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EESC Workshop: “A new SMEs agenda for VET in the EU” Meeting business needs: VET and continuous training in SMEs Helen Hoffmann UEAPME Brussels, 19 May 2008 UEAPME European Association of Crafts, Small and Medium- sized Enterprises

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Meeting business needs vet and continuous training in smes l.jpg

EESC Workshop:

“A new SMEs agenda for VET in the EU”

Meeting business needs: VET and continuous training in SMEs

Helen HoffmannUEAPME

Brussels, 19 May 2008

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  • European Association of Crafts, Small and Medium- sized Enterprises

  • 99% of all companies in the EU are SMEs, and 92% are micro enterprises with fewer than 10 employees.

  • UEAPME is European Social Partner

  • UEAPME negotiates and signs agreements


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EU & international setting

  • Challenges: - Globalisation

  • - Rapid technological change

  • - Demographic challenge

  • Key business and competitiveness issues particularly difficult for SMEs

  • Lisbon Strategy to make Europe most dynamic knowledge based economy in the world:

  • - Investing in human capital

  • - Promoting employability through flexicurity

  • - Lifelong learning

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Response of European Social Partners

  • Framework of Actions for the lifelong development of competencies and qualifications, 2002

    - identify and anticipate competences and qualifications needs;

    - recognise and validate competences and qualifications;

    - inform, support and provide guidance;

    - mobilise resources

  • Joint Labour Market Analysis, 2007

    - ESP have opened negotiations on disadvantaged people furthest from the labour market to reach a Framework agreement

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New European initiatives: EQF and ECVET innovative tools

  • EQF and ECVET tools to improve comparison & validation of qualifications in Europe

  • Creates more transparency and enhances geographical and occupational mobility in Europe

  • Needs employers fully engaged and committed & involves the company as a key actor in the process of evaluation, recognition and validation of skills and competences

  • It can be useful for the management of competences within the company

  • It gives all the actors the possibility to reshape the education and training systems

  • Contributes to providing skills adapted to the needs of the labour market

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SME company perspective:Qualifications need to meet business needs

  • SMEs need better educated and trained employees to increase competitiveness and support growth

  • Productivity and performance needs to be improved by linking training to business strategy

  • Lack of qualified workforce

    - Mismatch between education and training programmes and labour market needs

    - Lack of attractiveness of certain sectors where SMEs are predominant

    - Poor status of VET towards pupils and parents

    - Difficulty to hire and retain qualified employees

    - Lack of entrepreneurship spirit

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Role of SMEs in VET

  • Main added value of VET is having a part of the curricula being done on the job helping to acquire practical experience

  • Best example is “dual” apprenticeship system which alternates between courses and a training period in a company

  • Main providers of VET are small businesses and crafts

  • VET play huge role in reinforcing social cohesion

  • Multitasking prevails in micro companies, excellent on the job training, rarely recognised!

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Continuous training constraints forSMEs

  • Limited financial resources to engage in continuous training

  • Time factor: Often daily business needs seen as more important

  • Organisational factor: absence of employees!

  • Training offer by external providers too generic and not tailor made – not adapted to SME needs

  • SMEs less aware of benefits of training for their business and workforce

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External training provider - Example Austria WIFI


  • -WIFI as core training provider for all workers, incl. managers and owners of small firms.

  • WIFI has 80 branches offering courses & training locally, direct and job related.

  • Courses flexible and specific on all business aspects

  • Majority of courses cover non-formal learning

  • Validation of informal learning

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Government assistance for SMEs – UK example

  • Small Firms initiative 2002-2006 : Subsidised skills audit to ensure more strategic approach towards training in very small firms (5-49 employees).

  • SFI offered initial skills needs analysis, after which business development plan was created to tackle identified skills gap and brokered training was arranged to address specific business needs.

  • Evaluation of SFI:

    Almost half (46%) of firms in SFI reported improved productivity.

    SFI changed organisation culture in favour of training and communication – linked firmly to business strategy

    SFI was key to SME involvement – with little dead weight.

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Conclusions Business needs & training

  • Good quality in initial VET and continuous training are key for success of SMEs in the economy

    2) VET curriculum should be geared towards labour market needs and particularly for SMEs and micro companies.

    3) Lifelong learning requires shared commitment of all actors: employers, individuals and public authorities

    4) SMEs need public support for financing lifelong learning and continuous training

    5) Necessity of a sustained effort of governments to reform education and qualification systems in Europe that deliver skills adapted to business needs in a cost efficient manner

    6) Training offers need to be adapted to SME needs

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Thank you for your attention!

Helen Hoffmann

Social Policy Adviser

E-mail:[email protected]

Tel: +32-(0)2 230 75 99

Fax:+32 (0)22307861

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