The Return on investment of work-based learning (WBL) and apprenticeships project promotes WBL and apprenticeships by making their benefits evident to SMEs. The project developed a digital online tool that enables entrepreneurs and SME decision-makers to calculate the return on their investment after answering several questions. At the end of this procedure companies receive results supporting their future decisions. Another objective of the project was to disseminate good practices in an online and innovative environment.

This transnational project was coordinated by the Technical University of Kosice (Slovakia) in cooperation with partners from Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal and the United Kingdom. It started in November 2017 and was completed in December 2019. In Portugal, CECOA was the national partner responsible for its design, development and implementation.

The project stressed several benefits for European SMEs that provide WBL and apprenticeships:

  • positive impact on their performance;
  • reduced costs of external recruitment and internal induction;
  • improvement in image and reputation;
  • increased people retention and job satisfaction;
  • access to a wider range of potential employees;
  • increased availability of skilled workers (with lower training costs);
  • increased profits;
  • linking with innovation, latest trends and new ideas;
  • increasing employability and promoting skills acquisition;
  • improvement of vocational education and training system;
  • reduction in youth unemployment.

Impact of the project in Portugal

In November 2019, CECOA organised a dissemination event to present the results of the ROI project. The main conclusions were that:

  • national policies and legislation are one of the key success factors affecting SME decisions on WBL;  
  • SMEs have their own WBL culture;
  • WBL can contribute to narrowing skills gaps;
  • WBL can contribute in improving communication and cooperation between VET providers and SMEs;
  • WBL offers the opportunity to SMEs to find future employees and reduces the cost of training.

CECOA tested the digital online tool with 20 Portuguese SMEs from different economic sectors. The main findings were:  

  • 50% are very satisfied with the ROI model;
  • 40% consider that the ROI model can address their needs;
  • 65% think that the ROI model is a useful practice for WBL and apprenticeships;
  • 50% stated that the ROI model helped them to identify the outcomes of investing in WBL and apprenticeship practices;
  • 50% mentioned that the ROI model can raise awareness of the benefits of engaging in WBL and apprenticeships;
  • 26% stated that the ROI model can motivate enterprises to offer new WBL and/or apprenticeship positions and encourage them to employ trainees and/or apprentices.

Finally, 50% of the SMEs found the digital tool useful, 47% found it easy-to-use, though only 25% will use the digital tool to calculate the return on investment of WBL and apprenticeships in the future.