Last week I attended a webinar discussing the skills supply for industrial investments in the North of Sweden. This was a webinar hosted by IVA’s (Kungl. Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademin) student council. The attendees included Peter Larsson, a coordinator for social change at company establishments and expansions in Norrbotten and Västerbotten, a Vice-Chancellor at Umeå University, a representative from ABB, students as well as other representatives from IVA.
The main discussion points were how the skills supply for industrial investments is managed today, as well as how we can get more people to move to smaller cities in Norrbotten and Västerbotten. We discussed the problem of when startups or big industries decide to move to smaller cities, not looking at the workforce and competence in that city. In Sweden we’ve started to see many examples of this in the past few years. For example Skellefteå was not able to meet the demand of Northvolt’s workers, creating shortages in housing and schools. The reason I found this webinar relevant for this course is because we are trying to learn all sides of starting a business, and I’d like to argue that skills supply and worker demand is a very important part of this.
Allow me to try to retell what I’ve learnt from this webinar. First off, the student council had conducted a survey trying to rank the importance of various factors for when people move to a new city for a job. They came to the conclusion that closeness to family and friends is the number one priority. Followed by salary, closeness to nature, comfortable working hours, working environment and “the feeling that the work makes a positive change for the world”. Nothing groundbreaking (to be honest) but still good to have statistics on.
Even though these things were the main factors, there were ways to get around them. One way is good infrastructure and easy commuting. Something Norrbotten and Västerbotten lack right now, but have great future aspects of. The other way was a hybrid format. Being able to work from home makes a huge difference, and is something that more and more companies are beginning to offer. Personally, this is something I would appreciate!
Another important lesson learnt is how to get people to stay in the cities. The most efficient way was said to be to capture the students studying at universities. Currently there’s no problem getting people to study in for example Umeå and Luleå but if they don’t get offered internships during their studies, they will most likely move somewhere else after graduation. The internships should not only be offered from big companies, but also from the small local start-ups and businesses, so that all parts of the local clusters thrive.
In about five years, cities like Skellefteå are expected to be independent. Some workers from Northvolt will probably have created their own start-ups, built families or in some other way contributed to the city becoming self-sufficient. Peter Larsson estimated that when there are 100 000 residents in Skellefteå the city will work for itself, but before reaching such a number, it is required to market and target people to convince them living there is worth it.
I think we all know, by now, that there are many factors to consider when starting a company. Seemingly, there has to be a balance between what the companies are willing to pay and do for their employees for moving, as well as the benefits for the company to choose that place. We’ve learnt a lot from doing the marketplace simulation for these last quarter, however these factors have not really been discussed. Perhaps the skill supply to new geographical locations could even have been a relevant factor to include in the Human resource management in the simulation. What do you guys think? Feel free to leave a comment!