In-Depth Study project. The subject accounts for 20 per cent of the teaching hours during the first year, and 35 per cent of the teaching hours of the second year.

During the two last years of apprenticeship training, the apprentice has one year of training and one year of productive work. The training is provided according to the National Curriculum for Knowledge Promotion. Should the pupil be unable to sign an apprentice contract with a company, the county authorities is obliged to organise a year of hands-on training in an upper secondary school. In the school year of 2013/14 there were 37 469 apprentices in Norway.

By international standards, the system is relatively inclusive and little stigma is attached to VET pathways in upper secondary education (Kuczera et al., 2008).

Not all VET programmes follow the 2+2 model. A small group of programmes are organised differently with either one year in school followed by three years of apprenticeship training, or the other way around. In general, the programmes that follow a 1+3 model are often small crafts courses where the schools have difficulties providing relevant training. The programmes that follow a 3+1 model are often programmes that include more theory of the trade (UNESCO-UNEVOC, 2013).

Another deviation from the 2+2 model is the Programme of Electrical Trades, which follows a 2+2.5 model, with two years in school and two and a half years in a private or public company or enterprise. In addition, some programmes are entirely school-based and do not lead to a trade or journeyman’s certificate, but so-called “other vocational qualification”.

IT has been incorporated into the mandatory schooling in many counties who offer laptops to general studies students for free or for a small fee.

Apprenticeships in Norway

The Ministry of Education and Research has overall responsibility for education and training at all levels. For upper secondary VET, the curricula and structure are established in regulations and all providers are required to comply with them. The county authorities are responsible for the volume of school and VET provision, dispensing VET financing provided by the State budget (including apprenticeships) and providing apprenticeship placement and supervision.

All young people leaving compulsory school in Norway have a statutory right to three years of upper secondary education and around half follow one of 9 vocational programmes. Students can choose between many different professions/occupations in one programme, including:

  • Building and construction;

  • Design, arts and crafts;

  • Electricity and electronics;

  • Healthcare, childhood and youth development;

  • Media and communication;

  • Agriculture, fishing and forestry;

  • Restaurant and food processing;

  • Service and transport;

  • Technical and industrial production.

Upper secondary VET is normally completed by a practical-theoretical trade or journeyman’s examination (Fag- og svenneprøve). Successful candidates are awarded a trade certificate (Fagbrev) for industrial and service trades or a journeyman’s certificate (Svennebrev) for traditional crafts (CEDEFOP, 2014).

Apprentices receive a wage negotiated in collective agreements that ranges from 30% to 80% of the wage of a qualified worker, with the percentage increasing over the apprenticeship period. Employers that take on apprentices receive a subsidy, equivalent to the cost of one year in school. After the two years vocational school-based programmes, some students opt for a third year in the ‘general’ programme as an alternative to an apprenticeship. Both apprenticeships and a third year of practical training in school lead to the same vocational qualifications. Upper secondary VET graduates may go directly to Vocational Technical Colleges, while those who wish to enter university must take a supplementary year of education.

Each autumn, stakeholders including schools, politicians, and employers gather to discuss the following year’s course structure for the county. The final decision on what is to be maintained, expanded or closed is completed by December of each year. Many considerations have to be taken before a final decision is made. A pupils’ right to get onto one of their three choices carries considerable weight. Demographics, regional policy and economy are also considered when planning school places.

The county is divided into three regions, and it is of great importance that most teaching/training venues are within each region. Because of the county’s size and shape, Nordland’s education system requires many young people to move to take advantage of educational opportunities.

The social partners participate actively in the development of policy. The National Council for Vocational Education and Training advises the Minister on the development of the national vocational education and training system. The Advisory Councils for Vocational Education and Training are linked to the nine vocational education programmes provided in upper secondary education. They offer advice on the content of VET programmes, trends and future skill needs. The National Curriculum groups assist in deciding the contents of the vocational training within the specific occupations. The Local County Vocational Training Committees advise on the quality and provision of VET and career guidance (Kuczera et al., 2008).

Adults over 25 also have, on application, a statutory right to upper secondary education and training. Education should be adapted to the individual’s needs and life situation. Adults also have a right to have their prior learning assessed towards national curricula. The process may result in exemption from parts of training. The experience-based trade certification scheme gives adults the right to sit a trade or journeyman’s examination upon proof of long and relevant practice. The candidate must demonstrate comprehensive experience in the trade or craft, normally a minimum of five years (CEDEFOP, 2014).

The lack of large employers in Nordland is typical of most very rural areas. Local government is the characteristic exception. In terms of apprenticeships, the limited capacity and flexibility of many small enterprises and micro businesses can often reduce their capacity to take on full-time apprentices. “Shared” apprenticeship schemes can be an effective model in rural areas for overcoming some of the associated barriers, although these are unusual and are often more prevalent in land-based industries.

Close and effective working between training institutions and rural businesses requires time and flexibility, both of which can drive up costs. The distribution of national apprenticeship funding in Norway does not account for the additional costs associated with transport that can be incurred by providers delivering to more geographically remote parts of the country.

Norway also has relatively few examples of social enterprises or voluntary and community organisations that are active in the apprenticeship system in rural areas.

The County Council recruits organisations that will then host and employ apprentices. The lack of medium-sized and large employers (or indeed any organisations other than micros) means that there is a need to recruit smaller organisations and to broker more relationships. The Council does not employ specialised staff to build these engagements but rather aims to maintain this focus throughout all of their activities with employers. This is a hallmark of the tri-partite system favoured in Norway and other European countries. Interestingly, apprenticeship employer recruitment is viewed as an aspect of business engagement as much as it is viewed as education system support. The County Council is responsible for trying to match young people to apprenticeship opportunities.

During the apprenticeship, the organisation/company is responsible for delivering the in-work training. The County Council supports employers with training such as day courses and issues license certificates. The trainers in the company must have a professional background appropriate to the apprenticeship. Recently the licensing arrangements have changed and if employers do not have an apprentice for two years they need to re-apply for a license. Failure to meet obligations can also result in a loss of a license.

The workplace must be approved as a training establishment by the County administration and a qualified person from the enterprise has to take a training course given by the county authority. The enterprise must be familiar with the purpose of the training and the national curriculum and is responsible for the nature and quality of the training. Many enterprises choose to become a member of local Training Offices, which act as umbrella organisations for groups of SMEs to assume responsibility for the training of apprentices and formally enter the contractual agreement with the county authority.

Though there is a prevailing impression may be that many young people seek to leave very rural areas, this is not accurate in Nordland. Many seek to stay and build careers, but the availability of jobs and progression opportunities aligned with higher salaries in the large urban areas will always result in vacancies. The perception is that girls are most tempted to leave the region, perhaps reflecting the nature of the labour market, and the professions and careers available locally that offer progression opportunities.

At the end of the apprenticeship, there is a trade or craft examination which gives the final grade to the apprentice. If the apprentice is successful, they receive a certificate showing that they are a licensed craftsman in their chosen trade. The final testing phase is assessed by an examination board in each subject. The examination board consists of individuals who have a professional qualification within the subject. Members of the examination board are appointed by the county and the Board has duration of four years. County Council is responsible for making sure that the examination board has the assessment professional expertise needed to assess a qualifying examination.

To help attract new companies, Norway has begun offering an additional financial incentive to the existing subsidy for companies willing to support and mentor apprentices. This equates to an extra NKR 50 000 (USD 5 730) for business that are new to recruiting apprentices. The apprentice receives a salary that will rise as their experience in the job increases. These rates are set nationally.

Apprentices apply to employers for vacant training places, usually during the second year of their in-school education. The employers then choose the candidates that they would prefer. Over time, the preferences for apprenticeships have changed. Certain careers have gone into and out of favour, chefs and the oil industry being two prominent examples. There are gender differences in the career choices with many girls seeking careers in healthcare and childcare while boys favour engineering and mechanical careers.

To ensure quality training, the county authorities organise courses for professional managers in companies, and one (or more) qualified people have to take the course. The managers are expected to attend, and the county is obliged to ensure that they receive the training via another method if they do not. Regional authorities can organise special training events for “no-show” companies. Not participating in formal training can eventually lead to loss of license, but this is a generally unusual occurrence.

Micro and small enterprise approaches to apprenticeship support

Internationally, there are a number of approaches which seek to address the issues of scale, including:

  • Apprenticeship Training Agencies, which directly employ and hire out apprentices as a flexible workforce to other employers, known as “host companies”; and

  • Group Training Associations, apprenticeship training providers set up on behalf of, and governed by, groups of employers from within particular industries.

Models also exist that allow small businesses to share apprentices, usually when single businesses are not able to commit to taking on a full-time apprentice themselves. These are often associated with certain developments/localities such as business parks and supply chains.

There are some apprentice sharing schemes in Nordland but these are rare. The apprentices have one employer, but sometimes they need to practise in another enterprise because their own enterprise cannot fulfil the goals in the national curriculum. This can be for a few weeks, or longer. Due to study plan adjustments for apprentices, the need to use different companies has decreased in recent years.

The use of Training Offices in Norway has increased a great deal during the last 20 years, and now account for 70-80% of all training companies. The Training Offices have the legal status of a training company, but operate between county authorities and the training company. The Training Offices often take responsibility for recruiting new host employers and coach staff involved in the tutoring of apprentices. A recent research report (Høst et al. 2014) on the role of the Training Offices concluded that the Training Offices also carry out the county authority’s tasks and actively work to assure the quality of the apprenticeship training (CEDEFOP, 2014).

The national authorities also offer support to training companies and Training Offices by developing guidelines on the training companies’ legal obligations and practical examples on how the training can be done. These guidelines include topics such as the role of the training company, how to work with the national curricula at a local level, how to continuously document and assess the training and how to best carry out the trade and journeyman’s test.

Larger Training Offices may have employees who mentor the apprentice in a closer relationship than smaller offices are able to provide. Smaller Training Offices (especially those covering many branches in their local municipality) have to rely more on the professional instructor within the company itself.

Governance framework and delivery

Nordland County Council

Nordland County Council contributes to the development of local societies and business within the county, and focuses especially on international business links. It seeks to create a vigorous county with a population influx, growth, employment and welfare. In order to contribute the development of business in the county, it aims to strengthen skills, innovation, entrepreneurship and infrastructure.

The Department of Education is responsible for all high schools in Nordland. This includes 16 high schools, 12 000 pupils, apprentices and intern teachers, three special institutions, workplace training and about 1 500 companies approved for workplace training. The department also includes Nordland Youth Affairs Office, which has the responsibility, among others, for the Youth County Council, the Sami information service Infonuorra Sápmi, the counselling service Klara Klok (“Clara the Wise”) and the Pupil and Apprentice service in Nordland.

The 19 county authorities in Norway are responsible for all aspects of public upper secondary general education and VET, including apprenticeship training. The counties receive financial support from the central government. The apprenticeship training takes place with an employer or employers and follows the national curricula. The apprentice is offered a standardised apprenticeship contract, which is signed by the apprentice, the manager of the enterprise, the appointed training manager and a representative of the county authority. The counties are responsible for approving training companies, and have a right to revoke the company’s status as a training company if the training is not provided in accordance with the training agreement and the national curricula.

The rights and obligations of apprentices in Nordland

The pupil may find an apprenticeship placement individually or, as in most cases, utilise the assistance of the county authorities. There is no statutory right to an apprenticeship placement. However, should the pupil not succeed in finding an apprenticeship place, the school is obliged to provide and organise a year of hands-on training which will result in the same final trade or journeyman’s examination. This is a costly alternative for the county authorities, and statistics show that pupils who complete upper secondary level 3 in school achieve poorer results on their trade or journeyman’s examination than apprentices (CEDEFOP, 2014).

The County Council sets out the following requirements for apprentices in Nordland:

  • You must actively participate in both training and value creation in the training establishment.

  • You are entitled to receive the training that the curriculum stipulates, but you are also obligated to participate actively to reach your training goals and to participate in the planning and evaluation of your own learning and work.

  • You are to help create a good working environment and good working conditions.

  • You must sit for the craft or journeyman’s examination that the training establishment signs you up for.

  • Your period of training is determined in your apprenticeship contract based on normal working hours for your trade.

  • You are an employee of the training establishment, with the rights and obligations determined by legislation and by the collective bargaining agreement, for example working hours and holidays.

  • Like all other employees, in addition to your apprenticeship contract, you are entitled to a written working agreement with the training establishment (VILBLINO, 2015). 

Budget and financing

Apprenticeship funding

Rural counties spend proportionately more on supporting learners and apprentices than other areas because of geographical constraints. The costs of learning delivery are higher in rural areas but funding is not typically distributed on the basis of density or size. While some enterprises may collaborate in rotating apprentices to meet the framework requirements, there is insufficient funding to employ facilitators to establish and maintain a network of SMEs. SMEs often do not have the capacity to establish such networks themselves.

In practical terms, Nordland County Council receives an annual sum of NOK 130 million (around USD 14.5m) for pedagogical support for apprentices from the state government. This equates to NOK 130 000 (around USD 14 500 for each apprentice) for the two years they are in school/college. The money from central government is intended to defray the costs associated with the training provided to the apprentice and the supervision of an instructor. It also covers administration and the running of the training.

There is some flexibility associated with the distribution of this funding. Host companies will receive the whole sum if they have employed the apprentice directly and not through a Training Office. In the majority of cases, funding from the state is transferred to the County Council. The County Council then transfers a sum of money to the Training Offices for each apprentice managed by the Training Office. The Training Offices, which are themselves owned by several companies, will then transfer money to their members/enterprises. The precise split is decided by the individual Training Office’s board, meaning the Training Offices do not have the flexibility to vary the offer. Nonetheless there are major differences in the allocation of funds between Training Boards, which allows the Boards some scope to prioritise certain sectors and occupations.

The Training Offices are responsible for providing and organising a training system/schedule for each apprentice, and make sure the apprentices are monitored, mentored and assessed. Larger Training Offices may have employees who mentor the apprentice in a closer relationship than the smaller offices are able to provide.

Impact of the initiative and programme

Evidence of success

The clearest evidence of the success of the programme is the County Council’s increasing difficulty of finding additional places for apprenticeship candidates, despite the lack of traditional apprenticeship providers, such as large businesses in the manufacturing and engineering sectors, in Nordland. Consequently the County Council has had to work actively at all levels throughout the year to provide more opportunities.

Although the main model for the apprenticeship scheme is two years in school, two years in business and the successful completion of all theoretical examinations, it is not uncommon to follow other models. The council offers more flexible solutions to those who cannot follow the main model for various reasons. Some start apprenticeship training after one year at school, but others have four years of apprenticeship training, combined with some days in school to follow lessons in common subjects. In addition, there is a model for students who for various reasons cannot achieve the goal of successful curricula/certificate.

The decision to choose a more flexible option is driven by a number of factors. There may be some that are bored and want to get into employment immediately after elementary school, some who have weak results and others in more remote areas who may not want to leave home when they are 15-16 years of age.

The tri-partite system is primarily implemented by the Vocational Training Board, which is an advisory body to promote vocational education in the county. The Board brings broad insight into business and employment issues in the county and works to improve the quality of all vocational training by promoting the needs and viewpoints of the labour market to the county.

SKS hydro-electric plant, Nordland

The Salten Krafsamband (SKS) hydro-electric plant lies several miles south of Bodø. There are a few small villages surrounding the plant, including the small college at Gildeskal. The plant only has a handful of permanent staff responsible for the daily upkeep of the plant and the nearby power supply. They also have one apprentice. SKS recognises that there are major recruitment and retention challenges associated with the particularly rural setting in Nordland. Even those who have power generation experience in Nordland or Norway tend to train in hydro-electric plants located between mountains and fjords.

In many respects, there are similarities in the way apprentices are hired and supported in a very rural setting compared to a more urban one due to the fundamental underlying system. While in principle the scheme is similar, there are several additional challenges associated with a rural environment located away from an urban centre. Interestingly, SKS recognise problems both for interaction with the company and with the local community and the need to support young people to thrive outside working hours.

SKS recognise the importance of hiring apprentices, particularly given what has been a very tight labour market at times. They also recognise the importance that new faces can make to a small rather isolated workforce.

“In connection with the recruitment of new workers to the power production industries in Norway, we consider apprentices to be very important. These youngsters come from school with fresh ideas and they help ensure that everyone else in the workplace sharpens up. Our company searches the media for trainees wanting an apprenticeship in the subject.” – Bjørn Ågnes (Instructor at Salten Kraftsamband) Produksjon AS

The company actively seeks apprentices using its links to the Training Boards and the various online and new media in Norway where young people post their interest in careers and apprenticeships. They typically directly contract with the apprentice candidate.

As there are genuine challenges associated with providing long-term accommodation for the apprentice, SKS prefers to employ apprentices from the local area. Apprentices are supported through the training school or college and both apprentices and employers attempt to deepen their connections with other stakeholders.

“Our apprentices co-operate with service training schools. When it comes to electrical apprentices (as many are in SKS) they travel to a secondary school (which is often placed in a more urban setting) and it is here that they learn the underpinning basic theory required during the apprenticeship/training period of apprentices and required for the theoretical examinations.” – Bjørn Ågnes, SKS Produksjon AS

Almost all apprenticeships in the energy sector are located outside of urban areas. Technology ensures that the company has all it needs to provide in-work support and training.

The link between business and education is valued and SKS expressed a desire for closer institutional links with feeder schools and a greater opportunity to pass on details of the job opportunities that exist. SKS also felt that the most valuable lessons to pass on to others seeking to embed apprenticeships in similar very rural areas is to adequately demonstrate:

  • The practical application of their everyday training;

  • Willingness to support apprentices in identifying out-of-work and leisure opportunities and integrate them into the community.

To help improve apprenticeship take-up and success in Nordland, SKS recognises the critical need for more apprenticeship places, particularly within the smaller enterprises that are over-represented in Nordland.

Eirik, the current SKS apprentice, recognises the troubles in identifying enough apprenticeship places for the numbers of applicants. He also expressed an interest in more vocational training in school at an earlier age. His other main concerns were the problems of finding apprentice accommodation and the need for more apprenticeship places:

“When it comes to helping students who want to continue their education as an apprentice I think the County/Government should make it more attractive to firms to take in more apprentices. Today we have a lack of places for the apprentices as most firms want people who are finished with their education, they don’t want to teach apprentices themselves. I also think the County should contribute further with a place to live for the apprentices who have to move from their parent’s house. Just as students in universities have the opportunity to rent a dorm at a student house.” – Eirik Willumsen (Apprentice at Salten Kraftsamband)

Gildeskal School, Inndyr

By the time students reach the school at Gildeskal, they have already decided that they want to work in aquaculture or fisheries. When they start on the first of their two years, they undertake practical work experience within a company for one day a week. Their work is intended to give students insight into the profession and is ideally designed around their career aspirations. They should also learn something about workplace expectations and requirements.

Labour market intelligence is a real issue at the local level and statistics and data do not necessarily offer much evidence of trends. Students therefore tend to gain information on employer expectations and job opportunities through close personal contacts. Kjersti Meland who works as a teacher at Meløy videregående skole, Inndyr, Nordland, states:

“My contact with the labour market has been built up over several years. When students are out in practice, we visit them. We also have the opportunity of maintaining contact with the academic environment. The visit may take the form of meetings, but usually we visit the apprentice in the workplace and observe their practical work. Here we meet staff and engage in professional dialogues with them.”

Students also take classes from employers to get acquainted with the business environment and but also to help the businesses deepen connections with the school and students. During the second year, the students in the fisheries and aquaculture schools experience different elements of the business both to get a broad understanding of the sector and to allow them to target their desired apprenticeship.

The school is well-known in the business of aquaculture but not necessarily in other spheres. While many of the fishing boats know about the school and its facilities, not all parents and primary school students are aware of Gildeskal college.

Kjersti recognises that the hyper rural location is an issue:

“Our challenges as a rural school are that some students don’t want to study here just because of the location. Many of the students have to move away from home and it can be difficult to get dormitory places.  We can offer our students some practical education at the school, but we also want them to have practice in other locations that can prepare them for their apprenticeship. The long distances and the fact that some of them are out at sea are, of course, a challenge. But I think that because of this we have learned to be creative and flexible, and that is a good thing.”

There is a network of practitioners in Nordland who liaise with businesses and schools to assist apprentices to find suitable placements.

The school and country stress the importance of both flexibility of work placement provision and the need to find experience placements across a large geographic area. This latter necessity can be difficult for apprentices as they may need to travel considerable distances or find affordable accommodation.

In recent years, Kjersti reports that despite the increase in the size of students studying fisheries and aquaculture, the school has remained successful in offering most apprentices a placement with an employer in the sector.

Kjersti stresses the following as critical lessons to pass on to those looking to work in such a rural setting:

  • Get an overview of all possible businesses in the area;

  • Ensure quality work-focused academic support;

  • Motivate students to be mobile;

  • Visit businesses regularly and ensure they are happy with the apprenticeship process;

  • Be open to suggestions from the companies;

  • Be flexible in your own work.

The interviewees both stressed that government support in connection with apprenticeship placement activities would help to drive up apprenticeship numbers. While there is initial funding to cover the cost of student accommodation and travel at the school, there is no additional funding for students while they are on placement in firms. This can negatively influence the desire to place students because the school does not have the funds to cover the accommodation for students.

Strengths of the programme

Apprenticeship schemes have the potential to integrate young people into the labour market if the VET provision meets the needs of the employers. High employment figures for candidates with a VET qualification indicate that VET competence is generally appreciated in the Norwegian labour market. The link to the labour market is considered to be strongest in the traditional VET sectors. These are the building and construction sector, the electrical trades and in industry. In the sectors where the link is weakest, the VET qualification has been established more recently and is not necessarily the only qualification needed for employment. These sectors typically also recruit adults without a formal qualification, but with long experience in the field (Høst et. al. 2014). Høst et. al (2014) conclude that a VET qualification to a varying degree establishes a strong and lasting link to the labour market. VET graduates generally find a job after completing their apprenticeship period, and their employment situation is apparently stable.

A number of interviews were conducted with the Training Office for Fish Farming, which has member companies in Ballangen, Tysfjord, Steigen, Hamaroy, Sorfold, Fauske Saltdal, Beiarn, Bodø, Gildeskal, Meloy, Rodoy and Traena. The Training Office offers apprenticeships in aquaculture but also in fishing, motoring, child and youth work, health work, ICT services and laboratory technical services. The Training Office can also assist students to obtain an apprenticeship within other disciplines associated with fisheries and aquaculture, including office and administration.

Despite the fact that the county is rich in natural resources and has a diversified and export-led economy, it can be difficult to recruit and retain labour in Nordland. Consequently, the Training Office recognised the need to innovate and differentiate their recruitment methods. For example, new projects at Kigok, Gildeskål Kommune aim to inform young people from kindergarten to high school about the career options available within the local area. The Training Office is also developing and piloting new education models, including some that were developed for specific locations and communities.

In order to help overcome the problems of distance associated with the hyper rural setting, training providers in Nordland use an electronic training system to communicate with apprentices for the length of their placement. The apprentices document the training they receive including any tests given by the employer. They can include drawings, photographs, clips of the performing tasks and a log. The supervisor can control their work, and communicate with the apprentices through this system. It is voluntary for the companies to follow this mechanism but it helps with support maintains a regular link with the apprentice.

The challenges associated with the rural setting can be further mitigated by easing access to transport. All inhabitants in Nordland below the age of 20 have a youth card (price NOK 300 (USD 34.50 per month) and this gives free access to all public transport (apart from trains) all over the county. All apprentices can also get 40-50% discount on all of the county buses and boats.

An additional strength within the system is the existence of many possibilities for transition to higher education from upper secondary VET which can be achieved through:

  • By completing the third year of supplementary studies qualifying for higher education, comprising the six key common core subjects (Norwegian, maths, English, natural sciences, social sciences and history);

  • After completion of a trade or journeyman’s certificate:

    • one-year course in the six key common core subjects;

    • direct admission to certain specially-designed programmes notably, but not exclusively, in engineering (Y-veien);

  • Applicants aged 23 or above with at least five years’ work experience and/or education, and who have successfully passed a course in the six key common core subjects;

  • Based on individual assessment of relevant formal, informal and non-formal qualifications for applicants aged 25 or more, who do not meet the general entrance requirements.

A final strength of the system is the close consultation with the needs of employers. County council regularly plans vocational priorities in partnership with the tri-partite system and local politicians. While the shift to a more demand-led system has undoubtedly been popular with local businesses, it has been difficult for some schools who have had to change their offer and to hire new and re-train other existing staff.

Key factors underlying success

The co-operation between the Training Office and the school is one hallmark of successful recruitment. The Training Office meets prospective apprentices at schools to inform them of local opportunities and possibilities. The reputation and history of apprenticeship delivery in Norway is also a strength as the overall approach is well known to parents and employers, while training and support is already embedded into many organisation.

The factors that underlie the success of a Training Office include:

  • Co-operation between school, companies and authorities.

  • Systematic and close support throughout the apprentice period.

  • The ability to find and develop new models of delivery when it is necessary.

Nordland County Council has engaged with its education partners to offer bespoke provision of the vocational education model wherever possible. This ensures that young people considering dropping out of education are given the flexibility to remain in their studies, including the option of working in lieu of education for a short period on the understanding that studies would resume in the future. Local flexibilities such as this are important tools in tackling drop-out from education.

While apprenticeship acceptance regulations should be determined nationally, they should be implemented with local flexibility. Norway’s employers receive relatively substantial subsidies for apprenticeship training. Employer involvement in the apprenticeship system is paramount in very rural settings, so this should be reflected in monitoring, training and quality control regulations. A very formal system may have negative impacts on overall apprenticeship numbers as employers find the systems too onerous.

Weaknesses of the system

The current unemployment rate in Nordland is 2.7%, below the national unemployment rate of 2.9%. However, both national and local demand is shrinking for workers who have not completed their education. The modern labour market increasingly requires a higher proportion of young people to have obtained higher education qualifications. Despite this, three out of every ten pupils end their studies before completing full secondary education. Consequently there is a need to change the measures and instruments that target people who have not completed education and/or those with complex problems. This will require close co-operation between the labour market administration authorities, education providers, the health sector and employers.

Education is therefore increasing in importance for those looking to enter the world of work. In 2013, 40% of Norway’s unemployed workforce had not completed secondary education.

While Nordland seeks to find suitable employers for all apprenticeships, this is not always possible. In 2014-15, 360 of the 1 500 applications were unsuccessful. For these applicants, the system provides alternative resources and support, including;

  • Traditional academic subjects;

  • Work (followed by re-application for an apprenticeship);

  • In school courses with exams;

  • Schools that have taught the first two years may keep the young person with them until they get an apprenticeship placement; a craftsmanship certificate or a job.

Many young Norwegians are confident of finding work in a relatively buoyant labour market with good support from education and training, which has resulted in a relative high rate of dropout from secondary education pathways, including vocational routes. Statistics show that about 60 per cent of the VET learners complete their upper secondary training successfully within 5 years. The critical point for completion is the transition from the second to the third year. For most VET programmes, this is the transition from school-based training to apprenticeship placements in a company.

Nordland has a larger percentage of students in vocational courses and a higher drop-out rate than any other Norwegian county. There are also some shortages in apprenticeship places, which is a key factor for dropping out of secondary education for those pursuing vocational pathways. Training Companies are often able to decide the volume and nature of accepted apprentices, which depends on employer needs rather than the shifting popularity of vocational education. Inevitably, some subjects are more popular than others and have many applicants, while others have decreasing volumes of applicants. For example, the chef training course has recently declined in popularity after several years of growth.

The discrepancy between available apprenticeship placements and the number of applicants has been described as a structural flaw in the VET system in a recent report (NISU 2014). Companies are responsible for determining their own apprenticeship intake, and this may not always match the number of active candidates. While there are some difficulties in matching apprenticeship supply to demand, Nordland actively seeks to respond to current local skills shortages. For example, the Council is currently seeking to train more electricians and childcare places than there are vacancies. While there are jobs for these professions available in the country, there are not enough apprenticeship places. This suggests that the emphasis should be on engaging and recruiting more employers.

In the 2015 Enterprise Survey, Nordland had stable demand for qualified workers though optimism had decreased since the following year. The survey found that firms could have hired another 1 775 more workers if they had been suitably qualified, indicating that training and apprenticeships are important to stem higher unemployment. The survey also recognised recruitment problems in 32 of the more than 240 occupations that are advertised positions. Health and social care workers, craft and trade occupations (e.g. plumbers, concrete workers) and industry top the list of professions with recruitment problems. 12% of companies reported recruitment problems with 9% of companies reporting serious recruitment problems within the last three months. There is continued demand for persons with higher education qualifications, but the greatest need is for individuals with practical vocational training.

An important challenge is how such communities can be developed in rural areas where there are often long geographical distances. Modern information technology makes it possible to reduce the challenges associated with distance. Nordland consists of 43 municipalities and many of these have a population of under 3 000. Many small municipalities are often competing for the same skilled labour, rather than working together to create stronger academic environments. It would certainly benefit Nordland if funding criteria could be re-balanced to take into account the additional costs that can be incurred by providers delivering to more geographically remote parts of the country. Similarly ‘shared’ apprenticeship models for smaller businesses in rural areas can materially impact apprenticeship rates, but typically require financial or other incentives to encourage the establishment of organisations like Apprenticeship Training Agencies and Group Training Associations. The Training Companies are the logical route for establishing other organisations, or could adopt responsibility for the co-ordination and sharing of apprentices.

The Fish Farming Training Office recognised that the biggest challenge both nationally and locally is the relatively low apprenticeship completion rate. They further note that it can still be difficult to find enough, and the right, students and this is exacerbated by the reputation that fish farming is low paid and low status work.

What are the main lessons for other OECD countries?

In October 2013, Norway had a change of government which has emphasised increased impetus on VET. This includes counteracting drop-out, increasing the number of apprenticeship placements, making VET provision more flexible and increasing the state grant given to companies that provide apprenticeship training. The findings of this study offer valuable lessons for the establishment and maintenance of effective apprenticeship programmes.

Apprenticeships and VET has a key economic function in up-skilling and integrating young people into the labour market and in providing high quality technical skills. But VET has been surpassed by academic and tertiary education as a focus of education policy research and reform. Stakeholders interviewed from both education and industry wished to see greater emphasis on transferable skills and employer-friendly provision within schools.

In Nordland, local autonomy is clearly an important aspect of the education system. The County Council is responsible for the training provision and is required by law to define and implement a quality training provision system that is adapted to local needs. The national authorities do not specify its content. Flexibilities of this kind are important.

The Training Companies have the operational responsibility for the apprenticeship training during the last two years in the 2+2 model. To ensure that the apprentices receive training which meets the requirements outlined in the curricula, the training companies are obliged by law to develop a training plan for each apprentice. Though supported to a degree, they would benefit from additional help and relationships with other similar companies could be reinforced through virtual or other networks.

Most local practitioners who work with apprentices and companies rely on local contacts and their knowledge of local businesses and employers. This local knowledge is pivotal to maintaining apprenticeship numbers. This business and labour market intelligence could be expanded in order to broaden access to the apprenticeship system. Improved labour market information could help to ensure that funding and support is being targeted to the appropriate sectors and meets the needs of employers.

Inevitably, when seeking to increase engagement in the apprenticeship system, there will be challenges to overcome, including:

  • The maintenance and expansion of employer demand in the current, difficult economic climate;

  • The significant inequalities within sectors;

  • Maintaining the balance between quality and quantity.

There is a sense, also reflected in previous studies, that the emphasis on the right of Norwegian pupils to choose their VET programme may limit the responsiveness of upper secondary VET to the labour market. National efforts to boost the input from employers are needed. It is positive and significant that Nordland’s employers continue to make practical commitments to recruiting and supporting the future workforce.

Around 20% of 20-to-24-year-olds have not completed upper secondary education in Norway, which is well above the general Nordic average of approximately 10%. Leaving upper secondary school before completion is more common among VET than among general students. Dropout occurs for a variety of reasons, including the availability of work and the lack of apprenticeships in some sectors. Careers guidance and better labour market information for schools and parents may help in countering this. There is also a need to organise course offerings to balance the pressure from students and parents while meeting the needs of employers.

Despite having few employers that employ more than ten people, Nordland achieves a surprisingly high rate of apprenticeship placement. Difficulties in finding apprentices for particular firms or types of work may occur either because the relevant information does not reach students or because they find the type of work or workplace unattractive. Nordland could consider reducing programmes that attract few apprenticeships. A stronger link between the availability of apprenticeship places and the dimensions of VET programmes would promote better labour market outcomes.

The positive relationship between training bodies, employers and the County Council is critical to underpinning apprentice support. It is also important that Nordland offers training for trainers. Not all Councils do this and the employers interviewed valued the support.

The role of Training Offices in administrative and training matters is pivotal to deepening links between schools, young people and employers. Ensuring schools and potential apprentices are informed of opportunities requires flexibility and close partnership. This model is transferable and successful in placing increased power with the demand side of the labour market. Nordland could benefit from innovations such as developing new models of collaborative apprentice sharing between sectoral and geographically related organisations.

Information advice and guidance on careers is very important within the model and though all young people receive this, more could be done to formalise independent advice and guidance, possibly utilising the existing skills within the Training Offices. Local labour market intelligence can also help young people to choose the right careers, particularly with respect to a strong or emerging industry.

An easily overlooked but critically important factor is the provision of significantly subsidised transportation for young people in Nordland, including apprentices. Nationally, apprenticeship funding in Norway does not account for the additional costs associated with transport that can be incurred by providers delivering to more geographically remote parts of the country. Ideally, this would be factored into provision of funding for very rural places.

Commuting for education is a factor in many young people’s lives in the most rural areas and islands of Nordland, including commuting to school. This is overcome through housing schemes with local families and through a number of youth and education centres. This model of local support is important. The need for apprentices to feel a part of the local community and to enjoy rural living should not be underestimated when attempting to attract and maintain apprentices in hyper-rural settings.

Critical transferable lessons identified by the Training Office for fish farming include the need to support apprentices outside of work. They have recognised that they need to maintain a focus on the apprentice’s activities outside of work and on their community life. Students in rural areas often live in dormitories, while those in urban areas tend to live at home. The chance of drop-out is higher for those away from home. Apprentices must enjoy living in a rural area for its own sake or they may not choose to remain in their apprenticeship industry over the longer term. Consequently, institutions should focus on helping apprentices integrate into the local community outside of their work competences.

To help improve the retention of students, the Fish Farming Training Office stressed the need for:

  • Better conditions for follow-up students that live in dormitories.

  • The potential of greater financial and other advantages to companies that take an apprentice. The Training Office suggested removing labour taxes on apprentices (labour taxes are between 5-15% of wages in Norway).

They also noted the potential to increase apprenticeship intake in local voluntary and community organisations in rural areas. Similarly, seasonal employers, including those in tourism and hospitality, could be explored for further apprenticeship opportunities.

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