Rana Municipality and the UN Migration Agency Signs MoU to Strengthen Foreigners’ Working Conditions

Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk

Oslo – Today the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing between the Rana Municipality and IOM Norway (The UN Migration Agency) took place at Bjørvika Public Library. Rana Municipality is the first Norwegian municipality to sign such an agreement.

The MoU agreement aims to create collaborative channels to ensure good working conditions, promote long-term integration and create a fast-track integration programme. Such a cooperation agreement is said to help attract and retain labour, which is a challenge in today’s Norwegian labour market in the backdrop of the green shift and sustainability goals commitment to drive for a zero-emission economy.

Fatou Ndiaye, Chief of Mission of International Organization for Migration (IOM) opened the signing ceremony by introducing IOM’s legacy work of assisting refugee resettlement, while also placing this collaborative initiative under SDGs for decent work and economic growth (8), reduced inequalities (10) and sustainable cities and communities (11), “We are working towards the same goals together with Rana: Fair and respectable working conditions for labour migrants including protection of labour rights. We would like to congratulate and acknowledge the trailblazing, forward-facing activities of Rana municipality. They address the social and protection needs of labour migrants in a very holistic manner. Also, simultaneously, addressing the needs of labour migrants’ families, an often-overlooked group.”

Fatou Ndiaye, Chief of Mission of International Organization for Migration (IOM). Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

Then the local government and business representatives from Mo i Rana presented the city’s history, population growth in the recent decades and emphasised the great need for skilled workers with the competence to drive their industries, especially for the blue and green economy. Mo i Rana is situated in the Helgeland region of Nordland, just south of the Arctic Circle.

“Mo I Rana is entering a new era of growth and optimism, and we will welcome a lot of new citizens in the years to come. Last year, we got a ripple effects report from Menon Economics that pointed out that 5,000 new inhabitants will arrive in Mo i Rana by 2030. From the regional perspective, by 2035, the entire Helgeland will get about 15,000 new employees and over 23,000 new inhabitants. In short, this is the biggest opportunity for our region to ensure economic, social and population growth. So to succeed, we need to map and address the needs and challenges generated from population growth. This includes housing, job postings, school, kindergarten, transport and social activities,” said the Mayor of Rana, Geir Waage.

“We need and want international talents from all around the world to once again make history. We want to create innovative, sustainable integration strategy, we want to fast track the onboarding and relocation process so that our newcomers can thrive and settle for the long term in Mo i Rana.”

Geir Waage, Mayor of Rana. Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk

The Mayor of Rana later pointed out that they will be recruiting both nationally and internationally, and when it comes to meeting integration challenges, he said “What is happening now has never been done before in Norway, especially with integration at this level. I don’t have all the answers now, but we will make the necessary programs. we will include the inhabitants in the county. We have already established Mo I Rana internationals where it is a place for newcomers and the population in Mo i Rana to meet and socialise, and get more contacts.”

Norwegian companies strengthening international talents retention

The background for the signing is the work of Rana Utvikling to attract and facilitate international employees associated with FREYR, which will establish Norway’s first large battery cell factories in Mo i Rana. The factories will need 1,500 employees and are Norway’s largest investment in mainland Norwegian industry ever. It is expected that they will need to recruit from abroad where many will come with their families. The ripple effects of this will mean a population growth of up to 5,000 new inhabitants by 2030.

Frode Hvattum, Vice President of Sustainability at Freyr Battery, said that “We are really taking sustainability in the core of what we do. It is part of the three things we have as a strategy – Sustainability, Speed and Scale. Sustainability is about the green shift. It is about producing solutions for carbon emission issues that we are doing, but it is also about integration. We are working on taking onboard the UNs SDGs as a starting point. we have 169 KPIs to work from. We aren’t going to pick all, but we are going to pick the right ones and be transparent on how we proceed, and how we have the effects in the next years until 2030, up towards Mo i Rana, and Mo i Rana up towards Norway, and towards the world.  We hope to contribute to transparency in connection to UN SDGs in our integration efforts.”

In response to how they will integrate newcomers into Norway when it takes so much time to open a bank account and get granted a residence permit, he said “I can only say that it is on the to-do list of 10 important things. […] We have at least 10 practical issues that we need to fix, and then we have things to fix so that they can be happy when coming here.”

Frode Hvattum, Vice President of Sustainability at Freyr Battery. Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

Hvattum admitted that they don’t have all the answers but recognised all the issues and they will use expectation management so people know what they are coming into when they arrive in Mo i Rana.

Terje Ditlelefsen, who is responsible for HR at CELSA Armeringsstål, is also experiencing similar practical challenges as Freyr Battery in relocating new employees from abroad. CELSA Armeringsstål is a steel producer of the CELSA Group in the Nordic region and one of Norway’s largest recycling companies.

“It was a good event today. I have been looking forward to this. I have been working with recruitment for 20 years. I have seen that we have to do something about this, to get more people into Mo i Rana.”

Ditlelefsen has been working in HR for 20 years and is recruiting potential employees in Norwegian and English. He hires based on competence in the chemistry industry, “20 years ago, it was more like getting more women into the industry and now there is not enough Norwegians to fill in all the positions. We are looking all over the place and the best thing to do is to have the [job] applications in English.”

Terje Ditlelefsen, POD Manager at CELSA Armeringsstål. Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

He also leads a local sports club to find out what his employees want to do in their spare time, and started gymnastics and basketball for adults. On creating a cultural work environment, he encourages his workers to speak up when they needed help and said “I think the best part is for them to work with the Norwegians together, and not separate them to speak where there you have the English-speaking part and there the Norwegian speaking part. We need to do things together socially and professionally.”

Holistic approach: spouse integration and cultural activities

Yasna Mimbela, Project Manager at Rana Utvikling, leads the project “Welcome to Mo i Rana” that focuses on developing and strengthening coordination and implementation of policies to increase the attraction of Mo i Rana and retain its population. She is also responsible for facilitating the relocation of FREYRs employees and families. The project is a part of VekstMObilisering and has an important part in establishing synergies among local actors and creating positive and sustainable economic growth for the municipality.

“It’s really about the community and we want everyone to have a place in that community and to be able to thrive in that community. So, the goal is to create an inclusive and sustainable integration policy and strategy,” said Mimbela.

She pointed out that there are already many initiatives in the local community where there are activities such as hiking and quiz days, “There is already a general DNA in Mo i Rana to be very warm and welcome the people arriving into the community. So, this is no different. It is just now that we are inviting the community to take part in bigger projects, with more people coming in in a short time. So, it’s very interesting to work within that project as there is a lot of positiveness and willingness.”

Yasna Mimbela, Project Manager at Rana Utvikling, leads the project “Welcome to Mo i Rana”. Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

There are substantial considerations and effort put into laying the path for spouses of foreign skilled workers, where they could find their career opportunities, from entrepreneurship, working remote and opportunities for further education at universities. Rana Utvikling is working with NAV and universities to bring these opportunities alive.

Lillian Nærem, is the Municipal Director of Rana municipality, and is involved in organising various cultural activities and pushing for international baccalaureate within public schools, not only for inclusion purposes, “I think the people of Mo i Rana have understood that people are coming so if one person doesn’t speak Norwegian, then everyone speaks English and this will come to stay. And that’s why I think it is important that we have an international school and open it up for everyone because the work market is going to be global, whether you stay in Mo i Rana or in London.”

Lillian Nærem, is the Municipal Director of Rana municipality, responsible for culture and upbringing. Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

Inclusion Capital of Norway

CEO of Rana region business association, Ingvild Skogvold said “we have really ambitious plans to contribute to the green shift. There are amazing job opportunities in our region. But there are common challenges throughout these businesses and that is the need for people and competence.  […] As a business community and as a society, we also need to adapt. we need to adjust. We already started. We are preparing business communities, to start posting English positions. We cannot expect newcomers to come from all over the world to be here for two years and then maybe they can get a job. We have to adjust.”

She furthered that the business community is willing to contribute to the attraction, the welcoming and retention of the newcomers, “Rana municipality has a vision that we fully support to becoming the green industrial capital of Norway. And I also think that we need to become the inclusion capital of Norway in order to succeed.”

Ingvild Skogvold, CEO of Rana region business association,. Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk

The MoU is seen by many of the participants at the signing ceremony to be an important first step for a common and collaborative effort between the business community, society, local government, and public sector, and with the support from IOM, to create a welcoming space for newcomers in Mo I Rana. While integration has been used by many participants at the signing ceremony, inclusion is also noted as of equal importance.

For Channeh Maram Joof, OXLO Coordinator at Oslo municipality’s department for diversity, integration and welfare, the collaborative initiative at Rana takes on a personal meaning, “This sounds like music to me.”

Joof had stayed in Bodø in the 90s and wished she had had the support from such initiatives back then, “When you talk about all these plans. Things have really changed. It’s good in a positive way.”

Channeh Maram Joof, OXLO Coordinator at Oslo municipality’s department for diversity, integration and welfare. Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk
Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk
Photo: Leanna Lunde / The Oslo Desk

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CategoriesGlocal Affairs
Ka Man Mak

Ka Man is an investigative journalist, documentary photographer, and social entrepreneur, as well as the founder of The Oslo Desk. She is a British-born Hong Konger residing in Oslo, Norway. She holds a Master in Environmental Geoscience and have taken numerous diplomas including child psychology, and a course in big data analytics at OsloMet. Made numerous publications in newsletters, magazines and Norwegian newspapers. Interested in edtech, constructive journalism, women in migration, Cantonese language, alternatives to capitalism and asylum policy.