Bringing Smaller Companies into the Fold on Work-Based Learning

Eastern Partnership regional forum aims to increase on the job training in small and medium sized enterprises

Building capacity to encourage small businesses across EU Eastern Partnership countries to get involved in training will be the focus of a three-day regional seminar in Lviv, Ukraine, 22-25 October. Policy makers and social partners, including training school staff, employer representatives and senior ministry and agency officials, will look at how to bring firms on board for quality training.

Building on solid foundations

As a tool for helping embed flexible, responsive, and up-to-date training in the workplace, work-based learning (WBL) is a key priority in vocational education and training (VET) policies across the European Union. The European Training Foundation (ETF) efforts in the field, including a successful three-year regional project on WBL for Eastern Europe and Kazakhstan (2015-2017), have demonstrated the high value EU partner countries put on developing better models for improving youth employment opportunities through on-the-job training.

Annual regional forums between 2018 and 2020 are designed to bring the latest tools and shared experiences to key figures in the VET systems and labour markets of partner countries.

The Lviv conference - which includes two days of training for policy makers and social partners on implementing successful WBL programmes for small company capacity building, followed by a day of sharing experiences and knowledge - is designed to boost potential in their countries.

Didier Gelibert, ETF specialist on private sector engagement in VET, said that the relationship between small companies and employment was a key issue.

"By and large 99% of companies are small companies, 93% of these are micro companies - less than 10 employees; this represents two thirds of employment. We are preparing people in vocational training to work in all fields, public and private companies. Small SMEs are where most employment is. This is where demand is”.

Training: A two-way street

The regional forum, which will involve delegates from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Ukraine - as well as experts from Germany and Portugal, aims to increase the involvement of companies, particularly smaller firms, in WBL. By looking at how those involved in the training and labour markets can work to involve companies, and to reflect on current practices, needs and tools for strengthening stakeholder capabilities in the area, the forum aims to increase the spread of combined work and skills training.

Encouraging firms to take up on the job training involves stressing the benefits to both employees and employers. Companies that offer WBL are able to attract the best workers and benefit from having a workforce with the most up to date skills.

Forum participants will be able to see how Ukrainian vocational schools and small companies are working together to implement WBL and share experiences from their own countries.

There will be sessions on ensuring quality in WBL - and why it is key to the successful implementation of such schemes - and the latest developments in WBL in partner countries.

"The ETF set up a project to support and improve WBL four years ago and the annual regional forums are part of this," Mr Gelibert said.

"At this meeting we would like to engage more small companies, and to identify what the stakeholders have to do to involve these companies more. I am expecting to identify some key issues that stakeholders will take home to improve engagement and quality assurance."

He added that the opportunity to share experience was a key part of enabling participants to overcome challenges they face to bringing WBL to more companies.

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Work-based learning infographic