A partnership between the Construction Industry in Norway and the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.
Næringslivsringen (NLR) was launched in October 1999 as a voluntary partnership between the construction industry and the Department of Civil Engineering at NTNU in Trondheim. This initiative came from a desire to establish a more formal relationship embracing all branches of the industry and going beyond the ad hoc cooperation that already existed between individual departments and the more resourceful companies. At the time, there was growing awareness of the role of technology and knowledge in modern society and the importance of a strong and sustainable construction industry. The idea was to seek long term commitment from both parties and to deal with selected issues by establishing projects with dedicated personnel and agreed budgets, schedules and targets.
The construction industry is of significant importance to the national economy, employing a large number of people and dealing with large investments in the public and private sector. The industry needs well qualified engineers and modern technology to perform its functions efficiently and requires a continuous supply of technologists and researchers from the university. The university benefits from a close cooperation with industry to support its teaching and research programmes, to stimulate the development of relevant technology and to inspire young people to study civil engineering.
NLR is governed by a Board consisting of industry executives and university professors elected for 2 year terms by the annual membership meeting. The students association is represented on the Board, and provides personnel for and creates enthusiasm for the work. The Board sets the strategy and policy of NLR and appoints a general manager with broad industry experience to run the day to day activities. NLR is funded by the members who contribute annually an amount based on the number of employees ranging from NOK 20 000 (2559 Euro) to NOK 100 000 (12 796 Euro) creating an annual budget of approximately NOK 3 000 000 (384 000 Euro). The members also make considerable contributions through voluntary work in the projects and other activities.
At the launch in 1999 altogether 47 entities joined the NLR. The members came from all branches of the industry, including contractors, consultants, suppliers, research institutes, branch associations and public services. The membership has been growing in the later years and today there are about 60 company members and although the larger companies tend to carry the heavier load there is still encouraging support from small and medium size units who would otherwise find it difficult to be active in this kind of work.
An important driver behind the initiative to launch NLR was to deal with an alarming and recent decline in the number of bright students wishing to enter the university to study civil engineering.
Other projects, some of which have been concluded to make room for new priorities, include:
• Visualising an exciting construction industry to young school children, stimulating their interest in technology
• Informing high school students of the challenges, diversity and job prospect in the construction industry
• Taking care of the new students, helping them to settle in and avoiding drop-outs
• Offering every student a relevant job during summer vacation
• Offering each student financial support to buy his/her own lap top
An issue which is currently receiving much attention is to examine the content of the university courses and coordinate the academic ideas with the needs of the industry with respect to research and development and the demands for new technology. In this context the Board of NLR has recently taken on the function of jointly managing the content of the entire civil engineering curriculum.
The challenge of recruiting more females to the civil engineering profession is also a high priority task for NLR. The current percentage of females in the Civil Engineering Department is about 40.
All the above projects are staffed by volunteers from industry and from the university, and their progress is monitored by the Board and reported to the annual membership meeting. This meeting is arranged in conjunction with a generally well attended “Open Day” at the university, which aims to stimulate dialogue between university, industry and students.
NLR has proven itself a viable partnership of benefit to the construction industry, the Department of Civil Engineering at NTNU, and the students.
Activities can be monitored on the NLR website: http://www.naringslivsringen.no/