Obstacles to continuous vocational training for vulnerable groups of workers

A survey by researchers from the Romanian National Observatory for Lifelong Learning Development (ODIP) into the participation of three groups of workers at risk in the labour market in continuous training schemes found a low rate of participation, with considerable variation between urban and rural regions, age and size of company. The main obstacle for the employees surveyed was their low level of income and the main obstacle for employers was the high cost of training.

About the survey

The report, Survey into the participation of workers at risk on the labour market in continuous training schemes (Balica et al, 2010), was published in May 2010 by researchers from the National Observatory for Lifelong Learning Development (ODIP) in Bucharest. The survey was funded by the European Social Fund in Romania (ESF) under its Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2007–2013.

Data were collected using three questionnaires which targeted the following categories:

  • employees at risk in the labour market (to obtain a better profile of this group);
  • employers;
  • decision-makers with a say in training and employment policies at central and local level.

The sample of employees was structured into three target groups, according to age and education/skills level (Table 1).

The sample of employers consisted of 120 enterprises:

  • 104 were private;
  • 15 were state-owned;
  • one was a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Of these 120 entities, 64 had people from group 1 among their employees, 80 had employees from group 2 and 75 had employees from group 3.

Table 1: Characteristics of target groups
Group Age range Number Education Skills level
1 18–24 192 None or low level None or low level
2 40 and over 385 Lower level None or low level
3 18 to 35 527 Graduates of secondary or tertiary educational establishments Employed in jobs below their standard and at the beginning of their career (first three years) as employees

Main findings

One of the main aims of the survey was to determine the degree of participation, purpose and effects of the vocational training given to those at risk in the labour market in Romania.

Rate of participation in continuous training schemes

The overall rate of participation in continuous training schemes is low among employees with only 14% of group 1 and 15% of group 2 employees attending training. Group 3 employees, who were graduates of secondary and tertiary education, had the highest rate of participation in continuous training schemes (see figure).

Rate of participation in continuous vocational training by target group

Rate of participation in continuous vocational training by target group

Source: Balica et al, 2010

Participation varied according to factors such as residential environment, age and size of company.

  • Nine percent of group 1 youths residing in rural areas participated compared with 20% of urban dwellers.
  • Employees below the age of 20 years in group 1 had a participation rate of 5%, and employees aged 50 and over in group 2 had a participation rate of 8%.
  • Employees of large companies had a participation rate of 35%–40% compared with only 15% among employees in small and medium-sized companies.

Effects of participation training schemes

For 40% of those employees belonging to groups 1 and 3, and 31% of those belonging to group 2, participation in continuous vocational training led to no significant change in their status. However, the answers from their employers to questions about the change in status and wage rises as a result of vocational training were significantly different (Table 2).

Table 2: Changes brought about by participation in continuous vocational training bring (%)
  Employees Employers
G1 G2 G3
Move to higher position in the organisation 9 14 12 18
New duties assigned 13 18 23 37
Wage rise 17 26 12 30
Other effects 15 13 11 10
No significant change 41 31 40 17

Source: Balica et al, 2010 (Figure 1)

Participation in continuous vocational training did not bring any change in their status as unskilled workers for:

  • 63% of employees in group 1;
  • 39% of employees in group 2;
  • 52% of employees in group 3.

Obstacles to participation in continuous vocational training

Employees

The low level of their income was the main stumbling block for employees as it meant they could not afford to pay:

  • the costs (travelling, board, accommodation) associated with attending vocational training courses (for 31% of those in group 1, 36% in group 2 and 29% in group 3);
  • the participation fee (for 29% of those in group 1, 28% in group 2 and 25% in group 3).

Other common responses were:

  • difficulties in finding information about training schemes (28%, 17% and 19%, respectively, of those in the three groups);
  • the long distance between home/work and the training place (14%, 16%, 21%),
  • the inappropriate hours chosen for the training (7%, 17% and 26%).

Employers

The main obstacle for 41% of the employers was the high cost of training; 37% complained about the high ancillary costs attached to training. Other obstacles identified by 15%–17% of the employers were:

  • poor supply of training services;
  • lack of adaptability of providers of training services to the specific activities of the company or to the needs of employees;
  • lack of motivation for the employees to attend training.

Commentary

Most of the employees from groups 1 and 2 earn the minimum wage of RON 670 per month from January 2011 (about €160 as at 10 March 2011). This, combined with the general perception that attendance at vocational training courses does not bring about any improvement in a trainee’s position or pay, explains the low rate of participation.

The other two obstacles – the modest choice of training options on the market and the high cost of training services – seem to have generated a vicious circle. Employees cannot afford to pay for training, and therefore low demand means low revenues; these in turn do not give providers the means to expand and diversify their services. In this context, the involvement of employers in funding vocational training is desirable.

Reference

Balica, M., Bârzea, C., Fartuşnic, C., Harga, I., Jigău, M., Tufă, L. Voicu, B. and Achimescu, V., Survey into the participation of workers at risk in the labour market in continuous training schemes, Bucharest, National Observatory for Lifelong Learning Development, 2010.

Luminiţa Chivu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

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