Skills for enterprise development
The ETF’s initiative Skills for Enterprise Development (S4E) focuses on providing high-quality support in linking vocational education and training (VET) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for innovation, productivity-enhancing skills, and quality of work.
- Support structured engagement of business intermediaries and trade unions in connecting SMEs and education and training in the context of the twin digital and green transitions.
- Reinforce the capacity of business intermediary bodies and trade unions to support implementation, scaling, and quality education and training, as well as career guidance and development.
- Strengthen the link between VET – including higher VET and continuing vocational training – and innovation actors and systems.
Skilling up the Western Balkans agri-food sector: greening, digitalising
From 2022 onwards, the ETF focuses on support to peer networks and partnerships to foster SME productivity through productivity-enhancing skills, innovation, technology transfer and applied research. In 2022–25, we focus on the Western Balkan region where the link between VET and innovation actors and systems needs to be strengthened to meet the criteria of the single market.
In 2022, baseline research was conducted across the six Western Balkan economies. A cross-regional priority area for smart specialisation was selected for the pilot and narrowed to a sub-sector for a meaningful peer exchange for SMEs. The baseline research covers three key areas.
- Mapping of existing networks and support mechanisms for SMEs in the sub-sector. This includes an analysis of the role of intermediary bodies in continuing vocational training.
- Analysis of SME skills needs in the sub-sector, how these needs are met, skills trends and gaps, and relatedness of skills.
- Analysis of the configuration of national and sub-sectorial systems of innovation, the linkages between research, industry and other private sector actors in the sub-sector, as well as a mapping of vocational schools’ capabilities, expertise and experience on technology transfer and applied research.
Skills for smart specialisation in Ukraine
Since 2020, the ETF has been working in the Rivne region of Ukraine to analyse and address the skills implications of smart specialisation in woodworking and furniture manufacturing (summary report). Innovation in this industrial sector is crucial to sustain competitiveness and drive market growth.
The furniture industry is dominated by micro enterprises and SMEs. Innovation generally focuses on:
- competitiveness and the reduction of costs through digitalisation, or
- quality and differentiation of products through, for instance, environmental responsibility and sustainability, which play an important role in forest-based industries.
Peer learning partnerships with the HMC school for wood, furniture and interior professionals in the Netherlands, and the Võru County Vocational Training Centre in Estonia have played a key role in addressing critical challenges and problems identified through the research.
- Partnership with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on the Small Business Act Assessment
- Partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
- Partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation on the Learning and Knowledge Development Facility and a hackathon
- Engagement in the EU’s mentoring development programme for SMEs in financial difficulty, allowing for access to new knowledge and networks across EU27 and ETF-COSME participating countries