Norway has created a national internet-based learning network to retrain and educate its population.
Called the Competence Network, it is the result of a collaboration between the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry. Backed by universities and the government, it could reach as many as four million Norwegians once fully rolled out.
"Our goal is to establish an e-learning network that provides flexibility, speed in delivery of training solutions, and the ability to integrate multi-discipline learning applications on a platform accessible to all who desire, or require, training," said Sven Erik Skonberg, managing director of the Network.
"It will link employees at various sites to personalised training and education from primary schools to university-level establishments," he added.
Wide ranging resources
Some 40 content providers will offer customised and off-the-shelf training modules to students through Norwegian government offices, trade unions, colleges and universities, and the public and private sectors.
Password-protected PC access to the network will be provided for individuals affiliated with member organisations, with employers paying for courses if they see a requirement for a particular skill.
The national system is based on the Saba training framework from the eponymous US software firm, which is an Oracle spin-off. Founder, president and chief executive Bobby Yazdani said the Norwegian experiment is a natural extension of the growing use of online learning software by large organisations.
He claimed there are now 30,000 training packages and courses delivered on Saba software, serving clients such as Cisco, i2, Hyundai, General Electric and the Ford Motor Company, which is offering it to 375,000 employees and dealers worldwide.
Despite its three per cent rate of unemployment, Norway is highly conscious of the need to both train existing workers and prepare for the New Economy. Half a million of its population do not have High School certificates or vocational training. Most companies have fewer than 20 workers, and so find it hard to offer in-house training.
In some ways, Norwegians see the inclusion of the internet as an extension of training practices. "In the 1930s, we were using cutting edge technology in education and movies," claimed Borre Pettersen, president of the Norwegian Workers' Educational Association.
Others acknowledge the shift is more dramatic than that. "For dignified institutions such as universities, this is a painful process in some ways. This is a challenge," said Kire Rommetveit, director general of the University of Bergen.
Norway is thinking of its future, however. "Our petroleum sector revenues will dry up quite soon, and we cannot base our competitive edge on low price. We must not only develop new competencies, but renew our existing ones," said Minister for Trade and Industry, Grete Knudsen.
Yazdani said: "Norway is teaching the world an important lesson about universal participation in the New Economy."
The network (www.nkn.no) has cost 20 million krona (£1.5m), with half coming from trade unions and employers, and the rest from shares in a specially-created public company.
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