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Learning from Lithuania: Why apprenticeship is key to competitiveness

Thematic Area: ; Entrepreneurial learning
Year/Date: 28/02/2015


High-skilled workers are the key for Lithuanian businesses to compete in domestic and international markets, says Dr. Saulius Zybartas of the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science.

The small Baltic country has put apprenticeship at the heart of its drive to build competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which make up the lion’s share of its economy.

Dr. Zybartas underlines (Apprenticeship review: Lithuania) how the three-way partnership between government, business and the training community, is key to apprenticeship developments.

“All partners are equally committed to building a skilled workforce – a critical ingredient for an apprenticeship system,” says Dr. Zybartas, who represents Lithuania on the European Training Foundation’s Governing Board.

The ETF’s Anthony Gribben caught up with Dr. Zybartas as part of a recent good practice review on skills for SME internationalisation. The review follows in-depth assessment of training provided to SMEs through the Export Academy.

Led by enterprise Lithuania, the academy provides hands-on training to firms keen to break into international markets. Its Wings apprenticeship initiative allows young graduates to hone the knowledge and skills to make sales in European and international markets.

Jurgita Butkeviciene, Director of enterprise Lithuania, is clear what critical skills are needed for SMEs to export:

               - developing effective export plans;

                - getting buy-in to the plan across the firm;

                - excellent communication skills;

                - adaptable to cultural idiosyncracies of targeted markets;

                - well-polished competence in foreign languages.

Dr. Zybartas also says the mix of technical skills and key competences, like languages and communication skills, are essential for a high-skilled economy. "The country’s apprenticeship drive is giving equal attention to both," he adds.

The ETF peer review of the Export Academy took place in the capital Vilnius, as well as Lithuania's second city Kaunas on December 3 - 4.

The fact-finding mission included interviews with the Export Academy’s lead trainer, Giraffe Consulting, and SME participants. Wings' graduates and government also took part.

It is part of a wider effort by ETF to identify and share excellence in vocational training with its 29 partner countries. Promoting skills for internationalisation of SMEs is an integral feature of the Small Business Act for Europe and ETF’s policy performance assessments in the EU’s pre-accession, Eastern Partnership and Southern Neighbourhood regions.

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