The Thematic working group (TWG) on professional development of VET trainers gathered for its third peer learning activity to discuss specificities and challenges of competence development and learn about examples of support measures to training and trainers in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are the most important form of business organisation in all countries of Europe; they represent 99.7% of all enterprises, employ 93% of the workforce and account for two-thirds of the gross value added. As one of its fundamental principles, the Small Business Act for Europe (2008) invited the Member States to promote the upgrading of skills in SMEs and all forms of innovation. Fast adaptability to new demands and environments, including the need to acquire the right sets of skills fast is vital for SMEs, with the availability of skilled staff being a major challenge.
Two-thirds of small enterprises (63%) provide training to their employees, which is, nevertheless, less by approximately one-third than large companies (93%). One fourth of SMEs provide apprenticeship (type) initial vocational training (Eurostat, 2013).
Most countries have SME-related strategies, however, whether they address training needs and provision of training remains an open question. As all enterprises, SMEs need to develop strategies for skill development and upgrade but it is a bigger challenge for them. In most cases, they need special support and guidance to overcome the barriers set by their size, including to benefit from general measures available to all companies.
Training in SMEs is provided by in-company trainers who perform training tasks as the major part of their role and by the comparatively large group of employees, including owners, whose occupational role includes a particular training-related function (owner, general manager, supervisor, skilled worker). Developing the training capacity of companies can be considered as part incentives to SMEs (both financial and non-financial), for example, as a way to involve them in providing apprenticeship places.