The European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) gathered yet another year decisions-makers, experts and variety of stakeholders from business, civil society and academia together to discuss the topical issues of cohesion policy, common challenges and cooperation. First time after the pandemic, the theme week was fully physical with a total over 220 workshops, 500 speakers and 7000 participants.
As part of the week, NSPA together with Scotland Highlands and Islands organized a panel discussion on the topic Skills for the green transition: attracting, retaining and reskilling in sparsely populated areas in the form of a SWOT-analysis. The panelists were Päivi Ekdahl, Development Director from Regional Council of Lapland and the current Chair of NSPA Steering Committee, Morven Fancey, Head of Sector of Highlands and Islands Enterprises from Scotland, Ole M. Kolstad Director of Rana Development Agency from North Norway and Deputy Mayor of Municipality of Östersund, Effie Kourlos from North Sweden. The discussion was moderated by Merete Nordheim, Director of Bodø Business Forum from North Norway.
The stage was set by Melisa Duman from DG EMPL, European Commission, highlighting the need for various skills to accelerate the green transition to reach the climate targets. As part of the European Year of Skills, the Commission's focus is on supporting skills development and employment for a more sustainable society.
To approach the topic from different perspectives, the session was run through a SWOT-analysis. Each panelist presented the strenghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats concerning the sparsley populated region they represented. In addition, the live audience participated by sharing their thoughts through a digital tool.
While each panelist shared their regional point of views, there was a clear shared set of strenghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across the regions. To sum up, the panel and audience highlighted the following issues as an outcome of the analysis:
The common strengths were identified as natural resources, high quality of life, green industry potential and research and innovation.
The main identified weaknesses were lack of infrastructure and workforce, long distances and issue of connectedness.
While the opportunities were highly connected to green transition in the broad perspective, including innovation potential, variety of renewable energy sources and nature based lifestyle.
Lastly, the threats were mentioned to be unpredictability of geopolitical situations, decreasing demographic transition and aging population.
The SWOT format created an open space to share ideas, acknowledge common strengths and explore ways to work on the common challenges.
As action points, the panel agreed that cooperation, whether it means sharing good practices or strengthening partnerships, is a key for attracting, retaining and reskilling in sparsley populated areas. It also includes enhancing collaboration across borders yet also internally within the region to ensure a just green transition.