Preparing for the upswing: training and qualification during the crisis

  • National Contribution:

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Job quality,
  • Skills and training,
  • Structural change,
  • Social partners,
  • Working conditions,
  • Promjene na tržištu rada,
  • Date of Publication: 28 veljače 2011



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The economic crisis has had a profound impact on enterprises throughout Europe. This report examines training initiatives provided or supported by enterprises (external and internal measures) during the recession for their employees (it does not cover training initiatives for the unemployed). The report begins by highlighting the dramatic increase in unemployment rates in EU Member States and Norway between the second quarter of 2008 and the corresponding period in 2010, before discussing the effectiveness of training activities as a tool for dealing with the effects of the recession on enterprises and the available evidence on the extent of training in the workplace during the recession. It describes a range of crisis-related policy measures for supporting training activities and presents successful examples of training measures implemented by enterprises in various Member States. The report concludes by examining the positions and views of social partners on the importance of training during the recession.

The study was compiled on the basis of individual national reports submitted by the EWCO correspondents. The text of each of these national reports is available below. The reports have not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The national reports were drawn up in response to a questionnaire and should be read in conjunction with it.

Download the report (pdf, 589kb) - Spanish version (pdf, 626kb) 

See also the Executive summary

Introduction

The economic crisis in the second half of 2008 has had a huge negative impact on enterprises, as reflected in the sharp rise of unemployment in the EU as a whole. Given this dramatic situation, public authorities and social partners from EU countries have adopted a number of policy measures (either alone or in collaboration) intended to support education and training activities for employees during the recession.

The idea behind these actions is that training activities can be used to prepare enterprises and employees for the economic recovery (in terms of increasing the employability of workers, closing qualification mismatches, etc.). In addition to public support measures, some enterprises and groups of enterprises are also provided training activities for their employees.

This report has the following goals:

  • map the recent evolution (before and during the crisis) of the participation of workers in training provided or supported by companies;
  • identify and assess the most important existing/new national policy measures or programmes devised by governments or social partners that aim to encourage training provided or supported by enterprises during the current economic crisis;
  • identify and assess good examples of training measures implemented by individual/groups of enterprises with the objective of updating and encouraging workers’ skills;
  • map the positions and views of social partners with regard to the importance of training during the economic recession.

The report looks solely at training initiatives provided or supported by enterprises (both externally and internally) for their workers. Training initiatives developed for the unemployed are excluded.

The research described in this report draws on the national contributions from 25 EU Member States and Norway (there are no reports from Finland and Latvia), as elaborated by national correspondents of the network of the European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) via their responses to a questionnaire. Although these national contributions contain very detailed information, the report does not repeat their content but rather provides an overview and synthesis.

In this report, the term ‘training’ consists of:

  • training ‘internal’ to the enterprise (principally designed and managed by the enterprise itself);
  • training external to the enterprise’s activities (principally designed and managed by third party organisations).

See also the definition elaborated by the European-level Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS) carried out by Eurostat. This comprehensive definition is taken into account in the report.

Europe in recession: employment and unemployment

The European economy faces the challenge of a global economic downturn that is considered to be the deepest and most widespread recession since the end of the Second World War in 1945 (European Commission, 2009; Eurofound, 2009a). This downturn is having a massive negative impact on enterprises, as reflected in the sharp rise of unemployment in the EU as a whole. In the second quarter of 2010 there were a total of 22.6 million unemployed people in EU27, which represents an unemployment rate of 9.6%. These figures contrast sharply with the situation a year and a half before where ‘only’ 16.2 million Europeans were unemployed, representing 6.9% of the labour market. In the same time span, approximately 6.6 million jobs have been lost in EU27 as a whole.

Even though all EU Member States are affected by the problem of rising unemployment, a number of countries seem to be particularly hit. Examples include the three Baltic States, Ireland and Spain, where the unemployment figures have witnessed a dramatic increase since the second half of 2008 onwards (Table 1). Not surprisingly, these Members States have the highest unemployment rates within the EU (almost 14% in Ireland, and around 19–20% in Spain and the three Baltic States in the second quarter of 2010) and these rates have more than doubled in the last year and a half.

Table 1: Employment, unemployment and unemployment rates in EU Member States and Norway, second quarter 2008 and second quarter 2010







  Employment (thousands) Unemployment (thousands) Unemployment rate
2008 Q2 2010 Q2 2008 Q2 2010 Q2 2008 Q2 2010 Q2
Spain 20,271.5 18,322.0 2,376.5 4,639.8 10.5 20.2
Latvia 1,088.8 912.9 76.5 225.4 6.6 19.8
Estonia 633.8 537.4 27.3 127.7 4.1 19.2
Lithuania 1,495.5 1,301.7 71.0 296.7 4.5 18.6
Slovakia 2,394.9 2,302.1 268.1 388.2 10.1 14.4
Ireland 2,061.6 1,814.8 116.8 289.8 5.4 13.8
Greece 4,497.6 4,346.9 356.5 593.1 7.3 12.0
Hungary 3,837.7 3,748.0 319.0 473.2 7.7 11.2
Portugal 4,902.2 4,674.0 409.2 587.6 7.7 11.2
Bulgaria 3,315.7 3,032.2 206.1 339.8 5.9 10.1
Finland 2,541.2 2,448.6 202.1 262.4 7.4 9.7
Poland 15,452.0 15,750.7 1,192.5 1,677.2 7.2 9.6
EU27 217,873.8 212,884.4 16,050.5 22,624.0 6.9 9.6
Sweden 4,518.3 4,446.5 337.5 467.1 7.0 9.5
France 25,827.5 25,655.8 1,936.9 2,520.5 7.0 8.9
Italy 23,168.4 22,614.2 1,696.6 2,088.7 6.8 8.5
Belgium 4,382.5 4,404.6 297.3 391.1 6.4 8.2
United Kingdom 28,682.1 28,007.1 1,597.8 2,377.4 5.3 7.8
Denmark 2,819.7 2,680.9 90.2 215.5 3.1 7.4
Slovenia 969.1 944.5 42.6 73.9 4.2 7.3
Czech Republic 4,934.4 4,807.0 219.7 373.7 4.3 7.2
Romania 8,984.0 9,024.0 566.1 696.7 5.9 7.2
Germany 37,857.1 37,970.8 3,218.6 2,916.5 7.8 7.1
Malta 159.4 163.5 10.3 11.8 6.0 6.7
Cyprus 372.0 375.1 12.4 26.3 3.2 6.6
Austria 4,035.5 4,000.8 145.8 187.0 3.5 4.5
Luxembourg 207.8 217.5 11.0 9.5 5.0 4.2
Netherlands 8,463.5 8,380.8 246.0 367.4 2.8 4.2
Norway 2,465.5 2,440.2 70.3 99.2 2.8 3.9

Source: Eurostat, Labour Force Survey

Unemployment is an issue that particularly affects those individuals with the lowest educational qualifications. Unemployment rates have increased in the recession period for all educational groups. However, data for the second quarter of 2010 for EU27 show thats the unemployment rate for those with tertiary education (International Standard Classification of Education, ISCED levels 5–6) was only 5.1%, while unemployment rates increase among individuals with upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED levels 3–4) and especially among those with lower secondary education or below (ISCED levels 0–2) (9.0% and 16.2%, respectively).

Training as an effective tool for tackling the recession’s effects

Investment in human resources and skills (through education and training) is recognised as one of the crucial engines for economic growth and social cohesion, with a number of benefits for countries, enterprises and individuals (see for instance: Torres, 2003; Coulombe et al, 2004; Lange and Topel, 2006; Huang et al, 2009).

At European level, both policymakers and social partners are emphasising the need to support and encourage training activities for adult workers; see, for instance, the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs or, subsequently, the Europe 2020 strategy. The Europe 2020 strategy includes ‘integrated guidelines’ for the development of a skilled workforce responding to labour market needs, promoting job quality and lifelong learning. This emphasis responds to a debate about the need to move Europe upward towards a ‘knowledge-intensive economy’ centred on upskilling of workers, greater employee involvement and greater innovation not only in products and processes but also in the organisation of work (European Commission, 2008a).

The severity of the financial crisis that developed in the second part of 2008 and its associated negative effects on the labour market have brought added interest to the issue of training both at EU and national level. The European Commission’s 2008 Communication, New skills for new jobs (72Kb PDF), suggests that ‘skills upgrading is critically important for Europe’s short term recovery as well as longer term growth and productivity’. Moreover, in a background paper (96Kb PDF) to the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO), the European Commission advocated that:

For men and women facing difficulties in gaining new employment, the ‘training first approach’ should be considered. For the entire workforce, upskilling and re-skilling is crucial to ensure adaptability and employability in uncertain times.

Social partners have also stressed the importance of training in the current crisis context (see, for instance, BusinessEurope et al, 2010).

The European Economic Recovery Plan proposed by the Commission in November 2008 underlined the importance of implementing active and integrated flexicurity policies, focused on activation measures, re-training and skills upgrading so to promote further employability of workers (European Commission, 2008b). As part of this plan, the Commission has launched a major European employment support initiative, whose aims include simplifying the criteria for European Social Fund (ESF) support and stepping up advance payments so that Member States can rapidly reinforce activation schemes involving personalised counselling, intensive training/retraining and upskilling of workers. The Commission also proposes to revise the rules of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGAF) so that it can intervene more rapidly in key sectors to keep in the labour market those skilled workers who will be needed once the economy starts to recover.

In addition to European level actions, some Member States (sometimes in collaboration with social partners) are developing schemes aimed at empowering workers via training and skills upgrading activities, so that these workers and their enterprises can take advantage of new opportunities arising from changes in the labour market structure or when the upturn comes. From the company perspective, it might make sense to engage in training especially in times of low capacity utilisation, as the time devoted to training may cost less during such times in terms of foregone production activities.

Evidence of workplace training during the recession

This section examines the recent evolution of training activities conducted by enterprises for their employees during the current economic crisis, attempting to provide answers to the following five questions.

  • Is there any evidence that more/less enterprises are currently engaged in providing training for their workforce in the current economic crisis period than in pre-crisis years?
  • Is there any evidence that workers are participating more/less in training provided or supported by the enterprise in the current economic crisis period than in pre-crisis years?
  • Is there any evidence that the profile of enterprises engaged in training activities for their employees is changing in the current economic crisis?
  • Is there any evidence that the profile of workers attending or participating in this type of training activities is changing as a result of the current crisis?
  • Is there any evidence that the profile of training activities is changing as a result of the current economic crisis?

Although recent findings from the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS 2010) suggest an increase in worker participation in training financed by their employer in the medium term (2005–2010) throughout the EU27, there is limited European official data showing the recent effects of the current economic crisis on the training activities carried out by European enterprises compared with the situation, say, two years ago. The only available information at the time of writing this report (October 2010) comes from European Labour Force Survey data on education and training activities carried out by working individuals during the four weeks previous, either at the initiative of workers themselves (with no intervention from their employer) or at the initiative of their enterprises.

The available data highlights the important difference in that, whereas more than 20% of the working population participated in a training activity in the northern European countries and the United Kingdom in 2007–2009, this percentage was less than 5% in countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia (the EU average was slightly above 10% – see Figure 1).

However, the data also shows that, compared with the situation in 2007, the percentage of people in employment involved in training activities has experienced a remarkable downward trend in some countries (for example France, Ireland, Latvia and Slovakia), whereas in other countries the situation is the opposite (for example, Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden) and it has been relatively stable in a third group of countries (for example, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom). The EU27 average has experienced only a slight downward movement in 2009 compared with 2007 and 2008.

National information provided by the national correspondents on enterprise-led training activities is presented below.

Figure 1: Percentage of the people in employment participating in education and training over the four weeks prior to the annual European Labour Force Survey, EU Member States and Norway, 2007, 2008 and 2009

Source: Eurostat, Labour Force Survey, annual average

Involvement of enterprises in training activities

Not all enterprises or individuals are involved in training activities to the same extent. European and national studies such as Eurostat’s education and training database, Delhez et al (2009), Matoušková and Žáčková (2008), the Quarterly National Household Survey conducted by Central Statistics Office (CSO) Ireland and information from Luxembourg’s Central Service for Statistics and Economic Research (Statec) confirm that the likelihood and extent of an enterprise being involved in training activities for their employees is higher among:

  • multinationals;
  • medium and large enterprises (particularly the latter) than small enterprises;
  • enterprises involved in knowledge-intensive sectors (for example, financial/business services) compared with others in the hotel and restaurant or retail sectors.

Evidence from several countries shows that the number of enterprises actively involved in training activities for their employees has fallen (either in absolute or in relative terms). A press release (in German) from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) shows that the share of establishments in Germany which regularly offered continuous training rose steadily from 39% in 1999 to 49% in 2008, but dropped to 45% in 2009. This evidence is supported by a report (in Polish, 509Kb PDF) by Deloitte on trends in human resource management in Poland and a report (in Polish) from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP) which show that the number of enterprises providing training to employees during the current crisis is less than in previous years.

Available studies offer a relatively negative picture of the effect of the current crisis on the amount of financial resources devoted to training activities by enterprises. A study (in French, 77Kb PDF) by the Centre for Studies and Research on Qualifications (Céreq) and a report (in French, 40Kb PDF) from Cegos show that French enterprises are investing less on training during the current crisis years in absolute terms compared with previous prosperity years. According to the Cegos report, 40% of enterprises declared they had reduced their training budget, although a significant 30% reported having invested more in training. Recent research conducted by the German Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) concluded that, in times of economic crisis, establishments would rather scale back than extend their training effort. Meanwhile, a Spanish report from the IESE Business School and the Élogos Foundation published in 2010 stresses that the average amount invested by Spanish companies in education and training activities in 2009 fell by 16% compared with the previous year. Evidence compiled by the Swedish website utbildning.se (in Swedish) shows that 47% of private employers and 60% of public employers cut down on funding for raising skills during 2009. According to a survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2009, this percentage stands at 32% among UK private businesses.

Several studies provide a number of reasons suggested by enterprises to explain this lower involvement in training activities. Despite the existence of traditional ‘non-crisis’ related explanations such as difficulties in identifying training needs or suitable training providers, the need to reduce costs and save money in the current tight economic situation is often cited, as training is usually regarded as a relatively ‘easy-to-cut’ expense. This is supported, for example, by a German study that shows that the main reason for 46% of businesses cutting their training budget has been to reduce costs and cut spending (Bogedan, 2010). The report stresses that the main reason among enterprises for not offering continuous training, or not having extended such activities within the last two years, is because they consider it ‘too expensive’. Finally, the reduction in training budgets could also be explained in some cases by increasing use of other less cost-intensive methods such as internal training activities (for example, employees training fellow employees as noted in a report (in Flemish, 526Kb PDF) from the Belgian National Confederation Executives and Managerial Staff (CNC/NCK) published in 2009), although the supporting information for this is purely anecdotal.

Despite this general gloomy view, some countries seem to be an exception (for example, Denmark and Italy), as available data confirm that more enterprises are engaged in providing training for their employees as a response to the crisis. A study (in Danish, 730Kb PDF) carried out by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (FI) in 2009 shows that 39% of companies sought to increase training activities (to a high or to some degree) as part of their strategy for tackling the crisis. This positive view is confirmed by other sources such as the Danish Chamber of Commerce (DE). Meanwhile according to the Excelsior Information System survey produced by the Italian Association of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Artisans and Agriculture (Unioncamere), the share of companies in Italy involved in training activities experienced an upward trend from 25.7% in 2008 to 32.1% in 2009.

Participation of employees in training activities

The available empirical evidence does not suggest any definitive trend at EU level on the effect of the economic crisis on the participation of employees in training activities provided or supported by their enterprises, though there are important national differences. Thus, it might be expected that the share of workers benefiting from training activities should have fallen significantly as a consequence of the reduction of training activities in enterprises. This seems to be the case in some countries (for example, Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania). In the case of Estonia, information obtained from its Labour Force Survey shows that the share of employees participating in employer-financed learning fell by more that 11 percentage points between 2007 and 2009 (see Statistics Estonia). Qualitative information collected from several social partner organisations in Bulgaria confirms this view, while the 2009 annual report of the National Agency for Employment (ANOFM) suggests that the number of workers involved in continuing training activities in Romania decreased from 169,400 in 2008 to 122,800 in 2009.

Empirical evidence collected in other EU countries provides a less dramatic perspective. A recent IAB study (in German, 633Kb PDF) shows that, despite a declining share of establishments in Germany offering continuous training from 2008 to 2009, the share of employees participating in training experienced only a very limited reduction. A similar result has been obtained in Luxembourg by the Office for Productivity Growth (OLAP), by the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey and in Sweden by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. The Netherlands Working Conditions Survey shows that the percentage of people participating in training activities initiated by enterprises went down slightly from 59% in 2008 to 56% in 2009, whereas in Sweden the percentage of employees receiving paid training at work sometime during the past 12 months decreased from 43% in 2007 to 42% in 2009.

All these results can probably be explained by two main developments.

  • Those enterprises still offering training to their employees are particularly committed to this.
  • More public funds are currently available for training purposes for enterprises and their employees (see the next section for a discussion).

Furthermore, in some countries such as Denmark, the available data give a clear indication that the participation of employed people in formal training and education training activities during the crisis has increased (see, for instance, the data provided in the UVM Databank (in Danish) which shows that the number of participants in the 4,410 available Adult Vocational Training (AMU) programmes increased from 671,527 in 2008 to 951,134 in 2009). This development can be partly explained by how the Danish Adult Education and Continuing Training System (VEU) works; for the training supplied by the labour and training authorities (approximately 70% of the job-oriented adult and vocational training activities in Denmark), the employer is eligible for reimbursement covering part of the employee’s salary. Relatively similar programmes are available in other EU countries (see next section), although not so ambitious and widespread as the Danish one.

Changes in the profiles of workers and enterprises involved in training

Has the economic crisis resulted in any changes in the profile of enterprises and employees involved in training activities?

Enterprises

Available empirical evidence in some countries (for example Germany and Poland) shows that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) (and among these the smallest ones) in particular have reduced or even cancelled their training budgets, while a more stable behaviour has been seen among large enterprises; see for example the survey (in German, 74Kb PDF) by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) and the PARP press release (in Polish) issued in February 2009. The DIHK survey indicates that companies with a greater number of employees are more often involved in continuous training, while companies with less than 20 employees are particularly affected by financing difficulties when it comes to training their employees. This result was confirmed in several interviews conducted by national correspondents in Austria and Slovakia.

However, a survey (219Kb PDF) in the UK by CIPD in summer 2009 argues against this general view, as it shows that larger organisations have been particularly inclined to cut training budgets during the recession (for instance, in enterprises with over 5,000 employees, 44% of respondents stated that training budgets had been reduced in the previous 12 months, whereas this percentage was only of 26% among enterprises with 250 or fewer employees). Meanwhile, the Italian data from the Excelsior survey seem to be an exception to this, in the sense that they show an increase in the participation of enterprises in training activities irrespective of size considerations.

From a sector perspective, a report (in Spanish, 32Kb PDF) by Adecco Group from Spain and the Deloitte report (in Polish, 509Kb PDF) both suggest that reductions in training seem to have particularly affected those economic sectors hit the hardest by the recession such as finance, ICT, construction or manufacturing. By way of contrast, Danish and Norwegian evidence suggests that training has increased most in those sectors that were particularly affected by the crisis, though this result is probably explained by the particular characteristics of the public training systems where state funds support those sectors in need.

Employees

Usually, individuals with higher educational attainment, those involved in higher rank positions, those in intermediate age levels or those with permanent contracts benefit more from training activities carried out by enterprises; see, for example, Eurostat’s education and training database, Delhez et al (2009), Matoušková and Žáčková (2008), the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey and information from Statec. Also see Albert et al (2005) for an interesting discussion on the relationship between temporary contracts and training involvement in Spain.

Evidence from some countries shows that it has remained unchanged in the current economic crisis. Thus, a report (in German, 5.14Mb PDF) from the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and an IAB report (in German, 633Kb PDF) confirm that the low-qualified and those without any or only a low formal school-leaving certificate take part less frequently in continuous training. For instance, the IAB report shows that in the first half of 2009, only 12% of employees having low qualifications were given leave from their work or financially supported by their employer to participate in training, compared to 40% with university qualifications. The focus on people higher in the occupational hierarchy (such as managers) is also confirmed by a Hungarian study by DGS Global Research and the Spanish study by Adecco Group (both published in 2009).

From a trend perspective, the findings of the Irish National Workplace Survey 2009 conducted by the National Centre for Partnership & Performance (NCPP) confirm that training activities in the current crisis situation particularly favour better educated employees and those higher up the occupational hierarchy. Meanwhile, an Spanish report by Deloitte España in 2010 shows that coaching and personal development plans aimed at managers are on the increase, the aim being to enable them to learn how to motivate employees and handle adversity during the economic downturn (such education practices have increased 15% compared with 2008).

Evidence from other countries provides a different picture. For instance, in those countries where training has notably increased among those sectors particularly affected by the crisis (for example, Denmark and Norway), there is a larger share of blue-collar, low-skilled people participating in training as they are overrepresented in these sectors. In addition, comments by the Czech national correspondent stress that the participation of older employees and workers with a low level of education has increased in the Czech Republic as a consequence of existing public support measures.

With regard to gender, there is not much data available, although it is possible to assume a converging trend over the years in terms of women participation in training activities.

Types of training activities provided

The available evidence suggests a number of major changes in recent years in the profile of provided training activities (type of courses, training methodologies, contents, duration, etc).

It is possible to identify an emerging recent trend by which enterprises are favouring internal training practices (this is, training principally designed and managed by the enterprise itself) versus external training practices (principally designed and managed by a third party organisation). Three reports published in 2010 by bedrijfsopleidingen in Belgium, OLAP in Luxembourg and IESE/Élogos Foundation in Spain show that the demand for internal training practices (in-house seminars, courses, etc.) has increased in the last two years as a consequence of the economic crisis, basically with the aim of reducing costs and making better use of ‘idle’ internal human resources. This increased attention to internal training practices is affecting enterprises of all sizes, although it seems particularly relevant among larger enterprises.

In addition, several Hungarian and Spanish studies report an increasing preference among enterprises for shorter but more ‘business-focused/company-specific’ training activities. According to the report by Adecco Group, Spanish enterprises shortened the duration of training courses on average by nearly half during 2009, primarily to reduce their training budgets. According to the Hungarian report by DGS Global Research and the Spanish report by IESE/Élogos Foundation, enterprises have also tended to focus their training activities on topics (cost management, leadership promotion, sales and marketing, professional technical skills, etc.) closely related to their core business and intended to improve workers’ and business performance rather than more general training activities such as languages. This finding is confirmed by the Belgian online training database, www.bedrijfsopleidingen.be, whose web-based survey found that current training activities are particularly focused on increasing business efficiency and cutting costs.

Information from Spain (Adecco Group and IESE/Élogos Foundation reports) also suggests that the use of online and blended learning training approaches (such as e-learning) has grown in recent years due to:

  • the fast development of new information and communication technologies (ICT);
  • the easy access to such technologies;
  • the improved possibilities for flexibility and adaptability to ad hoc needs;
  • their lower associated costs and the need for enterprises to reduce operating costs in the current situation.

Moreover, the Deloitte study reveals that these e-learning methods are more often used for those in administrative and technical positions, whereas traditional (and more expensive) ‘face-to-face’ courses are more common among managers. Evidence from Bulgaria shows that use of e-learning methods remains popular in larger enterprises compared with their lower use among smaller enterprise (information obtained from training courses funded by the Bulgarian National Employment Agency).

Conclusions

Based on the information available, it would appear that the current economic crisis is in general having a negative impact on the engagement of enterprises in training activities (at least in the number of enterprises actively involved in training activities for their employees), and particularly in the case of SMEs. However, there are some exceptions to this and also, in general, the level of employee participation in training activities has been relatively stable.

Looking to the future, it is possible to expect a clear recovery in the training effort of enterprises, as enterprises are well aware of the benefits associated with a skilled workforce and the importance of investing in skills and competence upgrading, especially in a context characterised by rapid technological changes, an aging workforce, and critical skill gaps and shortages.

An online survey (in German, 74Kb PDF) conducted by DIHK in February 2010 found that:

  • up to 68% of German companies are as committed to their future continuous training activities as they had been before the economic crisis;
  • 25% expect to undertake greater efforts in continuous training in the future.

Similar positive views were identified by Deloitte in Luxembourg in 2009, where most of the surveyed enterprises considered that training and talent development are more than ever a priority for the future survival of their organisations. A 2009 report from CIPD found that:

  • up to 70% of enterprises surveyed in the UK considered learning and development to be a key priority in their organisations;
  • 76% believed training and development to be an important part of business improvement.

Crisis-related policy measures for supporting training activities

Since the advent of the economic downturn in 2008, public authorities in the different European countries have introduced comprehensive anti-crisis packages in order to cope with and reverse the situation. According to ERM Report 2009 (Eurofound, 2009a), these anti-crisis packages include:

  • direct support to enterprises such as loans or guarantees to facilitate access to finance and lowering of social security contributions;
  • support to foster consumer demand such as financial support for families and compensation for income loss;
  • employment-related support measures which attempt to mitigate the labour market and social impacts of the economic crisis.

Among these measures, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) distinguishes so-called ‘employment maintaining’ measures, intended to support companies so they may keep people in employment (Eurofound, 2009b).

This section seeks to identify and analyse the relevant policy measures devised by European national public authorities and social partners intended to encourage enterprises to engage in training activities for their workforce during the crisis so that enterprises and workers are better prepared for the economic upswing. These measures include:

  • those introduced during the economic crisis;
  • those that existed before the crisis and have been extensively used during the current crisis;
  • those that have recently been changed, extended or reformed to deal successfully with the current situation.

This section summarises those training-related policy initiatives aimed at individuals with an employment contract and with enterprise involvement (the form of this involvement depends on the country). It does not consider existing policy measures that have general training purposes with no specific crisis-related content or for which there is no specific evidence that they have been particularly used during the current crisis. National correspondents were asked to report on the ‘most important’ policy schemes in terms of employees covered/funds allocated, etc.

A set of 64 public policy measures that fulfil the criteria set out above were identified in the 27 EU Member States plus Norway from the national contributions (for a further description of these identified measures, see the Annex). These public policy measures can be grouped into four main categories (Table 2) and are considered below in turn with examples.


Table 2: Categories of public policy measures
Type Number
Measures establishing a linkage between short-time work/temporary lay-off practices and training activities (in this particular context, measures aimed at individuals affected by short-time work practices are also taken into account) 20
Measures supporting training costs and/or wages for enterprises in general and for enterprises facing special difficulties in particular 32
Measures supporting training leave schemes 4
Other types of support, including training-related consultancy and advice activities, as well as legal obligations 8

Measures establishing a linkage between short-time work/temporary lay-off practices and training activities

In the face of the recession, falling demand and the consequent slowing of production, short-time working and temporary lay-off schemes have been extended (or introduced) in many Member States (Eurofound, 2010). In order to avoid dismissals during a downturn in demand, many European companies put their employees on short-time work or lay them off temporarily. This results in lower personnel costs for the enterprise, while safeguarding the availability of the required human resource capacity and skills as soon as there is an upward trend in the economic development (Eurofound, 2009b). For the employees, it provides at least a certain degree of income security (from unemployment funds) linked to the temporary guarantee of not being made redundant. In general, this type of mechanism implies a social partner agreement on the terms and conditions of arrangement, as well as approval by the governmental authority. For a discussion see the European Commission’s Occasional Paper on short-time working arrangements published in June 2010.

In this section the focus is on the training measures within the mentioned short-time working and temporary lay-off schemes. The ERM annual report 2010, Extending Flexicurity – The potential of short-time working schemes (Eurofound, 2010) includes a more comprehensive analysis of these instruments and analyses the appropriateness of the measures, in terms of the goals of European Employment policy as headlined in the EU’s overarching strategy document Europe 2020 (European Commission).

Favourable conditions for enterprises facilitating training during short-time working

Some European countries have made additional provisions that may offer more favourable conditions for enterprises and employees if short-time work/temporary lay-off practices are combined with training activities for affected employees.

For instance, in Austria, the so-called ‘Qualification Allowance for Employees on Short-time’ (Qualifizierungsbeihilfe bei Kurzarbeit) and the ‘Qualification for Employees on Short-time Work Supported by the European Social Fund’ (Qualifizierungsförderung für Beschäftigte in Kurzarbeit (QfB-KUA) im Rahmen des ESF) aim to encourage employees on short-time work to make use of reduced working hours to participate in training to achieve a qualification

Example 1: ‘Qualification allowance for employees on short-time work’ (Qualifizierungsbeihilfe bei Kurzarbeit) and the ‘Qualification for employees on short-time work supported by the ESF (QfB-KUA)’ (Qualifizierungsförderung für Beschäftigte in Kurzarbeit im Rahmen des ESF) - Austria

Example 1: ‘Qualification Allowance for Employees on Short-time Work’ and the ‘Qualification for Employees on Short-time Work Supported by the European Social Fund’, Austria
Both measures seek to encourage employees on short-time work to make use of their reduced working hours to gain a qualification which benefits both themselves and the company. The measures also try to enhance companies’ adaptability and to give employees the chance to improve their employability. Both measures were introduced relatively recently: in February 2009 and March 2010, respectively The qualification allowance can be claimed for a maximum of 18 months (general rule). It is paid to the employer, who pays subsidised qualification support (Qualifizierungsunterstützung) to the employee for the hours spent on training. The Public Employment Service (AMS) refunds the employer’s expenditure with an hourly flat rate, the qualification allowance (Qualifizierungsbeihilfe); this flat rate varies according to an employee’s wage group, income, regular working hours before short-time work and number of children. The training must take place during hours ‘lost’ (that is, the hours an employee would work if not on short-time work). To be eligible for QfB-KUA, employees must receive subsidised qualification support from their employer and spend at least 16 ‘lost’ hours in training. In addition, the training must make sense in terms of labour market policy and the needs of the company. The subsidy amounts to 60% of the course costs up to a maximum of €10,000 per employee (general rule). QfB-KUA is funded in equal parts by AMS and the European Social Fund (ESF). In 2009, 8,000 (of which 1,000 were women) of the 67,000 employees on short-time work in Austria received subsidised qualification support and companies received QfB-KUA for 2,900 employees (10% women). Most employees on short-time work are employed mainly in manufacturing (especially the automotive industry and its suppliers) but also in retail, wholesale, and transport and storage. A recent report (in German, 1.96Mb PDF) from the Federal Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK) notes that companies often use the funding to obtain qualifications for their staff in compulsory areas such as health and safety.

Source: Austrian contribution and Eurofound, 2010

In the Czech Republic, a national programme called ‘Extend your Knowledge!’ (EDUCA) was initiated in March 2009 with the goal of helping enterprises forced to introduce partial unemployment due to the economic crisis. In this programme, employers (with the exception of those in the Prague area) involved in partial unemployment processes may obtain additional funds for training courses for their employees. The absolute amount of subsidy depends on company size as well as the characteristics of the trained people (for instance, training for disabled people is more generously subsided up to a limit of around €20,000 per month per enterprise). Employers receive a contribution for the training costs and wages (including social and health insurance up to a maximum of €975 per month) for the period when their employees participate in training. Funds are drawn from ESF Operational Programmes.

In Denmark, several political initiatives have been adopted to better adapt existing work-sharing arrangements (a type of short-time work mechanism) to the crisis. In March 2009 the government responded to recommendations by the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) by issuing the so-called ‘four initiatives to support employees threatened by unemployment’. These included the introduction of more flexible rules regarding work-sharing arrangements, as well as enabling faster access to further training by increasing the funds available (DK0903021I). Subsequently, in May 2010, a political agreement on long-term unemployment (‘Stronger out of the crisis – combating long-term unemployment’) was concluded, which obliges enterprises to examine the possibility of training employees (through the VEU/AMU system) before resorting to prolonging work-sharing mechanisms.

In Germany, the federal government issued a new regulation (in German) in December 2008 on training during short-time work which amended traditional training activities courses for employees on short-time work during 2009 and 2010. The new regulation stipulates that employers can be reimbursed by the Federal Employment Agency (BA) for 100% of their social security contribution payments provided that they support continuous training to improve their short-time employees’ skills. Before 2009, support for training was granted only to recipients of short-time working allowances due to restructuring or a plant closure. Training measures supported by the new programme can be related to specific training to the enterprise (for example, resulting in skills which employees need in their current positions) or to general training. For specific training, 25% of the costs for the training course can be reimbursed; for general training, the figure is 60%. For SMEs, a higher level of reimbursement may be granted if their annual turnover is below a specified threshold. When the employer applies for such funds, the training measures and the needs of the employees involved must be explained and substantiated at the local employment agency.

In Italy, the main labour market tool for dealing with crisis situations is the so-called Cassa Integrazione Guadagni (CIG). CIG is a financial benefit intended to support those workers affected by temporary work suspensions or working time reductions due to unexpected external situations. Law 2/2009 extended the CIG benefit to employees of any sector regardless of the size of their company, provided that they individually sign their commitment to participate in any ALMP (active labour market policies) agreed by the social partners and Public Employment Service (PES) support them (the so-called CIG in deroga or CIGD). In addition, Law 102/2009 allows enterprises to use employees benefiting from CIG in a training project provided they obtain approval from social partners and the Ministry of Labour on its content. These enterprises have to pay the difference between the CIG benefit (80% of the wage) and the full wage. Finally, Law 2/2009 allowed interprofessional training funds to finance training activities for employees affected by employment suspensions.

In Luxembourg, the regulation giving enterprises the right to financial support for the payment of non-working hours (Grand Ducal Regulation of 25 June 2009 on fixation of the compensation rate for short-time workers) was amended in June 2009 so the support could be raised to 90% if a training activity is organised during the non-working hours.

In Poland, the Act on Mitigating the Consequences of the Economic Crisis for Workers and Enterprises 20090 includes for the first time measures for partial unemployment. This Act also foresees special incentives to support training activities by enterprises during reduced hours working. Thus, employers can receive reimbursement of part of the training costs (public aid up to 80% of the total costs of training/postgraduate studies, with a limit) where the type of supported training is general and aimed at adjusting the qualifications and skills of participants to the needs of the economy in general (activities covered include ICT, finance, accounting and management).

In Portugal, the so-called Qualification–Employment Programme (Programa Qualificação-Emprego) was introduced in January 2009 for the automotive sector and extended in March 2009 to all economic sectors. This measure is intended to support and increase qualifications among workers affected by a temporary reduction of their usual working hours or by a suspension of employment contracts (lay-off). These workers can benefit from training activities during normal working hours. Companies supported by this measure benefit from a public co-funding of part of the wages of their workers (90% for up to 25% of their workers, 35% of workers in the case of the automotive sector). Since 2010, the scope of the measure was further extended to cover intermittent employment contracts. The initiative ended in May 2010.

In Spain, the government enacted a number of urgent measures in June 2010 for the reform of the Spanish labour market (Royal Decree 10/2010 (in Spanish, 574Kb PDF)). One of the main elements was to allow a social security discount of up to 80% for those companies involved in redundancy procedures agreed with workers’ representatives when the companies carry out training activities designed to enhance the multi-skilling and employability of their workers during the period of suspension of contracts or reduced working hours.

Favourable conditions for employees facilitating training during short-time working

In some countries, individuals on short-time work involved in training activities can benefit from additional support.

In Belgium, the Flemish Government grants a temporary extra financial support of €58.59, the so-called ‘bridging’ premium (Overbruggingspremie), to workers whose working time has been reduced within the framework of their company’s restructuring plan and who undertake training during the reduced working time.

In Lithuania, workers affected by short work-time schemes have been able since August 2009 to receive paid grants during the whole period of training amounting to 70% of the minimum monthly wage (and, if necessary, funding for travel and accommodation). This vocational training programme (Profesinis Mokymas) is financed by the ESF and state budget. It allows individuals to have the opportunity not only to change or improve their qualifications, but also to fill in the ‘financial gap’ to complement those earnings lost due to a shortened working time.

Since 2009, employees in France who work a reduced number of hours (under the minimum by law) over a long-term period due to the economic crisis can be allocated additional benefits through the so-called ‘Convention of Long-term Partial Activity’. In exchange, the enterprise is committed to maintain employment (for twice as long as the duration of the convention) and explore training opportunities for each worker concerned. This measure is co-financed by the state and the body in charge of unemployment benefits, and must be agreed between the enterprise (or a professional organisation) and the public authorities. This measure complements the existing French short-time work system in the sense that both measures can be cumulated.

Compulsory training during short-time working

In other countries, eligibility for public support for short-time work or temporary lay-off mechanisms is bound to the provision of, and participation in, education and training activities during the time off.

For instance, in the case of Malta, a Temporary Aid Scheme in reaction to the economic crises was launched in 2009 (see Example 2). The basic goal of this measure is to develop and organise compulsory training programmes for employees whose work schedule had been reduced to a four-day week because of a drop in orders during the recession.

Example 2: ‘Temporary Aid Scheme’, Malta
This national policy measure was implemented in 2009 by the Ministry of Finance together with some additional public bodies (Employment & Training Corporation (ETC) and Malta Enterprise), is intended to foster training activities for employees whose work schedule had been reduced to a four-day week because of a drop in orders during the recession. The public authorities develop and organise training programmes for individual enterprises during the fifth day of the working week in close consultation with employers and the trade unions. The training may comprise specific training activities (for the enterprise) or generic training, and it is normally decided upon after analysis of the training needs by the enterprise and the employees’ representatives. The Maltese Public Employment Service has the task of coordinating the training. The public authorities pay workers in training the equivalent of a day’s work on a minimum wage, though some enterprises have added additional funds. From the fourth quarter of 2008 until the second quarter of 2009, 32 Maltese companies requested the national authorities to opt for a reduced four-day week, out of which approximately 1,500 employees from four companies that satisfied the eligibility criteria of the Temporary Aid Scheme benefited from training activities. Grants are available subject to a commitment from the enterprise that it will carry out additional investment in the future so to expand its activities.

Source: Maltese contribution

In Slovenia, the act on partial refunding of wage compensation for temporary laid-off workers is intended to support temporary laid-off workers with training activities. Eligible enterprises can apply for funds to cover 50% of wage compensation for their temporary laid-off workers, provided that these workers spend at least 20% of the laid-off time on training activities (irrespective of training content and with a time limit of six months). Employers can also claim back the costs of training for temporary laid-off workers of up to €500 per worker. This measure was introduced in June 2009 as part of a second package of anti-crisis measures and is expected to be concluded in March 2011. The measure has a total budget of €48 million, out of which €9.5 million refer to training-related refunds; 85% of the funds come from the ESF and 15% from the state budget. Up to mid-October 2010, 146 enterprises had claimed back the training costs of their temporary laid-off workers.

In the Netherlands, employees who are on short-time or partial unemployment schemes are obliged to follow training or education during the hours they do not work according to a decision by the Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. This measure on short-time working (Werktijdverkorting, WTV) was introduced on 30 November 2008 until end of March 2009; in April 2009, the so-called partial unemployment (Deeltijd-WW) was introduced (to be finished by June 2011). In both cases, employers are obliged to arrange training for the employees concerned or send them on secondment where the activities should be written down in an education agreement signed by the employer and employee representatives. The reduction in working hours is for 20–50% of normal working hours for a period of six weeks (in the case of short-time working) and up to maximum of 50% of normal working hours, with a maximum of 15 months, in the case of partial unemployment. The latest government revision revised the budget for partial unemployment up to €950 million (for more information on the issue see also Eurofound, 2010)

Other countries have decided to introduce short-time work practices on an experimental basis. A good example of this is given by Ireland where the Irish Short Time Working Training Programme was introduced in June 2009 as a very limited pilot (277 workers). This programme, administered by the Public Employment Service, provides two days training a week for employees who are on systematic short-time working for three days a week and receiving a social welfare payment for the two days they are not working. However, the status of this programme is unclear because, according to the information provided by the national correspondent, the Public Employment Service no longer runs the programme.

Measures supporting training costs and/or wages for enterprises in general and for enterprises facing special difficulties in particular

Some European countries have adopted a number of policy measures intended to financially support additional education and training measures for enterprises’ employees during the recession. This financial support is provided either for the training costs arising for the employer or to cover both training costs and wages (either partially or totally).

Measures supporting training costs

Public support for training costs is available in a number of countries.

In the Czech Republic, the so-called programme ‘Further Professional Education of Employees of Enterprises in Industry’ was introduced in 2009 to provide financial support of up to 100% for the training expenses carried out by enterprises in a number of selected NACE (Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community) sectors outside Prague and particularly affected by the crisis such as metalworking and retail.

A relatively similar support programme can be identified in Lithuania (‘Improvement of Human Resources in Enterprises’), although in this case co-financing by enterprises themselves is required (approximately 30% of total costs). Related examples can be also found in Bulgaria and Poland as well as in Spain, where a public measure (for example, ‘Commitment to People’) supports training activities carried out by Basque enterprises belonging to manufacturing sectors and having at least 30 employees (measure introduced in 2009). These policy measures in all four Member States are co-financed by the ESF.

In Estonia, the support programme (‘Support for Training in Micro and Small Companies’) introduced in August 2009 is intended to support job-related training expenses (carried out by national micro and small companies, as well as self-employed people (see Example 3). This support programme is intended to complement another one (‘Support for Development of Knowledge and Skills’) introduced in July 2008 and aimed at all Estonian enterprises irrespective of size.

Example 3: ‘Support for training in micro and small companies’, Estonia
This national measure, which was run by Enterprise Estonia (EAS) from August 2009 to June 2010, was intended to raise the competitiveness of micro and small companies through better access to training. The initiative was financed by the ESF. From an operative perspective, it covered job-related training expenses of enterprises and the self-employed at 100% of the costs of the training, but no more than EEK 15,000 (about €960) per year. All micro and small companies (maximum of 49 employees and a maximum annual turnover of €10 million) and self-employed persons were eligible. The support could be applied for once a year. The supplier of the training to be financed had to be a public training institution or training company registered on the list of service providers held by Enterprise Estonia. Companies belonging to some sectors (for example agriculture, manufacturing of alcohol or tobacco, retail or wholesale trade, financial or insurance activities) were not eligible for support. A total of EEK 11.9 million (about €761,000) was used between August 2009 and April 2010, although the initial budget for 2009 was of EEK 5 million (indicating the high interest in the measure). After nine months of implementation, 967 applications had been approved.

Source: Estonian contribution

Other SME-focused public support examples can be found in Spain (for instance within the framework of the ‘Regional Government of La Rioja measures against the economic crisis’) or in Romania, where existing measures such as ‘State aid scheme for comprehensive and targeted vocational training’ are aimed at all type of enterprises involved in training activities for their staff, although SMEs benefit from higher public support compared with large enterprises.

In the case of the Netherlands, the ‘education premium’ introduced in January 2009 (with a time limit of the end of 2010) supports training activities carried out by enterprises only for new employees. In this case, enterprises who have difficulty finding qualified personnel can receive a bonus of 50% of the training costs for the new employee up to a maximum of €2,500 via the Administrative Institute for Employee Insurance Schemes (UWV). Such employees are people who would be unemployed if they had not been hired by the new employer or would have had a temporary contact. Since 2009 enterprises can also receive financial compensation for the development of specific training certificates, the so-called Ervaringscertificaat (EVC) and Ervaringsprofiel (ECP), also via the social security administration, and for specific employees (for instance, those at risk of becoming unemployed or those with a temporary contract). This financial compensation depends on the company size (up to a maximum of €650 for EVC and €300 for ECP in case of more than 25 employees and up to a maximum of €1,300 and €600 for EVC and ECP in case of 25 employees or less). Dutch employers also have the option to apply for a tax reduction related to training or education activities; this tax reduction was extended in 2010 to also cover enterprises’ training related expenses aimed at increasing the general educational attainment of employees or giving a starting qualification to a formerly unemployed person.

In Belgium, the Wallonian measure of ‘adaptation–credit mechanisms’ has been modified and extended since 2008 such that tutoring activities carried out by workers aged 45 or over with a background of transferable skills to newly recruited workers are also financially supported (this was not the case before 2008).

In France, a number of measures (for example, Convention de reclassement personalise (CRP), Contrat de transition professionnelle (CTP) and Congé de reclassement) are available providing training opportunities for individuals affected by restructuring processes where job redundancies are envisaged. Employers are obliged to provide to these workers, among other supporting tools, with training activities intended to favour their professional reclassification.

Finally, the specific case of Denmark should be mentioned in that the VEU/AMU system (see above) has proved a very effective tool for coping with the crisis, although it has been subject to minor adjustments. During 2009, additional funds were allocated to it to cope with the increased number of users as a result of the crisis; the AMU system helped 671,527 participants in 2008 and 951,134 in 2009, while the VEU system supported 1.09 million people in 2008 and 1.2 million in 2009.

Measures that support both training and salary costs

Some countries have developed a number of training-related policy schemes that financially support both training costs and salary costs for enterprises in particular financial difficulties.

For instance, in Cyprus, the ‘Single-enterprise Continuing Training Programme’ introduced in 2009 seeks to preserve jobs in companies that are facing economic difficulties due to the crisis. The programme covers a substantial part of the expenses for staff training (see Example 4).

In the Czech Republic, a recent ESF-funded training programme (‘Training is a Chance’) introduced in March 2009 provides finance not only to cover the costs associated with training (including general as well as specialised training) but also for employees’ wage compensation for the time of their participation in the training. Enterprises drawing funds from the short-time work scheme, ‘Extend your Knowledge!’ (see above) cannot benefit from this programme.

Example 4: ‘Single-enterprise Continuing Training Programme’, Cyprus
This national scheme, which runs from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2014, replaced an existing scheme of the same name. The programme is aimed at employees at risk of being made redundant due to the financial crisis. Its objective is to prevent unemployment and in parallel promote the acquisition of job qualifications. Under the programme, the Human Resources Development Authority of Cyprus (HRDA) helps employers retain their staff instead of making dismissals by utilising employees’ idle time for training. Specifically, HRDA assists employers in designing and implementing training programmes for their employees that meet their specific needs, as well as covering eligible costs including trainees’ expenses for the duration of training. From an operational perspective, employers receive a grant that covers different eligible expenses such as the trainers’ staff costs, travel expenses for trainers from abroad and other general indirect expenses. The eligible employer declares existing eligible expenses on the basis of which the aid is calculated. For the period 2009–2015, it is calculated that HRDA’s annual budget to operate the programme will not exceed €10 million. According to HRDA data, 6,443 people benefited from the scheme in 2009.

Source: Cypriot contribution

Similar examples can be found in France, Hungary, Norway and Slovakia.

In France, the ‘National Employment Fund–Training’(‘FNE-Formation’) system was totally renewed in 2009 to cope with the crisis. Under the new rules, those enterprises that face special difficulties can apply for financial help that partially covers the wages as well as the training expenses of employees. The amount of the support varies according to the size of the enterprise (SMEs are particularly supported), the category of workers (especially less qualified personnel) and the type of training (general or specific), with a maximum duration of one year. In exchange for this financial help, enterprises are requested to maintain workers in employment at least during the duration of the arrangement and thus this measure can be regarded as an alternative to existing short-work arrangements.

In Hungary, SMEs that carry out training activities (both general and specific) for their employees (or some of them) could benefit in 2009 from public support, covering not only training-related costs but also wage costs. The measure (‘Support for Preserving Employment Combining Training with Decreased Working Time’) supported training activities that took up 20% of the employees’ working time as well as their wages for the training time. This measure was co-financed by the ESF and the Hungarian government. Again, the goal of the measure was to preserve existing levels of employment during the economic crisis while, at the same time, improving the employability of employees. Interestingly, this measure has been extended to large enterprises and to very small enterprises (fewer than five employees).

In Norway, the initiative ‘Grants for In-house Training’ supports both the costs associated with training as well as salary costs of those workers participating in training activities organised by enterprises negatively affected by the economic crisis. The amount of the support depends on the size of the enterprises (SMEs receive higher support) as well as on the nature of the training content (general versus specific-to-the-enterprise training activities). This measure, introduced in October 2009, was part of the government’s ‘crisis package’ to keep people at work while simultaneously promoting training activities for them.

In Slovakia, a similar support scheme co-financed by the ESF has been available since the end of 2008. It is aimed at enterprises employing more than 20 people and threatened by the crisis. Such companies receive a range of financial support ranging from 20% to 80% of training costs depending on their economic situation and the region where they are located.

In Germany, the so-called WeGebAU programme (‘Continuous Training for Low-qualified and Older Employees in Companies’) was extended in 2009 as part of the second rescue package of the federal government to enlarge the target group and eligibility criteria. The Federal Employment Agency subsidises both training-related costs (for example, fees and related costs) as well as the salaries (wages and social security contributions) of employees (irrespective of their age, the size of their company or their qualification level). As a result of this expansion, available resources were increased from €167 million in 2008 to €332.3 million in 2009, and the number of participants increased from 61,968 in 2008 to 101,890 in 2009.

Nature of supported training activities

Some of the training support measures explicitly distinguish between ‘general’ training activities (that is to say training activities not particularly related to the enterprise such as ICT, languages, health and safety issues) and training activities ‘specific-to-the-enterprise’ (in the sense that these training activities respond to specific needs of the enterprise or, in a more intermediate situation, the occupation or the sector).

Some of the measures support both types of training activities, for example:

  • Czech ‘Training is a Chance’;
  • French ‘National Employment Fund–Training’;
  • Norwegian ‘Grants for In-House Training’;
  • Romanian ‘State Aid Scheme for Comprehensive and Targeted Vocational Training, Areas 2.3. and 3.2 Measures’.

Others support only support ‘specific-to-the-enterprise’ training, for example:

  • Cypriot ‘Single-enterprise Continuing Training Programme’;
  • Czech ‘Extend your Knowledge!’.

For those cases where information is available, general training activities are more generously supported than ‘specific-to-the-enterprise’ ones. This is the case for instance in the two Romanian measures and the Norwegian case, where the state support is not to exceed 25% for large companies and 35% for SMEs for specific training activities, whereas for general training/education, the support rate is not to exceed 50% for large companies and 70% for SMEs.

Measures supporting training leave schemes

In some countries (for example, Austria, Estonia and France), existing training leave schemes have been amended/reformed in response to the 2008 economic and financial crisis, primarily with the idea of enlarging the range of potential users.

The introduction of the new Employment Contracts Act on 1 July 2009 in Estonia states that all working persons have the right for study leave of up to 30 calendar days per year, no matter the form of study or intensity of training.

In France, it is possible for very small enterprises (up to 10 employees) to support the salary of a worker replacing another worker absent for training reasons via the Certified Joint Collecting Body (OPCA). This measure was introduced on an experimental basis in the 2009 law reforming training and lifelong learning, and it is expected to run until December 2011.

The most important reform on training leave has taken place in Austria, where special conditions have been implemented for training leave (Bildungskarenz) covering the period between 1 August 2009 and 31 December 2011. Under the new conditions, six months of continuous employment is enough to be eligible for training leave (it was three years before 2008). In addition, the minimum duration of training has been reduced from three to two months, and the training leave can be consumed in one part or in several parts of at least two months each (but cannot exceed a total of 12 months within four years). Employees on training leave receive a financial support (‘further education benefit’) from the unemployment insurance fund which is paid at the level of the unemployment benefit due to the worker (until 1 January 2008 this applied only to employees aged over 45, whereas other employees received parental leave benefit). Training leave employees also receive health, accident and pension insurance.

The possibility of training leave in Austria has been reinforced with the so-called Training Leave PLUS programme, intended to last between spring 2009 and the end of 2010, whereby the Austrian federal states refund between 25% (Styria) and 50% (Vienna, Burgenland, Carinthia, Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Upper Austria) of the course fees up to a maximum of €1,250 (Styria) to €3,000 (Vienna, Tyrol, Upper Austria), with some limits on the amount spent on employees’ course fees per company which also varies between states. According to the BMASK report (in German, 1.96Mb PDF), the annual average of employees on training leave in Austria amounted to 1,551 in 2008 and 4,894 in 2009, with a peak in November 2009 of 6,855 people.

Others types of support: consultancy, advice, legal obligations

In some countries, several policy measures are available that aim to promote the provision of advice and consultancy services to companies on various training-related matters.

Examples of this type of support include the activities conducted by the reaction service to collective redundancies (Kollektiivsetele koondamistele reageerimise teenus) in Estonia, a public measure intended to inform employers about different opportunities for financing training when facing collective redundancy processes. This measure, although initiated in 2005, has been used extensively by enterprises in the last two years.

In the Netherlands, since March 2009 UVW has established a national network of 33 regional ‘mobility centres’ which support companies that are undergoing reorganization or which make use of schemes (for example, partial unemployment) set up specifically to identify training and education opportunities for employees affected by restructuring situations. These mobility centres work in close cooperation with employers, employees, local authorities and other public and private organisations.

The Netherlands also has two public websites that provide a complete overview of existing measures and subsidies for financing training and education (Financieel leren en werken (in Dutch)) and practical information about the organisation of education activities (Werkwijzer Scholing (in Dutch)). Both websites, which have been extensively used in the last two years, are aimed not only at employers/managers but also at employees.

It is also worth stressing the example of the UK Train to Gain programme, a government service offering independent advice and help to enterprises in identifying training opportunities for their employees. Employers of all sizes and in all sectors of economic activity can get help from skills brokers to find the right training and to access available funding. This service was extended in January 2009 to include short-term training activities.

In addition to specific advice and information services, some countries have recently introduced some specific ad hoc measures that try to foster training activities in enterprises but which cannot be grouped into any of the previous categories. The most remarkable example of this is given by the UK ‘time to train’ legislation, which provides employees in the UK with the right to request training from their employer. The regulation, which was passed in February 2010, was developed partly in response to the economic crisis and applied to companies with 250 or more employees from April 2010 and to companies of all sizes from April 2011. The regulation is not legally binding and only provides employees with the right to request training from their employer, whereas employers are not bound to provide the training to employees. However, employers must give the request serious consideration and, if the request is refused, inform the employee why it has been refused. Although some argue that this entitlement is weak and reinforces the traditional ‘voluntarist’ UK approach to training, its implementation suggests a shift towards a somewhat less voluntarist approach to training activities (Heyes, 2010).

Training-related initiatives by social partners

Social partners in some countries and sectors (often in close collaboration with public authorities) have been able to agree on important training-related initiatives as a response to the economic crisis.

A good example of this is given by the ‘Crisis Addendum’ signed in Belgium in spring 2009 after an agreement was reached between Flemish main employers’ organisation and trade unions, with the participation of the Flemish Ministry of Work. The main aim of this ‘addendum’ was to provide extra financial resources to Belgian sectoral training funds (STFs) such that they would not be affected by anticipated cuts in their income (STFs are usually financed by receipt of 0.1% of wages). For this purpose and within the framework of the Flemish action plan, ‘Restore the Trust’ issued in November 2008, €10 million was granted by the Flemish Ministry of Work to the STFs to develop additional activities in the training domain. In this way, 26 out of the 28 existing Flemish sector agreements have been extended with such an addendum, which comprises specific training activities agreed between sectoral social partners (for an example, see the description of the activities of COBOT STF in the next section).

Social partners have been also interested in fostering advice and information on training-related issues. In the Czech Republic, an example is provided by the regional offices opened up by the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SP ČR) in 2008 and 2009. Among other activities, these regional offices have provided enterprises with labour law consultancy services and information about possible public support for training activities for employees. These regional offices have been co-financed, among others by the ESF and the state budget.

An International Labour Organization (ILO) Working Paper (253Kb PDF) published in 2010 describes the national framework agreement in France between the employer association for the chemical sector (Union des Industries Chimiques) and the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment to use training programmes as a way of avoiding redundancies.

Also in France, French employers and trade unions reached in January 2009 a national intersectoral agreement on lifelong learning aimed at addressing some of the deficiencies of existing vocational educational and training (VET) provisions. For instance, the agreement allows workers who have been dismissed to use their accumulated individual right to training (Droit Individuel à la Formation, DIF) either during the period of unemployment or in the company where they have found a new job (see FR0907019I).

In Germany, two recent sector regional agreements signed in the metal and electrical industry in mid-February 2010 introduced interesting training-related options that are serving as pilot agreements for other bargaining regions (DE1004029I). Thus, part of the sector agreements signed by the regional branches of the German Metalworkers’ Union (IG Metall) with the Baden-Württemberg Employers’ Association for the Metal and Electrical Industry (Südwestmetall) and the North-Rhine Westphalian Employers’ Association for the Metal and Electrical Industry (Metall NRW) have concluded an agreement on short-time work, training and employment that it is expected to run until June 2012. This agreement stipulates, among other things, that employees can take training leave of up to five years (formerly three years) and that this leave period can be combined with a part-time working scheme. Only education activities that match with skills needed or expected to be needed in the employee’s establishment are covered by the agreement.

In Romania, eight sectoral committees for vocational training have been launched since the introduction of the Law 268/2009, which aims to foster the participation of social partners in the drafting of the national and sectoral strategies regarding vocational training, as well as in the development, updating, and validation of qualifications and qualification standards at sectoral level.

In Spain, social partners have a traditionally important role in the fostering of training activities. This is achieved via the so-called Tripartite Foundation for Training in Employment, a tripartite organisation managed by the most representative Spanish business and union organisations and by the public administration. The Foundation runs the so-called Continuing Training Credits for Enterprises, which are intended to support general or specific training activities organised by enterprises for their workers, either in isolation or in group of enterprises. This measure, operationalised through discounts in compulsory social security contributions for those enterprises that carry out training activities for their employees, has been used extensively during the economic crisis in comparison to previous years; the number of benefiting enterprises increased from 136,789 in 2007 to 200,689 in 2008 and 293,460 in 2009.

Also in Spain, the regional Automotive Labour Relations Forum composed of regional social partners and the Regional Government of Galicia agreed in November 2008 to set up a training programme for workers in the automotive sector as an initiative to counteract the first signs of the slowdown. For this purpose, the regional government has devoted up to €10 million for training activities carried out by sector enterprises for employees where the subsidy covers 80% of the training costs (the remaining 20% is provided by the enterprise itself).

Finally, another interesting training-related initiative by social partners can be found in the Netherlands where construction sector representative employer and employee organizations (CNV Hout en Bouw, FNV Bouw, Bouwend Nederland and Fundeon) agreed in April 2009 to initiate a training-related project for upgrading the skills of current employees in the construction sector, as well as to facilitate the inflow of young people into the sector. For this purpose, €64 million was made available from the existing STF (O&O Fund).

Some qualitative remarks on the effectiveness of policy measures

Earlier parts of this section have shown that both public authorities and social partners have devised a number of policy measures in the last recent years intended to encourage enterprises to carry out training activities for their workforce during the economic crisis. The rest of this section examines to what extent these measures have been effective in fostering these training activities. There are not many studies and reports that evaluate the effects of these measures, but the available evidence suggests mixed results.

Available studies from Austria and Germany show that participation in short-time work arrangements coupled with training is relatively limited.

In Austria, a BMASK report (in German, 1.96Mb PDF) states that 8,000 (1,000 women) of the 67,000 employees on short-time work schemes in 2009 received subsidised qualification support, with 2,900 employees (10% women) benefitting from the QfB-KUA measure. A 2009 survey (in German, 455Kb PDF) among the 300 most important companies in Austria suggested that short-time work had been implemented in 48 (16%) of these companies, while short-time work had been combined with qualification measures in only six.

In Germany, a report (in German, 1.63Mb PDF) from the Federal Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (BAuA) for 2009 shows that only 13% of establishments that had introduced short-time work had at least one short-time worker in a qualification measure in 2009, and only 8% of all short-time workers took part in a qualification or training measure in 2009. However, it is possible to identify a steady increase in new entries to the programme, as according to an IAB report (in German, 633Kb PDF), monthly entries rose from 232 cases in January 2009 to 15,923 cases in December 2009.

Despite this limited participation, information from other countries such as the Netherlands suggests that major interventions in 2008 and 2009 to improve the participation in training during the crisis (for example, WTV and Deeltijd-WW) have led to a significant training impulse within companies, enhancing employees’ employability, while at the same time increasing the competitiveness of the company (RWI, 2009).

Information from Austria, Germany and Spain shows that the participation in this type of training-related measure has experienced a remarkable increase over time.

  • A report (in German) from the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS) and a web page (in German) on the Arbeitkammer (AK) website shows a relatively high increase in the number of people on training leave in the last two years; the annual average of employees on training leave increased from 1,551 in 2008 to 4,894 in 2009, with a peak in November 2009 (6,855 employees).
  • In Germany, a BA report (in German, 1.63Mb PDF) shows that monthly participation in short-time combined with qualification rose from 232 cases in January 2009 to 15,923 in December 2009.
  • A report (in Spanish, 345Kb PDF) from Spain by the Tripartite Foundation for Training in Employment shows that the number enterprises that have benefited from its subsidies increased from 201,689 in 2008 to 293,460 in 2009 (an increase of 46%), while the number of participants increased from 1.99 million to 2.42 million in the same time period (21% increase).

It could therefore be argued that, although existing support measures are having a limited effect in terms of the percentage of enterprises benefiting, they play an important role in fostering training activities among those participating. This result is confirmed by the analysis of enterprise case studies in next section.

From a qualitative perspective, existing measures are subject to a number of problems and criticisms that can be summarised as follows.

  • Some authors have argued that, in short-time work situations, employers may sometimes not prioritise investment in skills development for employees because it is not clear whether and for how long the short-time workers will remain part of their workforce. Given that employers cannot forecast accurately the duration of short-time work in a crisis context, it is also possible to assume that short training measures will mainly be applied, resulting in criticism of the effectiveness and strategic nature of this training (Crimmann and Wießner, 2009). This situation can be especially problematic for SMEs, whereas large enterprises may adapt their training activities according to already well established training plans.
  • The scope of supported training varies from ‘general’ to ‘company-specific’. This distinction is important as the two types of training have very different implications in terms of those benefiting and management procedures. General training activities are more easy to organise (content is more general) and primarily encourage job mobility by employees either in the same sector or in others (though the enterprises themselves also benefit indirectly) where this training relates to compulsory topics such health and safety. ‘Specific-to-the enterprise’ training activities respond more to the specific interests of enterprises, but are more difficult to organise as their content has to be tailor-made for the particular enterprise. For those measures where information is available, public authorities seem to favour general training activities, probably as a way of fostering the movement of workers to better ‘performing’ enterprises and sectors.
  • Social partners in some countries such as the Netherlands suggest that partial unemployment arrangements should be more flexible in the sense that it should be possible to stop it temporarily if there is a short period with more work as a consequence of a large order (RWI, 2009).
  • Information collected from some employers’ organisations and trade unions (and included in the national contributions) suggests that procedures for requesting public support often imply bureaucratic and administrative burdens for enterprises, especially for the smallest ones. The BA report (in German, 1.63Mb PDF) notes that SMEs are often less familiar with the existing public programmes and may experience difficulties in identifying their training needs and training suppliers.
  • It should not be forgotten that problems sometimes arise from employees themselves, as they may be not motivated enough or have difficulties following a training course (RWI, 2009).

Finally, it is important to stress the role played by the ESF in co-financing some of the policy measures identified. ESF is playing a particularly important role in all the eastern European new Member States, though examples of co-financed measures can be also found in the old Member States (for example, Austria, Belgium and Italy). ESF also co-finances very different types of measures ranging from training activities linked to short time (examples include the Czech ‘Extend your Knowledge!’, the Austrian QfB-KUA and the Slovenian act on partial refunding), measures supporting training costs (examples from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland) to measures supporting training both costs and wages (examples include Hungary and Slovakia). There are also a number of Hungarian examples where ESF co-financed training activities support ‘general’ and ‘specific-to-the enterprise’ training activities in different ways.

Conclusions

This section has demonstrated that public authorities in nearly all Member States are developing (often in close collaboration with social partners) support measures aimed at facilitating training activities for enterprises and their workers during the economic crisis as a tool for acquiring new qualifications and therefore be in a position to take advantage of new opportunities when the upturn comes.

The evidence shows that most of these measures are supporting training costs and/or wages for enterprises in general and for enterprises facing special difficulties in particular, followed by those measures establishing a linkage between short-time work/temporary lay-off practices and training activities. Other types of support such as training leave, consultancy and advice on legal obligations are less prevalent.

Nearly all the measures have been implemented/amended since the second half of 2008 onwards, primarily with the aim of providing an effective answer to the recent economic crisis.

From a geographical perspective, it is not possible to determine a definitive pattern in the sense that different policy options are not more used in some European country areas than in others. An exception that is worth mentioning is the measure from the UK called ‘Time to Train’, where workers themselves can ask their employers for training but the employers are not obliged to provide it.

Finally, and despite the problems and criticisms highlighted, the existing support measures play an important role in fostering training activities among participating enterprises, although they benefit a limited percentage of the total number of enterprises in the relevant Member State.

Successful examples of training measures implemented by enterprises

Since the advent of the recession in 2008, enterprises have faced a significant decrease in demand for their products and services. In this sense, enterprises have adopted a number of very different responses to deal with recession, which range from extreme measures (such as closure) to strategies to cut costs (in terms of investment, labour costs, redundancies, etc.). For an in-depth discussion of these alternatives, see Eurofound (2009c) and ILO (2009).

In this way and in addition to support measures implemented by public authorities and national social partners (see previous section), some enterprises in Europe have used the low levels of business activity during the economic recession period to get involved in training activities for their employees so as to be prepared for the economic upswing. The specific response made by an enterprise depends not only on internal elements (for example, the enterprise’s perception of the severity of the decline, its expectations for the future and its culture) but also on external elements such as the country/sector where it is located and the existence of public tools that foster involvement in training (see previous section for a further discussion on this issue).

National correspondents have presented in their reports a number of interesting examples of initiatives carried out by individual or groups of enterprises that are intended to foster training activities as a tool for overcoming the current recession situation and for preparing for the future recovery. This section presents an analysis of these case studies.

The examples identified by the national correspondents illustrate that training-related responses to the economic recession can be found in enterprises belonging to all type of economic sectors from manufacturing enterprises (textile industry, chemical industry, metal and steel producers, mechanical engineering, automotive suppliers, car and truck producers, medical products, etc.) to tertiary sectors (HORECA sector, wholesalers, car repairers, finance and insurance, consulting and innovation engineering services, telecommunications, etc).

Interestingly, the largest share of case studies refers to enterprises particularly affected by restructuring situations such as the examples from:

  • Austria (MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Österreich);
  • Belgium (COBOT);
  • Czech Republic (ArcelorMittal Ostrava);
  • Denmark (Davidsen Tømmerhandel);
  • France (Assystem);
  • Ireland (Dublin Port Company);
  • Italy (Piaggio Aero Industries and Ideal Standard International);
  • Malta (Trelleborg Sealing Solutions and Methode Electronics Limited);
  • Netherlands (Ferro and Corus Ijmuiden);
  • Slovenia (ETI);
  • Spain (Orona SCoop);
  • Sweden (Scania).

In all these cases, training activities have been used as a tool for coping with reduced working times derived from lower activity levels while, at the same time, empowering employees for the next economic upswing, usually in the same working areas but also in new more dynamic areas within the enterprises (for example, the French case study) or in completely new areas (for example, the Italian case study of Ideal Standard International, where training activities are intended to convert employees from production tasks to logistics operators as part of the restructuring process of the Brescia plant). In the remaining case studies, training activities have been used by enterprises as a tool for facilitating new competences and skills to employees so they can cope successfully with new job demands within the same activity.

Most of the examples refer to initiatives taken by enterprises with more than 500 employees. This result is probably explained by the fact that, in addition to a higher visibility in the market, these large enterprises have the ability and the resources to engage in further training activities during recession periods on an individual basis (see discussion on this in the previous section). However, some examples of small enterprises have been identified such as the small company case study from France.

There are also a number of examples where sector associations or specific ad hoc sectoral organisations have taken the initiative in developing training activities at sectoral level. Good examples of this latter case are provided by:

  • COBOT (an STF of the Flemish textile industry);
  • Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry (EML),
  • Greek Local Association of Car Repair Workshops Owners of the Prefecture of Heraklion;
  • Romanian Federation of Health Workers (FSS);
  • Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) in the UK, a so-called Sector Skills Council (SSC).

The Belgian and British organisations are managed jointly by sectoral social partners and are engaged in financing continuing training activities carried out by members, where funding may come from different sources (including a wage levy in the case of the Belgian sectoral training fund).

Case study: COBOT – Flemish textile industry
COBOT is a sectoral training fund of the Flemish textile industry, which has been affected by deep restructuring processes in recent years. Between May 2009 and April 2010, COBOT carried out an action plan named AVANTI (Additional Training Actions in the Textile Industry). The Flemish government provided temporary extra resources for training and education in the sector (as part of its economic recovery plan, ‘Restore the Trust’, and its subsequently agreed ‘Crisis Addendum’). The AVANTI plan can be regarded as a success, since these additional resources have created more opportunities for training in the sector. The Plan consisted of eight main measures including:
  • provision of new training courses;
  • higher contribution to fees paid by employees for external training;
  • greater financial contribution to the organisation of in-house training activities.

More than 1,410 participants took part in in-house activities in the first half of 2009, representing 12,019 training hours.

Source: Belgian national contribution

Most of the reported training-related responses have been implemented once the enterprises appreciated the magnitude of the economic crisis (this is, since mid 2008 onwards and especially in early 2009). However, some training responses were implemented before this time. A good example of this is given by the Irish Dublin Port Company, which began a restructuring programme in 2004 but strengthened this programme in late 2008 to deal with the current situation.

The most usual type of training carried out by the case study enterprises is ad hoc courses (both external and internal), usually closely related to their core activities. However, some analysed enterprises have developed specific types of training -elated activities such as:

  • mentoring activities for new employees carried out by internal employees (KNEIP Communications in Luxembourg);
  • support for the preparation for final examinations for apprentices and master craftsman certification (MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Österreich AG in Austria);
  • development of an integrated database for educational and training needs in the sector (Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry);
  • paid education/training-related career breaks (Irish Life & Permanent);
  • award of experience certificates to employees (Ferro in the Netherlands benefited from the Dutch public support measure for experience certificates).

Most of the training activities appear focused on the enterprises’ business requirements and needs (specific technical training, accounting, management, marketing, soft skills, etc.) and avoiding general training activities (languages, general ICT skills, etc.). However, there are exceptions to this general rule like the Danish company Davidsen Tømmerhandel, which in addition to some technical courses, used the AMU training catalogue extensively in areas such as improvement of basic reading and writing skills, first aid courses and use of computer programs mainly applied for private purposes.

Although the enterprises analysed rely on both external and internal training courses, the data indicate a preference among enterprises for internal training courses. This is for a number of reasons. Internal training may be more focused on the enterprises’ day-to-day needs and also less expensive than external courses (for example, KNEIP Communication in Luxembourg and Corus Ijmuiden in the Netherlands). Corus Ijmuiden made use of this solution as a way of identifying existing available expertise within the company. In other cases (for example Assystem in France), internal training practices have been used to foster internal mobility from areas in temporary decline within the enterprise towards other more dynamic areas. However, this recourse to internal training practices is partially explained by the fact that most of the analysed enterprises are large or very large enterprises.

The cases show that a variety of employees, from high-ranked employees and middle managers to plant blue-collar workers, benefited from the activities. Notwithstanding this, the fact that enterprises in a number of cases have benefited from specific public measures supporting training activities combined with short-working time practices explains the relatively large number of blue-collar workers participating in training (for instance, the examples of MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Österreich in Austria, Assystem in France, ArcelorMittal Ostrava in the Czech Republic, Corus Ijmuiden in the Netherlands and ETI in Slovenia).

In a large number of examples, the training activities have been initiated by the enterprise itself, with no participation of social partners in their design and implementation. However, there are also a number of examples where social dialogue has played a key role. In some cases, the initiative has been promoted by the enterprise itself, where trade unions have been extensively informed about it (see the Maltese examples of Trelleborg Sealing Solutions and Methode Electronics Limited or the example of Scania in Sweden). In other cases, social partners have agreed the contents and characteristics of the training activities (for example ArcelorMittal Ostrava in the Czech Republic, Piaggio Aero Industries in Italy, the two Dutch case studies of Ferro and Corus Ijmuiden, ETI in Slovenia, and the Belgian and UK sectoral organisations’ initiatives of COBOT and Energy & Utility Skills, respectively). In this respect, it is interesting to underline the Danish Davidsen Tømmerhandel example, where it was the employee company representative who initially suggested to management the possibility of receiving funds from the AMU system for training employees.

Meanwhile, and as far as the use that the analysed enterprise case studies make of existing public measures for financing/supporting training activities, the available information shows that with the exception of some national examples in Bulgaria, Norway and Slovakia (for example McDonald’s Bulgaria, Hardanger Sylvplett and T-Mobile Slovakia, respectively), in the remaining cases enterprises have made use to different degrees of existing national public support measures and additional funds for fostering training activities (the fact that most of these enterprises are large is likely to have influenced this result). In some cases, this support is closely related to short-time work-related measures (for example MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Österreich in Austria, ArcelorMittal Ostrava in the Czech Republic, Corus Ijmuiden in the Netherlands and ETI in Slovenia). In other cases, enterprises have benefited from ad hoc public national measures for supporting training activities (for example the Greek Local Association of Car Repair Workshops Owners of the Prefecture of Heraklion, ArcelorMittal Ostrava in the Czech Republic, the Italian examples supported by interprofessional training funds and the Spanish example of Orona) or from ESF funding (for example the activities of the Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry and Scania in Sweden). In addition, some governments provided ad hoc extra resources for training activities (for example the extra resources provided by the Flemish government for the COBOT sectoral training fund).

It is an open question whether these schemes end up helping training programmes that would have been provided by enterprises anyway (the so-called ‘deadweight’ effect). Analysis of the case studies suggests that, whereas in some cases this effect is very important (for example Scania in Sweden, where public support comprised just a small portion of the total cost of the project), in a large number of cases, public support played an important role in fostering not only the decision of enterprises but also the type of activities/actions implemented or the type of employees who benefited. A good example of this is provided by the case study below from a French small manufacturing enterprise for which the available public support and subsequent activities helped to avoid having to lay off a large proportion of its employees. Overall, the analysed enterprises have used available support measures intelligently for their own benefit.

Case Study: French small manufacturing enterprise
‘X’ is a French company employing 40 workers which manufactures specific industrial pieces. In 2009, and as a consequence of a huge fall in the demand, the sustainability of the business was called into question. However, the enterprise was conscious of the current and future problems arising from firing qualified workers (for example in terms of finding suitable people when the recovery came). The enterprise therefore negotiated a one-year FNE convention in 2009 which allowed it to obtain funds over a one-year period to train its workers in exchange for maintaining their jobs. The whole training project cost was evaluated at €160,000 (training and labour costs). The state gave €54,000, OPCA (the organisation in charge of training fund collection) gave €80,000 and the enterprise paid the rest. On the whole, the 3,100 hours of training planned were in different fields and covering all types of workers. The initiative has contributed to avoiding redundancies as managers are convinced that, without it, a large number of employees would have been laid off due to the intensity of the 2009 crisis.

Source: French national contribution

The company examples suggest that enterprises are very conscious of the positive economic effects derived from involving their employees in further training activities and increasing their skills and competencies in terms of:

  • a wider array of in-house skills and competencies;
  • employees’ further adaptability and multiskilling;
  • increased work mobility;
  • higher productivity levels;
  • additional possibilities to develop new working methods and new business projects.

In addition to these goals, some enterprises are also particularly aware of the important social benefits derived from their involvement in training activities. In this respect, enterprises in some countries have used the training (often as an ‘obligation’ derived from the existing public support measures) as a way to avoid having to lay off workers in the recession period while, at the same time, improving their skills to be prepared for the next upswing.

Such enterprises appreciate the fact that shedding key staff now would necessitate attracting and recruiting new staff when the upturn occurs (which obviously implies future added costs and difficulties for the enterprises). Examples of this type of reasoning are provided by MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Österreich AG in Austria, Nyrstar in Belgium, Davidsen Tømmerhandel in Denmark, the French examples, the two Maltese examples, Ferro and Corus Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, and Scania in Sweden.

Other additional social training-related benefits identified by enterprises include:

  • a boost in morale and company spirit as employees realise the positive attitude of the company (Scania in Sweden);
  • improved working climate within the enterprise (in terms of better communication and higher participation and higher morale among employees) (Trelleborg Sealing Solutions in Malta and Orona in Spain);
  • lower job rotation rates in the company (SMA Solar Technology in Germany);
  • better insight in existing in-house competences and skills (Ferro in the Netherlands).

Positions and views of social partners on the importance of training during the recession

In the large majority of Member States, there is a consensus among social partners on the importance of training as vital tool for preserving existing employment as and for getting prepared for the economic recovery. However, there are also a number of Member States where the issue of training has not received significant attention from social partners. A good example of this is Greece, where the social dialogue on the advisable measures for dealing with the crisis has not been directed, to a significant extent, towards vocational training.

In those countries where short-time work schemes coupled with training elements are available (for example France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia), there is a strong consensus among social partners of the importance of keeping hold of workforces and using the extra time available for training purposes.

Interviewed Dutch social partner representatives rate the use of time available from short-time working and partial unemployment for training as a very appropriate measure for dealing with the current situation. In Italy, representative employers’ organisations and trade unions regard the 2009 link between active and extended passive labour market policies (the so-called CIG in deroga) as positive progress in terms of support to employees’ protection and their employability. The same can be said for Slovenia, where the trade unions and employers’ organisations supported the introduction of the anti-crisis measure of partial wage compensation for temporary laid-off workers to enterprises combined with an obligation to train these workers.

Key communications

This key role attributed by social partners to training in a recessive situation is reflected in a number of key declarations and communications issued by social partners in a number of European countries. Examples are given below.

  • In Bulgaria, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) proposed a series of new training-related measures at the beginning of 2009. Examples include fostering part-time work in combination with training or added public financial support for continuous vocational training activities by the employed (including also transport costs). Several employers’ associations welcomed the CITUB proposal including the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG), the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).
  • In Denmark, and from the beginning of the crisis in 2008, the trade union side has stressed the importance of supplementary training in order to solve the problem of mass redundancies (DK0903029Q). In January 2009, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) put forward 12 proposals on better upgrading of skills in the labour market (LO’s 12 bud på bedre opkvalificering (in Danish)). Meanwhile the Danish Chamber of Commerce (DE) encouraged enterprises to make use of the training provided in the AMU/VEU system and offered its expertise to enterprises in this regard.
  • In Estonia, the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) stresses in its action plan for 2008–2011 the need to increase the popularity of adult learning and to support the availability of opportunities for lifelong learning. Meanwhile the Estonian Employers’ Confederation (ETTK) also stresses in its manifesto for 2007–2011 the need to develop vocational training through increased financing and to increase the share of adults participating in lifelong learning.
  • In Germany, the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) released a position paper (in German, 300Kb PDF) in 2009 on its position concerning the role of continuous training in establishments. In this paper, BDA acknowledged that securing business competitiveness, the introduction of new technologies, the reorganisation of work processes and demographic changes are among the main elements underpinning enterprises’ engagement in continuous training. Meanwhile, the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) issued a statement (in German) on 1 June 2010 warning the federal government not to cut public funds for continuous training for employees.
  • In Ireland, and as part of its own ten-point recovery plan announced in 2009, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called for measures in response to the economic crisis that protect jobs and improve workplace training provision. According to ICTU, Ireland’s social welfare system must be radically altered and integrated with skills enhancement, education and training. Ireland’s largest employer body, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC), has also suggested that upskilling for those in employment must become a priority if higher value-added jobs are to be attracted to Ireland. Significantly, ICTU and IBEC agree on a number of issues. They share the view that the existing Irish training system is too confusing, with too many schemes and no proper coordination. IBEC has also backed ICTU’s call in 2009 for a €1 billion jobs plan (including investment in training). Finally, ICTU also called in 2009 for the government to consider the Dutch model of short-time work, a call echoed by employers’ associations such as Engineers Ireland (IE0907029Q).
  • In Norway, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has made a series of proposals for measures to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis and counter the rise in the unemployment rate. A major proposal includes contingency measures for those workers affected by unemployment risk, with particular emphasis on training. Similarly, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) has made a number of proposed measures to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis and make the Norwegian business sector better positioned for new growth out of crisis. In particular, NHO has suggested a number of measures intended to strength competences and skills of SME employees.
  • In Slovakia, a joint declaration signed by the Metal Trade Union Association (OZ KOVO) and the Federation of Mechanical Engineering of the Slovak Republic (ZSP SR) in November 2009 stressed the importance of workforce training and lifelong learning in a recessive situation.
  • In Spain, the Spanish trade union, Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) presented commentaries on the current crisis framework in a report called Trade union initiatives for a crisis scenario (in Spanish, 79kb PDF). According to this report, the problem of low productivity and lack of competiveness among many Spanish companies requires implementation of measures that boost the efficacy of factors affecting production, including promoting the qualifications of the workforce. The Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (CEOE) has also stressed the importance of education and training for successfully adapting to the future. It highlights the importance of enhancing existing incentives and public subventions for companies to implement training activities.

Criticism of government action

Social partners in some EU Member States have also shown an important consensus in criticising some approaches adopted by governments in relation to training in the current crisis.

Despite positive views on the existing Adult Education and Continuing Training System, social partners in Denmark have voiced their disapproval of the government for implementing initiatives that have not been far-reaching enough. For example, the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) and the United Federation of Danish Workers (3F) have criticised some recent public policy initiatives for not integrating the training dimension to a higher degree (see DK0903021I).

In the case of Ireland, there is a shared critique of the lack of government action/funding in the area of workplace training for maintaining jobs. Irish employers and trade unions also share common ground in demanding that more could be done to improve lifelong learning and training for those in employment.

Differing perspectives

Notwithstanding the strong general consensus among social partners on the importance of the training issue, national social partners also have different perspectives on the training issue. Two main contrasting elements stand out.

  • first important difference is about who bears the responsibility for the organisation and financing of training activities (examples of this debate can be found in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Thus, and perhaps simplifying the debate, trade unions insist that training can not be considered a duty and that it is the responsibility of the employer to provide formal training for their employees. Meanwhile, employers suggest that updating skills to enhance employability is also the responsibility of the employee.
  • the UK, the employers’ organisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has consistently lobbied the public authorities over the need to secure good training policies without placing too high a financial burden on employers, while the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has stressed the need for binding obligations on employers in the provision of training to workers. In Ireland, IBEC believes that greater emphasis should be given to the responsibility of the individual employee to pursue lifelong learning. This debate about who should pay has been exacerbated in recent years, particularly when companies are experiencing heavy deficiencies of liquidity due to the crisis.
  • second point of contrast refers to the focus of the training, in the sense that trade unions tend to stress the ‘social’ element of training, while the employers’ approach is likely to be more business and profitoriented. Thus, the Irish ICTU wants more progress to help lower skilled workers gain access to lifelong learning opportunities, a view shared by the German DGB, the Dutch Christian Trade Union Federation (CNV) and the Polish Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (NSZZ Solidarność) trade unions (see national contributions). Meanwhile, employers’ associations do not pay that much attention to this issue, stressing the ‘competitiveness’ related side of training.

Continuing commitment to training

From a time evolution perspective and in a large number of countries, the period of economic recession that began in late 2008 has not significantly changed the long-standing commitment on the part of social partners to the importance of training.

A good example of this is Denmark, where a general consensus on training among the social partners has existed since the conclusion of the tripartite committee work on Lifelong education and upgrading of skills for all labour market participants (in Danish) initiated in 2004 and finalised in 2006 (see DK0410106F and DK0602103F).

This is also the case in the UK, where the attitudes of the TUC and CBI towards training have not changed significantly, in the sense that both had already stressed the importance of training prior to the economic crisis and both continue to stress it as a means of helping the UK to recover from the economic crisis.

Notwithstanding this, the economic crisis has given an added impetus to the training issue in some countries. This is the case, for instance, in Austria, Cyprus, France, Portugal and Slovenia, where qualitative interviews held with social partner representatives revealed that the crisis has contributed to spreading a public debate among employers, public authorities and public opinion in general about the key role that further training activities can play in under-activity periods, and the role that public authorities can play in sustaining this approach, especially in a context of tight public spending cuts due to austerity measures (for example, Portugal). In other countries (for example, Denmark), the debate relates more about the question of costs and benefits of the training system, especially given the recent online article (in Danish) showing that only about half of training is directly related to the job.

Conclusions

This report has demonstrated that nearly all Member State governments (often in close collaboration with social partners) are developing support measures aimed at empowering enterprises and their workers during the economic crisis via training and skills upgrading activities, so that these workers and their enterprises can use training activities to acquire new qualifications and therefore take advantage of new opportunities when the upturn comes. These schemes are often combined with other measures aiming at maintaining existing jobs (for example, short-time working allowances or partial unemployment schemes), since training in itself cannot be regarded as the only solution to the current crisis.

Generally speaking, these support measures are appreciated by enterprises and they play an important role in fostering training activities among enterprises, although the percentage of enterprises benefiting from these measures is rather limited.

It should not be forgotten that these public measures usually imply a major impact on public spending budgets, so most of them are designed as transitory measures that will be removed once the crisis is passed. This situation opens up important challenges for some Member States particularly affected by the economic crisis and subsequent important public funding deficits, and for which the crisis is expected to last longer (for example Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain).

According to the limited information available, the economic crisis is having a mixed effect on the engagement of enterprises and their employees in training activities. Whereas the number of enterprises (especially SMEs) actively involved in training activities for their employees has somewhat decreased over the last years in most countries where evidence is available, the number of employees shows a more heterogeneous picture, with important differences amongst countries. A number of factors could be underpinning these developments. The need to reduce costs and save money in the current tight economic situation and the fact that training is often regarded as a relatively ‘easy-to-cut’ expense may explain the relatively lower number of enterprises (especially SMEs) involved. Notwithstanding this, those enterprises still offering training to their employees are particularly committed to it, and (some of them) are enjoying significant benefits from existing public support measures.

Interestingly, the evidence seems to suggest that the economic crisis is having a profound impact on the profile of provided training activities, with increasing importance being attached to internal and ‘focused-to-the business’ training practices, as well as increasing use of online and blended ICT-based learning methodologies. These results seem to be confirmed (at least partially) by the enterprise case studies analysed for this report.

From a public management perspective, evidence shows that existing support measures (including of course ones funded by the ESF) tend to favour disadvantaged groups of workers in terms of training involvement (for example lower educated ones, SME employees and those in some less knowledge-intensive sectors). This differentiated approach is important because otherwise these groups are less likely to benefit from training.

Support measures should also take into account the importance of fostering not only enterprise-related skills but also general skills that foster the general employability and sector mobility of individuals (especially in sectors where more opportunities are foreseen in the future), as well as the issue of excessive bureaucracy (particularly relevant for SMEs).

Social partners show an important level of consensus in the majority of EU Member States on the importance of training as an very important tool both for preserving existing employment and getting prepared for the economic recovery.

Finally, and despite existing difficulties, it is likely that the training efforts of enterprises will recover in the future, as enterprises are well acquainted with the benefits associated with a skilled workforce and the importance of investing in skills and competence upgrading, especially in a context characterised by rapid technological change, an aging workforce, and important skill gaps and shortages.

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Annex: List of selected training related measures



Table A1: Measures establishing a link between short-time work/temporary lay-off practices and training activities
Name Country Brief description
Qualifizierungsbeihilfe bei Kurzarbeit (Qualification allowance for employees on short-time work) and Qualifizierungsförderung für Beschäftigte in Kurzarbeit im Rahmen des ESF, QfB-KUA (Qualification for employees on short-time work supported by the ESF) AT National policy measures (although with some slight regional differences) introduced in February 2009 and March 2010, respectively. The two measures offer specific funding for training measures during periods of short-time work. The hours spent on obtaining qualifications by workers on short-time work are subsidised by the ‘qualification allowance’ to the employer, who pays a subsidised ‘qualification support’ to the employee for the hours they spend on training. Training costs are supported by the instrument ‘qualification for employees’ (QfB-KUA), which is only available if employees on short-time work also receive subsidised ‘qualification support’ from their employers.
Tijdelijke werkloosheid en vorming (Temporary unemployment and training) BE Belgium has long operated a system of temporary unemployment for workers to which companies can seek recourse in case of financial difficulty. Temporarily unemployed workers receive the same financial support as job seekers in following training courses (for example hourly wages and reimbursement of travel expenses). During the current crisis the measure was also extended for the first time and under a number of strict conditions to white collars workers. There are some regional differences.
Overbruggingspremie (‘Bridging’ premium) BE Workers in Flanders working fewer hours (short time) because of the crisis can count on temporary extra financial support, which is increased if the actual work shortfall is used to polish up skills. There are strict criteria for setting the payment.
Vzdělávejte se! (Extend your knowledge!) CZ National policy measure (except for enterprises in Prague) implemented in June 2009 (and still running) to financially help enterprises to carry out training activities for their employees. This measure, designed as an anti-crisis measure, is aimed at those enterprises which due to the crisis had to introduce partial unemployment or enterprises heavily affected by the crisis but which have not yet introduced partial unemployment. The absolute amount of subsidy depends on the size of the company, and enterprises also receive a contribution for the wages for the period when their employees participate in training. Measure co-financed by the ESF.
Stærkere ud af krisen – bekæmpelse af langtidsledighed (Stronger out of the crisis – combating long-term unemployment) DK National agreement signed in May 2010 between all social partners and endorsed by the government, which obliges Danish enterprises to examine the possibility of training employees (through the VEU/AMU system) before resorting to prolonging work sharing. The employer has to present the Regional Employment Council with a joint statement signed by the employer and an employee representative showing that the possibility of training employees, including supplementary training as an alternative to work sharing, has been discussed. Only if this is the case will the prolonging of work-sharing be granted by the Regional Employment Council.
4 initiativer – hjælp til ledighedstruede: Nye initiativer skal hjælpe ledighedstruede (Four initiatives for helping workers at the risk of unemployment) DK Experimental exercise running from 8 April 2009 to 31 December 2010 to extend the criteria for eligibility for receiving training financed by the ‘notice pool’ (varslingspuljen (in Danish)) – a fund for activating employees’ before they become unemployed. As a result of the initiative, enterprises are encouraged to seek out possibilities for employees staying at the enterprise if undergoing proper training.
Chômage partiel (partial unemployment) and Convention d’activité partielle de longue durée (Conventions of long-term partial activity) FR National policy measure implemented in 2009, financed by the state to facilitate the access of workers suffering partial unemployment to training opportunities to improve their skills so they can benefit from the next economic upswing. Additional benefits are allocated to workers working a reduced number of hours on a long-term basis. In exchange, the enterprise is committed to maintain employment and to explore training opportunities for each worker concerned. Various combinations of training schemes exist according to the amount of hours work and the length of the part-time work period.
Qualifizierungsangebote für Bezieherinnen und Bezieher von Kurzarbeitergeld (Continuous training offers for recipients of short-time working allowances) DE National regulation, amended at the end of 2008, on training during short-time work. The programme supports training courses for employees on short-time work during 2009 and 2010. The measure has been extended to include all short-time workers, for example those on short-time due to a temporary shortfall in orders or seasonal factors, and not only those workers on short-time due to restructuring or a plant closure. The new regulations also stipulate that employers can be reimbursed for 100% of their social security contribution payments provided that they support continuous training to improve the skills of their short-time workers. The costs of the training course can be partially reimbursed, depending on the size of the enterprise and the type of training.
Tarifvertrag zur Kurzarbeit, Qualifizierung und Beschäftigung in der Metall- und Elektroindustrie (Collective agreement on short-time work, training and employment in the metal and electrical industry) DE Sector-specific agreements in the metal and electrical industry in the two German regions of Baden-Württemberg and North-Rhine Westphalia signed in February 2010 and running until June 2012. Part of the package concluded is an agreement on short-time work, training and employment and stipulates that employees can take training leave of up to five years (formerly three years), combined with a part-time working scheme (if desired).
Short-time Working Training Programme IE National public policy measure introduced in June 2009, although on a very small scale (only 277 workers and limited funding). This programme provides two days training a week for employees who are on systematic short-time working for three days a week and receiving a social welfare payment for the two days they are not working. It allows people who have had their hours of work reduced to improve or add to their skills.
Legal changes related to CIG (Cassa Integrazione Guadagni, Earnings Integration Funds), Law 2/2009 extending CIG and Law 102/2009 on full wage for those employees in CIG following a training plan IT CIG is a financial benefit to support workers affected by temporary work suspensions or working time reductions due to crisis situations. It was extended by Law 2/2009, under Casa Integrazione Guadagni in Deroga (CIGD) to employees of any sector regardless to the size of their company. This law also allowed interprofessional training funds to finance training activities for employees affected by employment suspensions. Meanwhile, Law 102/2009 allows enterprises to use employees benefiting from CIG in training, on the basis of an agreement among social partners and the Ministry of Labour. These enterprises have to pay the difference between the CIG benefit (80% of the wage) and the full wage.
Profesinis mokymas (Vocational training) LT National policy measure initiated in August 2009 to support training activities carried out by workers affected by a notice of dismissal (these individuals are affected by shorter working days/hours). Trainees are paid grants during the whole period of training amounting to 70% of minimum wage (if necessary, funding for travelling/accommodation related to training can be provided). Funding from ESF and national budget.
Règlement Grand Ducal du 25 juin 2009 sur la fixation du taux d’indemnisation des chômeurs partiels (Grand Ducal regulation of 25 June 2009 on fixation of the compensation rate for short-time workers) LU National programme amended in 2009 to financially support companies entering short-time working schemes for the reasons provided by law (economic reasons, structural reasons, force majeure, etc.). The regulation provides for a right to financial support for the payment of non-working hours from the first non-working hour, where this support can be raised up to 90% if the enterprise carries out a training activity during the non-working hours.
Temporary Aid Scheme MT National policy measure implemented in 2009 to foster training activities for employees whose work schedule has been reduced to a four-day week because of a drop in orders during the recession with public fifth day of work in consultation with employers and the unions. In addition, public authorities pay workers in training the equivalent of a day’s work on minimum wage (to be complemented by benefited enterprises).
Werktijdverkorting, WTV (Short-time working) until end of March 2009, Deeltijd WW (Part-time unemployment) thereafter NL National measures to keep employees within a company during the recession by diminishing the number of working hours a week, where employees are financially compensated for those non-working hours (unemployment benefit). Fixed term contracts and temporary agency workers are not included. Enterprises are obliged to arrange training for the employees concerned or send them on secondment. Short-time working (WTV) was introduced on November 2008, followed by partial unemployment (Deeltijd WW) on April 1 2009 (to finish by June 2011).
Ustawa z 1 lipca 2009 o łagodzeniu skutków kryzysu ekonomicznego dla pracowników i przedsiębiorców (Dz.U. 2009 nr 125 poz. 1035) (Act of 1 July 2009 on mitigating the effects of economic crisis for workers and entrepreneurs, (published in the Official Journal, 2009, No. 125, item 1035) PL The 2009 Act on mitigating the consequences of the economic crisis for employees and enterprises includes measures for partial unemployment, allowing a reduction of working time to half for up to six months. Incentives are also available to support training during reduced working hours.
Programa Qualificação-Emprego (Qualification-Employment Programme) PT This measure, initiated in 2009 and subsequently modified in 2010, aimed to support workers affected by a temporary reduction of their usual working hours or a suspension of employment contracts (lay-off). These workers can benefit from training activities during usual working hours, and companies supported by this measure benefit from a public co-funding of the wages of a part of their workers. Since 2010, the scope of the measure has been extended to cover situations of intermittent employment contracts. The initiative ended in May 2010.
Zakon o delnem povračilu nadomestila plače (Act on partial refunding of wage compensation for temporarily laid-off workers) SI Measure, introduced in June 2009 as part of the second package of anti-crisis measures, to support temporary laid-off workers with training activities. Eligible enterprises can apply for funds to cover 50% of wage compensation for their temporarily laid-off workers provided they spend at least 20% of the laid-off time on training activities (irrespective of training content and with a time limit of six months). Employers can also claim back the costs of training for temporarily laid-off workers up to €500 per worker. Expected to end in March 2011.
Real Decreto-ley 10/2010, de 16 de Junio, de Medidas Urgentes para la Reforma del Mercado de Trabajo (Royal Decree 10/2010 of 16 June of urgent measures for the reform of the Spanish labour market) ES Measure launched in June 2010 that includes up to 80% of social security discount for those companies involved in redundancy procedures agreed with workers’ representatives, when these companies carry out training activities to enhance the effectiveness and employability of workers during the period of suspension of contracts or reduced working hours.
Plan de formación para los trabajadores vascos afectados por un ERE (Basque training plan for employees affected by ‘adjustment of employment levels’ procedures) ES Regional policy measure implemented in September 2009 by the Basque regional government after consultation with regional social partners. Intended to help Basque enterprises affected by plans for the adjustment of employment levels to receive up to €800 per person to cover education and training costs for their workers.

Source: National contributions



Table A2: Measures supporting training costs and/or wages for enterprises in general and for enterprises facing special difficulties
Name Country Brief description
Crisis addendum op de sectorconvenanten (Crisis addendum to the sector agreements), implemented by the Sectorale opleidingsfondsen (Sectoral training funds) BE Regional political agreement signed in Flanders and running between spring 2009 and July 2010, to provide extra money (€10 million) to social partners to support and invest in training policies in different economic sectors. Agreements were linked to existing sector agreements as an addendum (so far, 26 out of the 28 sector agreements have been extended). This extra money is implemented via the so-called Sectoral Training Funds (STFs), bipartite organisations used for training sector workers and jobseekers and financed by a 0.1% employers’ contribution of the wage sum.
In-company tutoring BE Only in the Walloon region, training activities carried out by tutors (workers aged 45 and over with a background of transferable skills) for newly recruited workers or those moved to a new function are supported to promote the transfer of skills within companies.
Оперативна програма ‘Развитие на човешките ресурси’ (Operational Programme ‘Human Resources’) BG National policy measure, implemented in 2009 and running until 2013, intended among other goals to financially support training activities carried out by enterprises for their employees. The measure also finances training activities carried out by individuals themselves with no participation from employers. The measure is co-financed by the ESF.
Single-enterprise Continuing Training Programmes CY National policy measure, running from 2009 until 2014, to help employers retain their staff rather than carrying out dismissals, by utilising staff idle time for training. Responsible public authority helps employers in designing and implementing training programmes that meet their specific needs and in covering eligible costs, including trainees’ expenses for the duration of training.
Školení je šance (Training is a Chance) CZ National policy measure (except for enterprises located in Prague), implemented during 2009, and intended to financially help enterprises to carry out training activities (either general or specialised training activities) for their employees (especially those under the age of 25 and over 50). The measure financially supports the costs of training courses and the wage costs for the time of the training. The measure is co-financed by the ESF and cannot be used with other measures such as Extend your Knowledge! (EDUCA).
Další profesní vzdělávání zaměstnanců podnikatelských subjektů v oblasti průmyslu – EDUCA (Further professional education of employees of enterprises in industry) CZ National policy measure (except for enterprises located in Prague), implemented in June 2009 (and still running) to financially help enterprises to carry out training activities (mainly specialised training activities) for their employees or for employers themselves in some selected NACE sectors. The measure is co-financed by the ESF, and it is incompatible with other measures (for example Extend your Knowledge! or Training is a Chance).
Extraordinary additional funding of adult education and continuing training DK Additional funding implemented in 2009 to the AMU system as a result of increased and higher than expected participation in AMU courses (for example transfer of €17.7 million in May 2009 before the scheduled date and additional funds from the ‘globalisation pool’ set aside as a part of the 2006 ‘welfare agreement’ (Velfærdsaftalen (in Danish, 440Kb MS Word document)).
Koolitusosaku toetus (Support for training in micro and small companies) EE National policy measure that ran from August 2009 until June 2010 to support job-related training expenses carried out by micro and small companies and self-employed persons for their employees, with a maximum amount per enterprise. The measure was co-financed by the ESF and the Estonian government.
Teadmiste ja oskuste arendamise toetus (Support for development of knowledge and skills) EE National policy measure introduced in July 2008 to develop knowledge and skills in enterprises, irrespective of size considerations. Supported activities include participation in job-related training activities, use of consultancy services for training purposes and participation in professional conferences outside Estonia. The measure is co-financed by the ESF and the Estonian government.
Les conventions de FNE-Formation (National conventions of National Employment Fund – Training) FR This national measure was implemented at the beginning of 2009 as an alternative to short-time work. It is a financial benefit allocated mainly to SMEs (enterprises of less than 250 employees) that partially covers wages and training expenses. The amount of benefit varies according to the size of the enterprise, the category of worker and the type of training (general or specific). The maximum duration of the convention is one year. Co-funding between public authorities and the enterprise is mandatory. In exchange for this financial help, enterprises are obliged to maintain workers in employment at least during its duration.
Other measures providing training opportunities for individuals affected by restructuring processes: • Convention de reclassement personnalise, CRP (Convention for personalised reclassification) • Contrat de transition professionnelle, CTP (Contract for professional transition) • Congé de reclassement (Reclassification leave) FR All three of these national policy measures are intended to support employees affected by restructuring processes where job redundancies are envisaged. • CRP: this measure obliges enterprises with less than 1,000 employees to propose a CRP with a maximum length of 12 months. If the individual accepts, the employment contract is finished and they may benefit from additional support measures including training activities intended to favour their professional reclassification. • CTP: this measure, on an experimental basis in selected employment areas, obliges enterprises with less than 1,000 employees to propose a CTP with a maximum length of 12 months, so that individuals can follow a path of career transition including accompanying measures, training periods and periods of work in other companies or government agencies. Affected individuals benefit from a special professional transition allowance of up to 80% of average gross salary before the CTP. • Reclassification leave: this measure obliges enterprises with more than 1,000 employees to propose a reclassification leave of 4–9 months to each employee under threat of redundancy that can include training activities or measures to validate available experience and training. The actions undertaken in the context of this leave are financed by the employer.
Weiterbildung Geringqualifizierter und beschäftigter älterer Arbeitnehmer in Unternehmen, WeGebAU (Continuous training for low-qualified and older employees in companies) DE National policy measure initiated in 2006 but subsequently revised several times. In 2009, and with the adoption of the second rescue package, the measure was extended to include all employees (irrespective of age or company size) that had not received other public grants for continuous training within the last four years, or their latest vocational training or similar qualification was acquired four or more years ago. The measure subsidises fees and related costs of training courses, and pays wage subsidies and social security contributions for employees studying to obtain a vocational training degree or corresponding qualification.
MEGŐRZÉS 2-9123/2009: A foglalkoztatottság megőrzésének támogatására a gazdasági visszaesés következtében átmenetileg nehéz helyzetbe jutott, költségkompenzációs támogatást igénybe vevő munkáltatóknál (Support to preserve employment at employers with temporary hardship due to the economic crisis and participating in a cost-supporting programme) HU National public support measure implemented in 2009 to support training activities carried out by enterprises heavily affected by the economic crisis for their employees. The support includes financial support to training costs (up to 80%) as well as wage support (25–75%, depending on the number of employees). Measure is small scale (38 enterprises benefited).
TÁMOP2.3.3 A-09/1 and TÁMOP2.3.3 A-09/2: Munkahelymegőrző támogatás munkaidő-csökkentéssel és képzéssel kombinálva (Support for preserving employment combining training with reduced working time) HU National public support measure implemented in the second half of 2009 to support training activities carried out by SMEs for their employees. Financial support of 60–100% of the training costs, wages and taxes for the time of the training, depending on the type of training activities, and the training should take up to 20% of the working time. Measure co-financed by the ESF and the Hungarian government, and part of the national programme called ‘Four days work, one day training’.
TÁMOP-2.3.3.B-09/9 and TÁMOP-2.3.3.B-09/10: Nagyvállalkozások speciális és általános képzéseinek támogatása (Support for special and general training of large enterprises) HU National support measure implemented in the first quarter of 2009 to support training activities carried out by large enterprises for their employees (more than 250 employees). Financial support of 60–100% of the training costs, wages and taxes for the time of the training, depending on the type of training activities. Measure co-financed by the ESF and the Hungarian government. Part of the national programme called ‘Four days work, one day training’.
TÁMOP-2.3.3.C-09/11: Munkahelymegőrző támogatás képzéssel kombinálva az 5 főnél kisebb mikrovállalkozások-nak (Support for preserving employment through training at micro-enterprises with less than five employees) HU National support measure implemented in the last quarter of 2009 to support training activities carried out by micro enterprises with less than five employees. Financial support of 60–100% of the training costs, wages and taxes for the time of the training, depending on the type of training activities. Measure co-financed by the ESF and the Hungarian government. Part of the national programme called ‘Four days work, one day training’.
Darbo įgūdžių įgijimo rėmimas (Assisted acquisition of work skills) LT Public national support measure to subsidise enterprises carrying out in-house training activities for employees affected by notice of dismissal or for the temporary secondment of these employees to other enterprises to acquire missing skills. The measure was significantly amended in August 2009 to cover employees affected by notice of dismissal.
Žmogiškųjų išteklių tobulinimas įmonėse (Improvement of human resources in enterprises) LT National policy measure implemented in 2010 to financially support activities seeking to increase the adaptability of workers and enterprises to the market’s needs (training activities for managers and employees, individual training plans, sector skill needs, studies, etc.). Co-financing scheme (30% by enterprises, 70% by the ESF).
Omscholing werknemers bij dreigende werkloosheid/Scholingsbonus (Education premium) NL This national measure, implemented in January 2009 and running until the end of 2010, is intended to financially support enterprises that carry out training activities for jobs where they have difficulties finding qualified personnel. Companies can receive a bonus for training a new employee via the social security administration (UWV); such employees would have become unemployed unless they had not been hired by the new employer or would otherwise have had a temporary contact.
Subsidie voor EVC/EVP bij ontslag (Subsidy for Experience Certificate (EVC) and Experience Profile (ECP), related to lay-off) NL Financial national support for companies that are developing an EVC or ECP (EVC/ECP summarise the knowledge and competences of the employee in relation to national diploma requirements, incorporating experience during and outside work). This financial support was amended in 2009 to cover temporary employees and employees at risk of being fired in the near future. The amount of subsidy depends on the company size.
Wet Vermindering Afdracht Onderwijs (WVA): Fiscale aftrek scholing (Fiscal/tax reduction for education) NL Tax reduction for enterprises related to employees’ training or education activities. It was extended in 2010 to cover training to increase the educational level of an employee or to give a start qualification to a former unemployed person.
Bouw Door Leer Verder! (Keep on building and learning!) NL Sector national initiative (both employer and employee sector organisations) in the construction sector, financed by the existing sectoral education fund. The initiative is intended to increase the inflow of students and to upgrade the skills of current employees in the construction sector.
Tilskudd for bedriftsintern opplæring (Grants for in-house training) NO This national measure, implemented in October 2009, is intended to financially support training and competence development activities for employees carried out by companies affected by major restructuring problems. This measure is a part of the government ‘crisis package’ to reduce the impact of the financial crisis.
Innovasjonsprogrammet (Innovation Programme) NO This national programme focuses on training and capacity building so to prevent lay-offs in the current crisis period. It is part of the Norwegian government’s package of measures in response to the 2009 financial crisis.
Pakiet działań antykryzysowych w ramach Programu Kapitał Ludzki (Anti-crisis measures package within the Human Capital Operational Programme) PL National policy measure (although adapted to regional situations) initiated in spring 2009 and intended to financially support specialised post-graduate education and training for employees. Enterprises have to be ready to allow workers to carry out these training activities. The measure also covers working adults who can participate in the courses outside working hours and without the involvement of their employer. Funding comes from the ESF and the Polish government.
Schema de ajutor de stat pentru formarea profesională generală şi specifică, Domeniul Major de Intervenţie 2.3 – Acces şi participare la formarea profesională continuă (State aid scheme for comprehensive and targeted vocational training, Key Intervention Area 2.3 – Access to and participation in continuous vocational training). RO Measure launched in March 2009 and co-financed by the ESF (85% of budget) and the national budget (15%). The measure is intended to foster vocational training activities of enterprises and is aimed at all staff (employees and management staff). Public support varies according to the type of training received (general or specific to the enterprise), as well as the size of the enterprise (greater support the smaller the enterprise), with some limits.
Schema de ajutor de stat pentru formarea profesională generală şi specifică, Domeniul Major de Intervenţie 3.2 – Formare şi sprijin pentru întreprinderi şi angajaţi pentru promovarea adaptabilităţii (State aid scheme for comprehensive and targeted vocational training, Key Intervention Area 3.2 – Training and support to enterprises and employees for adaptability purposes) RO Measure launched in March 2009, and co-financed by the ESF (85% of budget) and the national budget (15%). It is intended to support enterprises’ health and safety training and is aimed at all staff (employees and management staff). Public support varies according to the type of training received (general or specific to the enterprise), as well as the size of the enterprise (greater support the smaller the enterprise), with some limits.
Zákon č.5/2004 Z. z o službách zamestnanosti (Law No. 5/2004 on employment services) SK Within the framework of the law (significantly amended in 2008), this national policy measure is carried out by the national employment agency. It is intended to financially support training activities carried out by enterprises with more than 20 employees and threatened by the current economic crisis. The support can vary accordingly to the region where the enterprise is located. This measure is financially supported by the ESF and the Slovak government.
Créditos para la Formación Continua para Empresas (Continuing training credits for enterprises) ES These training credits are managed by the Tripartite Foundation for Training in Employment, a tripartite organisation managed by the most representative Spanish business and union organisations and by the public administration. The training credits are intended to support the general or specific training activities of enterprises for their workers, either in isolation or in group of enterprises. The continuing training credits are available for all enterprises that pay the compulsory vocational training levy and result in discounts in social security compulsory contributions. This measure has been extensively used by enterprises during the economic crisis.
Medidas del Gobierno de La Rioja contra la crisis económica (Measures of the Regional Government of La Rioja against the economic crisis) ES Regional policy measure implemented in February 2009 by the Regional Government of La Rioja and intended to financially support the planning and development of training courses carried out by regional SMEs. Priority is given to companies involved in plans for the adjustment of employment levels.
Ayudas para formación de los trabajadores del sector de la automoción (Subventions for the training of workers in the automotive sector in Galicia) ES Regional policy measure launched in November 2008 by the Regional Government of Galicia for financially support training activities carried out by individual enterprises in the automotive sector (up to 80% of the total costs). Initiative negotiated with regional social partners.
PK Programme (Commitment to People) ES Regional policy measure launched in March 2009 by the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa (Basque Country) intended to financially support enterprises with more than 30 employees and within the manufacturing industry sectors to carry out training activities for their employees, so that enterprises can adapt to new requirements and better face the current economic crisis.

Source: National contributions



Table A3: Measures supporting training leave schemes
Name Country Brief description
Bildungskarenz (Training leave) AT Nationwide policy measure intended to allow employees to take time off work to participate in further training while still in employment. Employees on training leave do not receive wages or a salary, but financial support provided from the unemployment insurance fund, and they have health, accident and pension insurance. In 2008 and again in the beginning of 2009, several temporary changes were introduced in response to the economic and financial crisis (to run until December 2011), with the aim of encouraging workers to take training leave.
Bildungskarenz PLUS (Training leave PLUS) AT Special type of training leave aimed at supporting employees’ training during the crisis. Austrian federal states refund courses fees, with maximum amount available to be spent on employees’ course fees per company. Characteristics of support different per state. Initiated in spring 2009, expected to expire in most states at end of 2010.
Õppepuhkus (Study leave), new Employment Contracts Act on 1 July 2009 EE National legislation that widens access to study leave for employees. Since July 2009, everyone has had the right for study leave and a training-related sabbatical of up to 30 calendar days per year, no matter the form of study or intensity of training.
LOI n° 2009-1437 du 24 novembre 2009 relative à l’orientation et à la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie (2009 law reforming training and lifelong learning) FR Special piece of French legislation intended to reduce inequalities in access to training (especially for small enterprises). A specific clause valid until December 2011 targeted at small enterprises (1–10 employees) establishes that the salary of a worker replacing another worker absent for training reasons can be supported by an Organisme Paritaire Collecteur Agréé (OPCA).

Source: National contributions



Table A4: Other types of support: consultancy, advice, legal obligations
Name Country Brief description
SP ČR (Regional offices of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic) CZ Opened in 2008 and 2009 in most of the Czech regions by the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic to improve access to the needs of its members at regional level. The offices provide information to enterprises about public measures for supporting their training activities.
Kollektiivsetele koondamistele reageerimise teenus (Reaction service to collective redundancies) EE National policy measure implemented since 2005 but extensively used in the current economic crisis. These services inform employers affected by job redundancy processes of the different opportunities for financing training activities. The measure is implemented by the Estonian government in cooperation with different partners.
Mobiliteits centra (mobility centres) NL Since March 2009, the social security administration (UWV) has established a national network of 33 regional ‘mobility centres’ that support companies undergoing reorganization or that make use of WTV or partial unemployment initiatives. The centres work in close cooperation with employers, employees, local authorities and other public and private organisations.
Financieel leren en werken (website portal on financial learning and working) NL The website (in Dutch) provides employers, employees and self-employed with an overview of possible measures and subsidies for training and education.
Werkwijzer Scholing (website of the Council for Work and Income about education) NL Website (in Dutch) intended to provide practical information for employers, employees, managers and HR personnel about how to set up education activities.
Reorganizarea prin lege (Legea nr. 268/2009) a comitetelor sectoriale de formare profesională (Act no. 268/2009, regarding the reorganisation of sectoral committees for vocational training) RO New legal framework intended to upgrade the role of sectoral committees in vocational training. The committees are formed by employers and unions’ representatives. They are now in charge of participation of the drafting of national and sector strategies on vocational training, as well as the development, updating and validation of qualifications and qualification standards (with the exception of tertiary level qualifications/standards) at sectoral level. Eight sectoral committees have so far been established.
‘Time to Train’ legislation UK Gives employees with the right to request training from their employer. Applicable to companies with 250 or more employees from April 2010 and to all companies from April 2011.
‘Train to Gain’ UK Programme run by the UK public authorities since 2010 that provides employees seeking training in the UK advice and help in identifying training opportunities.

Source: National contributions

EF/10/96/EN

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