Sweden: EWCO CAR on “Getting prepared for the upswing: Training and Qualification during the Crisis”

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 01 March 2011



About
Country:
Sweden
Author:
Mats Kullander and Oskar Eklund
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

In Sweden, during the crisis focus been concentrated on battling the rising unemployment and making sure that the unemployed receive the right skill raising opportunities by increasing support to the public education system. As a result, training and skill raising has been funded by the companies themselves or through support from the European Social Fund (ESF), as in the well-known case of Scania.

QUESTIONNAIRE

The questionnaire focuses on the following topics:

  • Mapping of the recent evolution (before and after the crisis) of the participation of workers in training provided or supported by the enterprise (300-400 words)

  • Identification and assessment of the most important existing/new national policy measure or programme devised by governments (Public Employment Services) and/or social partners that aim to encourage training provided or supported by the enterprise during the current economic crisis (800-900 words)

  • Identification and assessment of good examples of training measures implemented by individual/groups of enterprises with the objective of updating workers’ skills to support present and future business activities. (800-900 words)

  • Mapping of the positions and views of social partners with regard to the existing public policy measures intended to encourage training during the recession (300-400 words)

Block 1: Mapping of the recent evolution (before and after the crisis) of the participation of workers in training at the workplace

Question 1.1: Is there any evidence that more/less enterprises are currently engaged in providing training for their workforce in the current economic crisis period than it was the case three years ago? If so, please provide it.

The term ‘training’ could relate to both: internal and external measures, such as for instance:

  • On-the-job training

  • Internal mentoring programmes

  • Other forms of internal know-how exchange

  • Sending workers to a provider of training

  • Allowing for qualification related sabbaticals

  • Other forms of training or qualification

Since this issue is specified to encompass only the prevalence of enterprise that provide training to battle the crisis, it is very difficult to find any relevant official statistics on this issue. Data on enterprise-sanctioned training is in general scarce, but the data that exists refer to individuals who have received enterprise-sanctioned training and not to the enterprises themselves.

However, a telephone survey conducted in 2009 by utbildning.se shows that 47% of the private employers and 60% of the public employers cut down on skill-raising funds during that same year. Meanwhile, the employers emphasised the importance of participation in skill-raising and training measures, also when it comes to employability. 44% of the HR managers that participated in the study responded that participation in training and skill-raising measures could play a decisive role when applying for a job. 90% stated that it would be considered an important qualification.

It should be emphasised that utbildning.se is a profit-driven private company who supply companies with training or connect them with training services. The motive behind the survey is therefore clearly biased. Nevertheless, it is the best estimate that can be found considering that official statistics on this issue is non-existent.

The interviewed representative from the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries ( Teknikföretagen) believes that the proportion of enterprises that provide training has increased slightly during the crisis, but cannot provide any numbers. On the employee side, the representative from the Industrial and Metal Workers’ Union ( IF Metall) states that the proportion of such company initiatives has probably been quite flat during the crisis.

Question 1.2: Is there any evidence that workers are participating more/less in training provided or supported by the enterprise (at the initiative of the enterprise) in the current economic crisis period than it was the case three years ago? If so, please provide it.

The Work Environment is a survey published every other year by the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket). It is based on a standardised number of questions, which have been asked to 11,000 employees in Sweden. The following data is collected from the surveys conducted in 2007 and 2009:

Education and training – Results of survey
Education and training 2007/2009 in percentages Male 2007/2009 Female 2007/2009 Total 2007/2009
Work place gives workers the ability to develop skills and evolve (at least once a week) 45/44% 42/40% 43/42%
Have received paid training at work sometime during the past 12 months 50/49% 55/56% 53/52%
Have, during the past 12 months, received paid training at work for a period of at least five working days 25/23% 23/22% 24/23%

Source: Work Environment Authority (2007, 2009), The Work Environment Survey

There is a small decrease of one to two percentage points from 2007 to 2009 for almost all questions. However, since the decrease in the proportion of trained employees is so small, one cannot jump to any conclusions about whether or not the crisis has had a negative effect on the amount of training provided to employees.

When looking at the official statistics on the number of people engaged in labour market policies, job creation measures and education creation measures, it becomes evident that the crisis has had a substantial impact on the rate of participation in these measures (see Figure 1). From 2007 to 2010 workers’ participation in labour market programs and education creation measures doubled. Note, however, that education creation measures probably almost entirely relate to the expansion of the public education system and the system of vocational education and other measures to decrease unemployment (see 2.1). Thus, these measures are not carried out within the frame of the enterprises’ operations. The institute predicts that the rate of participation will decrease during the upcoming two years.

Question 1.3: What is the current profile of enterprises engaged in training activities for their employees? Is there any evidence that the profile of enterprises engaged in training activities for their employees is changing in the current economic crisis?. If so, please, provide it. (In your answer, please consider aspects such as sector of economic activity, firm size, ownership etc.)

There is no such information or data on the profile of companies providing. It is particularly difficult to establish any certain profiles since training in itself is multifaceted concept.

The employer representative from Teknikföretagen believes that size of the enterprise is more important than the sector in which it is active. According to the representative, larger enterprises can devote more resources to training, particularly training in basic knowledge such as language and mathematics. Smaller companies are instead focused on operation-specific training, since it is too expensive, in relation to the return, to invest in basic knowledge.

Question 1.4: What is the current profile of workers attending or participating in training activities supported by their enterprises? Is there any evidence that the profile of workers attending or participating in this type of training activities is changing? If so, please provide it. (In your answer, please consider aspects such as gender, age, educational level, occupation, type of employment contract, etc)?

Figure 1 shows that the distribution between genders is quite equal when it comes to enterprise-sanctioned training. There is unfortunately no breakdown on age, educational level, occupation etc for the most recent years.

It is according to the representative from Unionen difficult to assess the recent developments, but highly skilled white-collar workers still have a higher level of training than low skilled blue-collar workers. The representative states that it is more difficult to customise training for the employees who work in low skilled jobs as these jobs have a higher degree of standardisation. It is, according to the representative, easier to create useful training for the workers employed in “high profile” jobs, as the training can be applicable to many other jobs.

Block 2: Identification and (if possible) assessment of the most important existing/amended/new national policy measures or programmes devised by governments, Public Employment Services , social partners and any other organisations that aim to encourage training activities by enterprises at workplace level during the current economic crisis.

  • Specific financial funds for cases of restructuring during the crisis and with an interest in training activities, with the aim to bring people into further employment (either within the same company/industry or into different activities)

  • Advice and consultancy to enterprises on how to organise in-house training and/or how to find the most suitable external education provider during the crisis

  • Financial support to training costs for enterprises in special difficulties because of the crisis

  • Financial support for targeted training activities at company level/group of enterprises, where this support has been specifically initiated after the economic crisis to help enterprises to better prepare for the next upswing of the economy.

  • Further training activities linked with other employment related measures during the crisis, such as short-time working schemes, part time unemployment etc.

  • Crisis-related support for training-related sabbaticals amongst employees.

Question 2.1: Please provide an overview of policy measures devised by governments (Public Employment Services) and/or social partners and other organisations intended to encourage training activities provided or supported by enterprises in order to help enterprises to better overcome the current economic crisis

During the crisis the government’s focus has, to a large extent, been focused on providing opportunities for the unemployed to get back onto the labour market. Support to enterprise-sanctioned training has therefore, according to interviews with representatives from the employer and employee organisations (see bibliography), been kept at a minimum. Numerous skill-raising measures have been introduced to fight the increased unemployment levels. One example is the 4.5 billion SEK (434 billion EURO) support given to existing public education programmes, such as the Municipal Adult Education Programme (Komvux) and the Advanced Vocational Education (YH) (SE0909029I). The support for training measures for the already employed has therefore been down-prioritised.

Where initiatives to promote enterprise-sanctioned training have been initiated, they have been funded by the companies themselves (as in the case of Scania in block 3) with support from for example the ESF.

A - Training and qualification related policy-measures during the crisis
Name of the measure (original name and translation in English) Brief description of the identified measure (i.e. geographical scope of the measure, body/institution responsible, duration, type of support, eligibility criteria, main groups benefited, etc)
Measure 1  
Measure 2  
Measure 3  
….  

Question 2.2: In-depth description of the most important policy measure devised by governments (Public Employment Services) and/or social partners and intended to encourage training activities provided or supported by enterprises in order to help enterprises to better be prepared for the upswing.

See previous answer.

B - Training and qualification related policy-measures during the crisis
Name of the measure (original name and translation in English)  
Date of implementation  
Geographical scope of the measure (national/regional/local one)  
Framework of the measure: How has the measure been designed? (via a sectoral agreement, a tripartite agreement, an ad-hoc public decision, etc)  
Main body/institution responsible for the implementation of the measure (public employment services, governments, social partners, tripartite organisations, regional promotion funds, sectoral organisations, etc)  
Goals pursued by the measure, rationale of the measure  
Operative description of the identified measure (i.e. duration, type of support, eligibility criteria, main groups benefited, conditions for being benefited, etc)  
Funding and sources of funding: How much funding is available for this measure and where does the money come from?  
Assessment (i.e.: better levels of qualification, matching of training needs, productivity improvements, better adaptation to the market, participation of workers, etc.) of the identified measure; problems (if any) identified; resources devoted and results obtained through the measure so far in the current period of economic crisis  
Additional information (not covered within previous points)  

Block 3: Identification and (if possible) assessment of successful examples of training measures implemented by individual/groups of enterprises with the objective of updating workers’ skills

  • Training activities during periods of restructuring

  • Training-related sabbaticals

  • Targeted training programmes at company level

Name of the enterprise/group of enterprises Scania
Description of the company/group of enterprises (size, economic activity, main products, location, etc) Scania is one of the world’s most prominent manufacturers of trucks and buses with production in Europe and Latin America. The company has 32,300 employees, of which the majority is stationed in Sweden, and an annual turnover of 62 billion SEK (6.55 billion EURO).
Period of implementation of the measures? The measures were initiated in the spring of 2009.
Goals pursued by the enterprises with the training actions, rationale of the actions The aim of the measure was to increase key competences and the competitiveness of the workforce, while keeping the employees on stand by.
Operative description of the actions carried out by the enterprise (actions developed, main target groups etc) As a result of the economic crisis in late 2008, Scania was forced to decrease production. Then, the company decided not to renew contracts with the 1,000 employees on part-time contracts. However, as the plunge in production amounted to 50%, it soon became apparent that the measures already taken were not sufficient. Thus, the management wanted to sign an agreement of reduced working time. A union ballot, with a turnout of 88.5%, concluded that 60% of the members accepted such a reduction in working time. The agreement, which spanned the rest of 2009, implicated a 20% cut in working time and a 10% decrease in pay, as well as cuts in holiday pay and a freeze of wage increases during 2009. The agreement saved the company 27.5 million EURO and secured employment for the rest of 2009 ( SE0906019I). In addition, Scania together with the Stockholm county administrative board (Länsstyrelsen i Stockholms Län), initiated a joint project to create on-the-job training as a form of crisis management. The idea was that employees would be put in training while the production was low. The measure encompassed 6,000 employees who were trained in industrial engineering, Scania’s production system, mathematics and language.
Use (if any) of existing support measures for financing/supporting the carried out training activities Scania and the county administrative board also applied for project funding at the European Social Fund. The European Commission granted the 11 million EURO support for the project. The support is the largest one granted by the Fund in Sweden. Nevertheless, the support comprised just a small portion of the total cost of the project as Scania continued to pay salaries during the period of training.
Role of social dialogue in the implementation of the training actions As the project was a joint initiative taken by Scania’s management and the county administrative board, it cannot to a large extent be attributed to social dialogue. However, the unions were very positive to this initiative, stating: “As this measure was solely a management decision, we cannot take any credit for the implementation of this project. Nevertheless, I feel very proud to be a part of the Scania Group who has, in a groundbreaking fashion, invested in its employees instead of turning to restructuring measures.” (Eva Tar, chairman of Unionen’s board at Scania).
Assessment (if possible) of the identified training actions implemented by the enterprise (participation of workers), problems(if any) identified, resources devoted and results obtained so far (better levels of qualification, matching of training needs, productivity improvements, better adaptation to the market, etc) Scania’s head of communications, Erik Ljungberg, states in an interview (Florén, A-K; web article), that the training has offered something unique, something that cannot be obtained in a classroom. As the training was carried out on the job it was more in touch with the actual work. Workers have also had the possibility to get hands on training in product efficiency. This training will, according to Mr. Ljungberg, increase productivity of workers and thus in the long-run increase Scania’s profitability. In addition, the training meant a boost in morale and company spirit.
Additional information (not covered within previous points) -

Block 4: Mapping of the positions and views of social partners with regard to the existing public policy measures intended to encourage training during the recession

Question 4.1: What is the attitude/opinion of the social partners in your country on the importance and role of training as a successful tool for being prepared for the upswing? Do these positions vary much between the different social partners? Elements of agreement/disagreement between social partners. Please distinguish (if possible) between trade unions and employers organisations.

All the interviewed social partners state that training is very important to prepare both employees and employers for the upswing. The representative from Unionen highlights the importance of having provided the right type of training when the upswing comes. If not invested in properly, there will be a shortage of competences when the upswing comes. This will in turn, according to the representative, lead to a segregation of the work force. Highly skilled and well educated employees will have less difficulties in finding a job, while low-skilled employees who have not received training will find it even more difficult to find a job. She also insists that the support from the government has to increase.

Also the interviewed person from the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries ( Teknikföretagen), highlights the importance of enterprise-sanctioned training to battle the crisis. According to her, the crisis and the large groups of retirees will lead to a shortage of competences. It is therefore very important to counteract this shortage by training the employees.

All of the interviewed social partner representatives state the same thing, namely that both sides realise the importance of training as a tool to secure good knowledge and competences within the companies, especially in times of crisis. The question is who is going to pay for it and that is probably the greatest divider in this issue, particularly when companies are experiencing heavy deficiencies of liquidity due to the crisis.

Question 4.2: Have the attitudes/opinions of social partners towards training significantly changed in the last 2-3 years as a consequence of the economic crisis?. Please report the main changes, distinguishing between trade unions and employers organisations

The interviewed representative from IF Metall thinks that the importance of training has become more important to the social partners during the last years. The representative from Unionen highlights that partners have realised that companies’ ability to adapt to the current economic situation is a necessity. This ability includes having a strong foundation of training. The importance of training has therefore, according to the interviewee, not changed during the crisis.

Commentary by the NC

Social partners confirm that there have been no major initiatives to increase or promote the level of training within the companies. Rather, focus has been almost entirely been on providing skill-raising opportunities to the unemployed via increasing support to the post-upper secondary public education system.

The examples named are for example the ones, such as Scania, where the company themselves have financed the training or where for example the ESF has supported with funding.

Bibliography

Interviews

  • Karin Tapper, Teknikföretagen, responsible for training issues, 2010-08-04

  • Mats Essemyr, TCO, evaluation of labour market policies. 2010-10-10

  • Svante Bylund, IF Metall, responsible for issues related to productivity of workers and skill-raising. 2010-10-10

  • Åsa Johansson, Unionen, evaluation department. 2010-10-10

Mats Kullander and Oskar Eklund, Oxford Research

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