2 December, SINTEF Nord hosted a 2.5 hour workshop with Northern Norway municipalities, county municipalities and the University of Tromsø (UiT) department Narvik. Participants joined to discuss the potential for increased collaboration between students, universities, and municipalities in northern Norway – in particular in the area of engineering.
Interviews conducted throughout 2021 by SINTEF Nord (unpublished) shows that recruitment of engineers to municipalities is a challenge. In addition, few municipalities have a formal, continuous collaboration with the regional universities regarding bachelor and master thesis, traineeships, and summer internships. Thus, the aim of this workshop was to bring the municipalities and university faculty members together to inspire and encourage increased cooperation.
To start with various forms of collaboration between university, students, and the municipalities were presented by UiT. They emphasized the importance of professor networks in order to achieve good collaboration. Today, a lot is created through such contact networks. UiT also wants to put in place a simpler system for submitting proposals for student assignments. There are student assignments every fall, even though it is easy to forget, and they consider having a system for reminding those interested about this.
Several of the participants have good experiences with bachelor theses, summer internships and part-time positions. They agree that these are good recruitment arenas, but that they require a lot of resources for sufficient follow up. Master theses are becoming more advanced, and many do not know if they have the competence internally to follow this up. Several request more support from the university in this matter. Further, many see great benefit in formalizing expectations to a greater extent – something the university agrees upon.
The conclusion from this workshop is that a simpler system for submitting proposals for student assignments is needed. There is also a need for formalization of student collaboration, including communication channels and requirements/guidelines for content in student assignments. The municipalities are encouraged to establish a list of contact persons for student collaboration, and lastly the collaboration and dialogue should continue through formal networks. Greater collaboration between the regional university and municipalities is a key factor in bridging the recruitment gap and thus ensuring a sustainable, innovative public sector and region.
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF Nord