Cluster Forum Agder met with Agder County politicians and officials in Kristiansand Monday. Left-right: Atle Homme (SinPro), Synnøve Aabrekk (Visit Sørlandet), Rita Schage (Cluster Advisor Innovation Norway), Gro Bråten (Agder County), Cathrine Stien (Digin), Maya Twedt Berli (Tre på Agder), Morten Lindvik (STN+), Tom Fidjeland (GCE NODE), Arne Thomassen (County Mayor), Jon Løvland (Innakva KLYNGE), and Tine Sundtoft (Agder County). Not in photo: Helene Falch Fladmark (Eyde Cluster).

Business clusters in Agder met with top county politicians and officials to discuss vocational training and skillsets needed to fill vacancies in the region’s business sector.

All business clusters present at the “Cluster Forum” meeting in Kristiansand Monday reported increased demand for skilled workers. Some expressed concern for a tighter job market with lots of vacancies and too few qualified people looking for a job.

All cluster in Agder are in want of more qualified personnel at most levels. Synnøve Aabrekk, CEO of the travel industry cluster Visit Sørlandet, said that 80 per cent of companies in that industry are constantly between 1 and 5 people short of being sufficiently staffed.

Helene Fladmark, CEO of Eyde Cluster, presented a figure which showed the various age groups of Eyde companies’ employees. On the left, a relatively small column representing the youngest group of employees. And on the right, a much larger column representing the group of employees closest to retirement. The message was clear: “We need a lot more youngsters to join our industry just to keep up the pace, and even more to grow.”

GCE NODE also presented numbers which showed that GCE NODE companies are struggling to find qualified people.

“Over the next five years, our companies will need 400 people trained in the fields of mechanics, welding, pipes, composites, logistics, ICT, and more. In addition, the companies will need a minimum of 150 trainees,” said Jan Helge Viste, Project Manager at GCE NODE.

The meeting at Cluster Forum was called to discuss common challenges in search of common solutions. One obvious solution is to encourage more young people in Agder to undergo vocational training and find a job in the various industries represented in the Agder region.

“We should celebrate and promote vocational training in the same way that we praise young talent pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This is important for the development of our region,” said Arne Thomassen, County Mayor.

Another solution is the inclusion of more people in the work force, and to support more students during their vocational training. New statistics show that only 70 per cent of youngsters complete their vocational training.

Jan Helge Viste, Project Manager at GCE NODE, presented stats from the GCE NODE companies.
Helene Fladmark broke down the age groups of Eyde Cluster employees and talked about future needs.