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Training for New Investment Projects and Social Sector in the Arctic Discussed in Arkhangelsk

17 november 2021

On 15–16 November, Arkhangelsk hosted a conference on attracting human resources to the Arctic as part of the action plan for Russia's chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023, which is operated by the Roscongress Foundation.

More than 150 Russian and foreign experts, including representatives of the Arctic Council member states, federal executive and legislative authorities, the business community, educational institutions, and scientific organizations, took part in the conference at Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University.

The conference's main event was a plenary session on 'State Policy for Attracting Human Resources to Work in the Arctic'. Participants discussed issues such as stimulating labour migration to the Arctic, creating new high-tech jobs, supporting small and medium-sized businesses, and preserving the traditional occupations of indigenous peoples.

Nikolai Korchunov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Chair of the Arctic Senior Officials committee, emphasized that the topic of human capital development in the Arctic, which largely determines the region's sustainable development, is central to the programme of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. It was noted that this topic is also given special attention in the work of the Arctic Council, as reflected in the Arctic Council Strategic Plan and the declaration adopted at the Ministerial Meeting in Reykjavik on 20 May 2021.

"With climate change occurring in the Arctic and the active development of economic activity, the role of policies to attract human resources for new investment projects and the social sphere is increasing. Increasing the employment of indigenous peoples and the training of a new generation of Arctic explorers is important", said Nikolai Korchunov.

Participants noted that the 2035 Russian Arctic Zone Development Strategy has been adopted for the integrated development of the territory. The document's goals include improving the quality of life of the 2.5 million people living in the Arctic, growing the economy of the Arctic territories, and developing the Northern Sea Route as a global transport corridor.

"An important tool for realizing these goals is the state personnel policy, in terms of a special approach to training for the Arctic and retaining specialists in the northern territories", said Dmitry Afanasyev, Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation. 

According to the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation, the Murmansk Region, Krasnoyarsk Territory, and Arkhangelsk Region have the greatest need for personnel among the Arctic areas. Specialists in such sectors as mineral extraction, manufacturing, construction, and transport are in high demand. Alternative methods are also being used to attract staff for investment projects in the Arctic. The Arctic Conscription programme involves retraining and relocation to northern regions of military personnel who have completed their compulsory military service and veterans of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the armed forces who have retired early.

"Since 2015, Russia has had a 'Labour Mobility' programme in place. Around 80% of the specialists who have moved to the Far East under it remain in the region. An employer can receive up to 1 million roubles from the state for recruiting one worker. The programme could be used more widely in the Arctic zone", said Hasan Hasanbalayev, Director of the Labour Resources Department of the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation.

Alexander Akimov, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on the Federal Structure, Regional Policy, Local Government, and Northern Affairs, noted that there is currently a shortage of 250,000 people in the Arctic.

"In Russia, there are 20 universities training personnel for the Arctic, which we should retain. At the same time, we need to pay attention to the identified trends in vocational training: the mismatch between highly qualified specialists and the needs of modern industries and enterprises in the region, as well as the shortage of personnel in blue-collar occupations. To solve these problems, comprehensive work is required, including in the Arctic regions", said Alexander Akimov.

Olga Yepifanova, a member of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, spoke about staffing small and medium-sized businesses in the Arctic. According to the unified SME register, the number of small and medium-sized businesses in the Arctic regions is declining. One of the main reasons is that today "northern state guarantees" are passed on to companies, which leads to higher costs of products and services due to a higher payroll.

"It is necessary to put the development of small and medium enterprises in the Arctic on an equal footing with other regions. It is this that can give a good impetus to the development of SMEs in the Arctic and will entail greater diversity in the labour market, the development of social lifts, and an increase in staffing demand for SMEs", says Olga Yepifanova.

Speakers from the Arctic Council's member states spoke about their experience of solving the problem of staff shortages in Europe's northern territories.

Merete Kristiansen, Managing Director of Akvaplan-niva, noted that the challenges for recruitment in the North are the same in Russia, Norway, and other northern territories: young people leave for big cities and the south. The expert noted the importance of a value-based approach for young professionals when looking for work.

"We see that it's important for young people to get a job in sustainable companies that address international climate and environmental challenges. A focus on sustainability creates not only new business opportunities but also recruitment opportunities", Kristiansen added.

Peter Sköld, Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor for Arctic and International Affairs at Umeå University, spoke about the prospect of attracting specialists to Sweden's northern territories. 

"According to studies, a third of Sweden's population is ready to move to the north of the country, provided there are high-paying jobs. The implementation of mining and energy projects will create tens of thousands of new jobs. This would increase the population in the Arctic part of the country by 20%", Sköld said. 

The conference participants also discussed the specifics of staff recruitment for investment projects, including the Northern Sea Route, the social sphere, and education and employment of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, as part of the thematic sessions. The training of a new generation of Arctic researchers was also discussed separately. On the margins of the event, a meeting of the Council of the National Arctic Research and Education Consortium Association also took place.

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