Compendium 2.2.6 Training

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2.2.6 Training


The challenge

In the modern globalised economy, Europe cannot stay competitive by relying on natural resources or low-cost manufacturing. Its strongest suits are in highly skilled technological and creative industries, and in innovative services that serve new markets and new social needs. Both demand lifelong reskilling, to acquire new skills of very different types. One new area of skills concerns entrepreneurship – the art of identifying and seizing opportunities to serve new markets. Another new area is in responding to the changes in society brought about by such phenemona as increased lifespans, higher activity rates and greater labour mobility and migration.

The need exists not only to enable more people to acquire these skills, but to codify them into professional qualifications, which are the bedrock of labour mobility and are especially important in opening up career opportunities for people from minority communities, who cannot rely to the same extent on informal contacts to obtain jobs.

How EQUAL has approached the issue – examples

EQUAL projects took a number of approaches:

  • training as part of a therapeutic approach to integrating those far from the labour market
  • training in general entrepreneurial skills, so that individuals can make a success of their own business idea
  • training in specific fast-growing sectors, such as media and fashion, to build a cluster of enterprises that could lend each other strength
  • professionalising specific occupations such as elderly care
  • structuring skills and qualifications in new professions
  • social economy management training
  • creating transnational qualifications

Training as part of a empowerment approach

Self-managed enterprises such as co-operatives are by their nature empowering, as all members have to take the responsibility of running the business. The process of group working and decision-making can be an important socialising and therapeutic tool. EQUAL has for example found ways to successfully reintegrate ex-drug addicts and education dropouts into the labour market through theoretical/practical courses in starting a social enterprise. Basta Arbetskooperativ, an 80-strong co-operative of ex-drug addicts, shows how some categories of people, such as ex-drug addicts, have the potential to keep professional jobs, but, since they have dropped out of formal education, they lack the formal qualifications to gain such a job. By boosting confidence, building skills and offering ways into work for people with low qualifications, social enterprises play an important role in integrating disadvantaged people into the labour market.

In Germany, the Innova partnership [1] successfully piloted training courses that empower unemployed people by making them the boss of their own co-operative enterprise.

General entrepreneurship training

Two lessons stand out in designing effective general training for entrepreneurs:

  • Training should be carried out as part of an integrated process of start-up support
  • It should combine both theoretical and practical components

In Portugal, the Glocal project [2] implemented the Premium Programme, an integrated start-up support system. This has two phases:

1. Basic – comprising an ideas workshop, mapping of opportunities and access to microcredit. At the end, the business idea is presented to an internal panel;

2. Advanced – comprising a presentation to an external panel, sponsorship, voluntary mentoring and business networking.

This two-phase structure recognises the crucial need for balance: theoretical learning must be brought alive by support from an experienced business person through the start-up process, and can be helped by self-help groups among entrepreneurs. Spirits are raised through an awards scheme.

Support for one year usually takes about 90 hours of consultancy and action-learning plus 30 hours of support, costing €2,500-3,000. Glocal estimates that of 120 people attending an ideas workshop, 15 will take the training course and that this will result in ten businesses being set up.

The Initial training for entrepreneurs course consists of 240 hours of classroom teaching, delivered as 40 discontinuous days. It goes in parallel with an action-learning programme which incorporates a skills audit. The fundamental tools are the manual Criar e Consolidar Empresas Glocais Passo a Passo (‘creating and consolidating glocal enterprises step by step’) and Ser empreendedor Sustentável Passo a Passo (‘becoming a viable entrepreneur step by step’).

The modules comprise:

  • justifying and shaping the business idea (18h)
  • skills audit (18h)
  • formalities and taxation (30h)
  • strategy (18h)
  • quality, environment and innovation (18h)
  • social responsibility (18h)
  • marketing (18h)
  • leadership and human resource management (18h)
  • finance (24h)
  • business planning (30h)
  • business valuation (30h)

It is accompanied by a programme of action-learning and fundraising, which has the following structure:

  • strategy definition: enterprise skills, market analysis, SWOT analysis, definition of implementation strategies for the business
  • business plan and financial feasibility study, marketing plan, operational plan, human resource plan, economic and financial plan
  • raising finance: investment, sources of finance, conditions of finance and repayment plan
  • creation of the business, formalities and licences
  • conclusions and evaluation.

Sector-specific start-up training

When local authorities wish to stimulate growth in a particular industry sector, they need to make sure the training they offer connects with the needs of the entrepreneurs they are targeting. In Wallonia, the Maison du Design offers young artists a crash course in how to run a business. FOREM, the regional office for training and employment and a partner of the project, provides design entrepreneurs with a 40-hour training course on the essentials that an entrepreneur needs to know. It provides young artists with crucial information that they were never told in art school such as what it means to be self-employed, what paperwork is needed to run a business, how to understand accounting papers and how to read a contract. This course has been developed on the basis of a questionnaire undertaken in the Maison du Design to find out the weak points and areas of lack of knowledge of designers. Nine young artists started the new course in October 2006 already aware that their dream to make a living in fashion or photography will never come true if they do not learn the rules of business.

Professionalising the fast-growing care sector

The Dritt-Sektor-Qualifizierung in der Altenhilfe project was run by a coalition of the main welfare organisations (Wohlfahrtsverbände) in the German Land of Baden-Württemburg. It addressed the problem of the fast-growing demand for elderly care: in Baden-Württemberg there are 34,000 people working in institutional care and a further 12,000 in home care – but demographic change means that this figure needs to grow by a quarter by 2010.

By carrying out training in care skills, the project simultaneously improved the supply of high-quality care, integrated disadvantaged groups into the workforce, and reduced the extent of informal work. It aimed to improve personnel development, raise job quality, and create jobs in elderly care. It filled a gap in human resource planning by creating a "personnel development planning concept" which it supplies free of charge. To promote take-up of the new tool the project ran a series of training courses and events.

  • On job quality, it has addressed the problems that part-time staff have no opportunity to train; that there is no language training for the 15%-18% of workers who are immigrants; that there is no strategy for diversity management; that health and working time management are deficient; and that there is no sensitivity to the needs of older workers. It developed a benchmarking tool, and ran model projects with a view to creating a self-evaluation tool.
  • The project also created employment, by delivering training in care skills to women returners (who constitute a major unused resource), unskilled unemployed people, and immigrants. Altogether more than 20 training courses for about 350 participants were carried out. In three places there were job rotation schemes. This means that while staff undertake vocational training, their posts are filled temporarily by unemployed people, who thus gain work experience and an improved chance of a job offer. Almost 200 participants undertook vocational training, and about 55 people were temporarily employed.

The project demonstrates that caring for elderly people is a motor for job creation, and can provide jobs for many people who would otherwise face the risk of unemployment and exclusion. It also shows how important it is that vocational training systems are flexible and can evolve to meet new social needs.

Creating new professions

One of the distinctive features of the training carried out in EQUAL was to structure the professional qualification of new professions that address new trends in society. The SEED (Social European Enterprises Development) transnational partnership worked across France, Greece and Italy. One of its activities was to sharpen the profile of two new professions, much needed in suburban housing estates, of social mediator and social caretaker. The job of social mediation involves defusing potential conflicts by listening to problems, creating dialogue, and helping people in need, especially those of foreign origin, to obtain access to help. This might include arranging meetings at schools or medical centres, or simply providing the security of a human presence in the public places. Social caretakers offer elderly or disabled residents a myriad of services ranging from shopping to minor household repairs. The French are in advance in this domain since they have developed these into recognised professions and analysed which competences are required, which boosts labour mobility. More importantly still, they have opened up access to these professions by developing ways to certify experience and not only taught courses.

In Italy, the Welfare Integrato e Imprenditorialità project in northwest Italy developed and tested on-line training courses leading to a masters' degree in social business administration. The training is developing a new profession, the intermediary of confidence with the following skills profile:

  • mapping the outsourcing policy of profit-making enterprises
  • mapping the social economy offer
  • arranging meetings between public authorities, private enterprises and social enterprises
  • developing corporate social responsibility policies
  • developing innovative ideas

The qualification is accredited by the economics faculty of Padua University for the year 2005/6, and its delivery is scheduled so as to facilitate the participation of working managers. EQUAL has also shown that the tensions that arise within our changing societies require the exercise of new social roles. For instance, in some areas young people from immigrant communities may find it difficult to find a suitable job. Their experience of facing, and possibly resolving, such difficulties can be turned into an asset, by training them to help other people facing similar problems. Training people to carry out new professions such as intercultural mediator or social economy coach not only helps them to integrate into society, but also makes them catalysts for the integration of those they advise.

More generally, the management of social enterprises is in increasing demand. Their multiple stakeholders and objectives mean that managing them is a complex balancing act, which demands a broader range of skills than much conventional management. There is therefore a need for better-targeted and widely available training in social enterprise management.

Social economy management training

As well as training in specific sectors and new professions, EQUAL also developed training courses for a specific style of management – that in the social economy. This takes ionto account the multiple stakeholders in social enterprises, the multiple bottom lines (economic, social and environmental) and the multiple resource streams (sales, grants, secondments, volunteering). As part of the Tu Jest Praca (‘We have jobs’) project in Poland, Warsaw University Institute of Social Policy piloted a new Postgraduate programme in social economy management. The 230-hour curriculum covers:

  • civil society and the social economy (including theories of local development and EU structural policy)
  • roles and instruments of social economy in local development (including partnership building)
  • management of social economy institutions (including value-based leadership, human resource, financial and project management, planning and marketing)
  • the legal and fiscal framework, including mobilising endogenous potential and untapped local resources
  • social entrepreneurship (including services of general interest, entrepreneurship and corp-orate social responsibility)

The course also includes seminars and workshops on advocacy and lobbying as instruments of building local social infrastructure, and on new technologies in the social economy, as well as internships abroad.

Transnational delivery of a common curriculum

The partners in the ECCO – European Community Co-operative Observatory partnership (TCA 397) led by the Thames Gateway DP, piloted an 18-month university-level qualification, the European Certificate in Community Enterprise (ECCE). While delivery was divided among the six participating countries (ES, FR, IT, RO, SE, UK), the course was validated by the University of East London. It developed a common understanding of the social economy, built "communities of practice" to improve skills, and created a new professional profile, the "community enterprise agent". Thirty students started the course, and six dropped out. The progress of the work in EQUAL showed that wide variations in practices of social enterprise development in different countries still allow useful lessons to be learnt. The partnership approach was a strong success factor in learning the right things and in enabling the work to be further developed into a feasible European model for social enterprise support practice.

Recommendations for mainstreaming policies

By supporting innovative and transnational work in training, EQUAL has had a profound effect on the working of the European Social Fund (ESF), itself a key funder of training in Europe. The EQUAL principles of partnership, innovation, transnationality and gender mainstreaming have been carried forward into the operation of the ESF in the period up till 2013.

First, EQUAL demonstrated the vocational training systems must be sufficiently flexible to adapt to meet new social needs, and in particular the new relational needs stemming from demographic and migratory trends.

Furthermore, it showed the important role of vocational qualifications in establishing new professions, and allowing a coherent stable career progression. It also showed how accreditation enables the people working in these professions to take advantage of labour market mobility, and supported innovative transnational work to establish European level standards to facilitate transnational trading and labour mobility.

In particular, a group of linked professions that combine business advice with community development are emerging. These concern the promotion of entrepreneurship among women, ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups, as well as social enterprise development. Recognised qualifications in these areas would raise the profile of these activities, attract a wider range of advisers, and improve labour market transparency and job quality.

To aid labour mobility, such qualifications should be agreed at European level and made widely available. There is interest in several EU countries in vocational curriculum development in inclusive entrepreneurship and social enterprise promotion and management. A first step towards creating such curricula would be to bring together the necessary critical mass of centres already providing such training, to form a European network, so that they could work out the best ways of collaborating.

Links to EQUAL case studies

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