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In practice

Northvolt Ett – a battery cell gigafactory plant

Summary

Skellefteå, Sweden—

  • Northvolt Ett is a battery cell gigafactory plant expected to create 15 000 new jobs in Skellefteå, Sweden by 2025, laying the foundation for Europe’s energy transition and production of electric vehicles.

  • Skellefteå is undertaking various development projects, including the creation of new housing, infrastructure growth, and the development of new education programmes geared towards upskilling and reskilling, to encourage relocation and recruitment of skilled professionals.

  • Managing and attracting a large number of national and international in-migrants, requires large-scale developments and adaptations to the city. At the same time, it is important to avoid displacing the current population for an organic growth maintaining a local identity.

What are the objectives?

Skellefteå is a municipality in northern Sweden, with a population of around 73 000 inhabitants spread across almost 10 000 square kilometres. It was historically a gold and copper mining centre and is now home to technology-intensive industries, hosting global leaders who bring with them technical expertise and cutting-edge technologies. Skellefteå has experienced rapid growth in recent years while promoting creativity and innovation. This environment has led to the success of numerous entrepreneurs and established companies and attracted highly skilled and talented individuals.

The Northvolt Ett project, Europe’s first homegrown gigafactory to produce Li-ion cells, is expected to create around 14 000 new jobs in Skellefteå by 2025. Given its current population of 73 000, this implies significant labour and skills demands. The success of this project will hinge on encouraging and increasing the speed with which people can move to the region and the implementation of well-tailored skills programmes.

Skellefteå is an important pilot, with about 50 other locations across Europe set to undergo similar developments in upcoming years. The large-scale expansion in gigafactory production across Europe aims to lay the foundation for the energy transition and production of electric vehicles.

How does it work in practice?

At the local level, Skellefteå is currently undergoing various development projects to help meet these growing demands. This includes the creation of new housing, rapid infrastructure growth, and the establishment of new education programs geared towards upskilling and reskilling. Additionally, marketing and attraction programs are being implemented to encourage relocation and recruitment of skilled professionals. Specific actions include:

  • A new building for a competence centre, XR platforms, and a matching platform have been quickly constructed through collaboration between Northvolt, RISE, Skellefteå the municipality, Skellefteå Kraft, Luleå University of Technology, and Skellefteå Science City.

  • Northvolt is actively recruiting employees locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to meet the growing demand for batteries, which is increasing by 30 percent per year. The company wants to redefine the image of the industry by attracting more women to work in it and creating a diverse workforce.

  • Skellefteå municipality’s adult education office is one of several local providers of training. They offer training for occupations that are all needed for the green industry transition in dialogue with Northvolt and other companies. Furthermore, as there is no university in Skellefteå, the municipality is now scaling up its homegrown multi-institutional campus platform for meeting education needs. At Campus Skellefteå, universities can offer relevant education in collaboration with municipality and industry.

At a larger scale, the European Union and various national initiatives have also taken steps to address the need for education and training development for blue-collar workers and technicians. One such initiative is ALBATTS, an ERASMUS+ Blueprint project that involves 20 partners across 11 countries. Notably, Skellefteå has been appointed as the coordinator for this project, which is the only one of its kind that focuses solely on the development of education and training programs for blue-collar workers and technicians. These professionals make up approximately 75% of the overall staffing needs and are integral to the success of battery technology and automotive sector.

What has been the impact?

Northvolt Ett is a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant that will generate a significant impact on the local job market, with an estimated 4 000 - 5 000 direct jobs, about 75-80% of which are blue-collar jobs. In addition to direct employment opportunities, it is predicted that there will be an additional 3 000 supplier and subcontractor jobs, as well as public sector jobs, resulting in approximately 14 000 new jobs in both the public and private sectors. The first production line resulted in the hiring of over 500 individuals from more than 50 different nationalities. The manufacturing plant is designed to incorporate Industry 4.0 technology, including automation, the internet of things, and machine learning. Therefore, the jobs available at the plant come with high requirements, including relevant experience, training, and social skills for machine operators and technicians.

What can other communities learn from this example?

Managing and attracting a large number of national and international in-migrants, requires large-scale developments and adaptations to the city. Similar developments will occur in many other places in Europe, as battery cell plants need a lot of land and energy and cannot easily be fitted into densely populated areas. These developments include expansion of the (public) transport system, housing projects, creating attractive public places and placemaking initiatives to integrate the new population in the community and generate a feeling of belonging. At the same time, it is important to avoid displacing the current population for an organic growth maintaining a local identity. Communities can also benefit from Skellefteå’s experiences on how to develop new education for new occupations and skills in a very limited time and in close collaboration with industry.

OECD resources

OECD (2023), Job Creation and Local Economic Development 2023: Bridging the Great Green Divide, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/21db61c1-en.

OECD (2022), "Future-proofing adult learning systems in cities and regions: A policy manual for local governments", OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Papers, No. 2022/03, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/11fa26cc-en.

OECD (2017), "Sweden's Northern Sparsely Populated Areas", in OECD Territorial Reviews: Northern Sparsely Populated Areas, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264268234-8-en.

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