Students abandon the sciences, and interest is currently at an historic low. This is a concern for Statoil which is a major recruiter of science specialists.
– In short, the number of university and university college applicants in this area has declined over the past few years. Although we have seen an increase in number of applicants this year, the level of interest is still at an all-time low, says Tone Rognstad, Director of Profiling and Recruitment at Statoil.
This comes on top of a high university college and university drop-out level.
Although there are welcome signs this year that this negative trend is levelling out and hopefully about to turn, national tests show that secondary school pupils are performing below average in mathematics.
– To add to the challenge, this is a global trend. Hence, we cannot expect to source science specialists from other countries either, says Rognstad, and adds that Norway is more severely affected by the decline in the uptake of scientific subjects than other countries.
– This development is a concern. Although the downward trend in respect of science specialists has levelled out, it is the pupils leaving school with below average results, and are now embarking on their further education, we will have to depend on in the future. This is not a challenge to which there is a short-term solution. Building competence and knowledge takes time, says Rognstad.
As a highly attractive employer in Norway, Statoil is probably not among those most severely affected by this problem. The company tends to get hold of the expertise it requires.
– However, we also depend on an adequate level of competency being offered by our collaboration partners and the society as a whole. This is why the decline in the uptake of scientific subjects is a challenge we take seriously, says Rognstad.
Consequently, Statoil is committed to help stimulate interest in the sciences. The company is part of a national forum for science education, headed by the Ministry of Education and Research. This forum is a meeting point for the government, the industry and the education sector, and the objective is to improve the level of scientific expertise in Norway. Among its tasks is to develop national action plans for dealing with the situation.
– Statoil has a responsibility to provide role models, and is also responsible for communicating any problems in terms of education and recruitment. Another important area of responsibility is to outline any future requirements for expertise. In our opinion, the industry has to join forces and support the national action plans to every extent possible, and these efforts will then help promote interest in the fields of science, says Rognstad.
Statoil also supports a number of other national projects such as the Science Centres established in several of the country’s largest cities. Furthermore, the company is part of the ALFA Rollemodellbyrå programme as well as the Newton Room initiative introducing educational units with focus on the natural sciences curriculum.
– These initiatives have proved to be effective. The VilVite science centre in Bergen has had a documented positive effect on the city’s level of applications for scientific subjects, says Rognstad.
Another exciting project is Teach First, which is a collaboration with Osloskolen and the University of Oslo.
– Our role in this project is to help recruit science teachers for the school. The level of teaching is of utmost significance, and we are confident that this is an important contribution, says Rognstad.
Tone Rognstad will be debating recruitment at UTC 14 June.