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Norway: earlier specialisation for vocational learners

The government is increasingly focusing on vocational education in an effort to update it. A new structure for vocational subjects in upper secondary schools will be introduced in the autumn of 2020; this will be the biggest change in VET since 2006.

The government will be taking three main steps.

Early specialisation

Currently, vocational learners cannot start specialising before reaching the second year of VET school. The industrial feedback is that learners do not have enough knowledge in their chosen subject before becoming apprentices. Learners of different VET subjects, such as hairdressing and boat building, are in the same class and follow the same curricula and training, so some subjects are irrelevant to them.

From 2020, the new VET programme will bring learners with similar professional skills together. Education will be better suited to the labour market needs. More learners will be offered specialisation in the first year. Several programme areas will be split in the second year of upper secondary school to increase specialisation. For example, the second year in food and beverages will be divided into two areas: baker and confectioner, and industrial food production.

New education programmes promoting ICT, sales, hairdressing, and traditional crafts

The government will expand the number of VET education programmes from eight to 10 to group learners with shared academic content. Education programmes for design and crafts, and service and transportation, will be replaced by four new programmes, with continuing academic content. ICT, traditional crafts, hairdressing and sales will be promoted through separate education programmes to improve alignment with labour market skill needs.

New VET programmes will give learners the skills that the labour market needs, and improve their opportunity of getting an apprenticeship.

VET education programmes from 2020:

  • building and construction
  • electronics
  • health and youth development
  • agriculture
  • restaurant and food
  • technical and industrial production
  • design and traditional crafts (new)
  • ICT and media production (new)
  • sales, service and tourism (new)
  • hairdressing, floral and interior design (new)

Apprenticeship phaseout

The new structure is based on extensive research. Social partners give their input through nine professional advisory boards and five expert committees. In addition, the Directorate of Education has stated its opinion, and the case has been subjected to public consultation, receiving 1 467 responses.  

Following the recommendations of the social partners and the Directorate of Education, the government will phase out several subjects. Currently, learners can apply for apprenticeships after two years of upper secondary school. Subjects that will be phased out include large clock repairs, sports facilities operator, forging, tanning, industrial footwear production, the piano tuner discipline, and industrial sewing. For many years, these subjects have hardly had any apprentices, and are no longer in demand in the labour market.

The Directorate for Education and Training has been commissioned to implement the changes, update the curricula and evaluate the names of the new education programmes.

On top of the NOK 600 million granted between 2013 and 2017 for strengthening vocational education and trade schools, an additional NOK 70 million is ensured in 2018.

Read more:

The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training

The Ministry of Education and Research