Third National Agreement on Continuing Training signed
In December 2000, Spain's main employers' organisations and trade unions signed the third National Agreement on Continuing Training (ANFC). Like its predecessors, the agreement provides for the extensive involvement of the social partners in managing all levels of the continuing training system. An innovation is the creation of a new tripartite foundation to administer the system.
On 19 December 2000, the third National Agreement on Continuing Training (Acuerdo Nacional de Formación Continua, ANFC) was signed by the employers' organisations - the Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organizations (Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales, CEOE) and the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Confederación Española de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa, CEPYME) - and the trade unions - the Trade Union Confederation of Workers' Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO), the General Workers' Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) and the Galician Trade Union Confederation (Confederación Intersindical Gallega, CIG). It will be in force for the period 2001-4.
The conclusion of the third agreement (the second ran from 1997 to 2000 - ES9702101F) marks the renewal of an institutional framework of vocational training for employed people which was set up by the first agreement in 1992 (ES9907133F). Since then the social partners have jointly managed and negotiated public funds devoted to training employees in Spanish companies. Half of these funds come from the vocational training contributions of employers and employees, with the remainder provided by the European Social Fund, which co-finances this type of initiative for Spain, and the direct contributions of the state budget through the National Employment Institute (Instituto Nacional de Empleo, INEM) .
The development of the previous agreements, from 1993 to 2000, led to the extension and consolidation of continuing training in Spain (in 1999 more than 1,400,000 workers received training), particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises. In this process, a major role has been played by the bipartite Foundation for Continuing Training (Fundación para la Formación Continua, FORCEM), made up of the employers' organisations and trade unions that signed the agreements, as an instrument for managing training initiatives and complementary actions. This foundation has also enriched the social dialogue at the sectoral and company level.
Based on these experiences, the Spanish social partners have consolidated a continuing training model based on social dialogue and joint management, under which the system is developed by integrating the competences of the state administration with the action of the social partners.
The new agreement
In this framework, the third National Agreement on Continuing Training is firmly based on collective bargaining. The joint bodies created by the agreement involve the participation of the social partners at the national, sectoral and regional levels.
The third ANFC continues to develop a wide vision of continuing vocational training for the employed population as a factor in social cohesion and an instrument for reinforcing the competitiveness of companies and future employment, in line with the recommendations of the European Union and the International Labour Organisation Conventions signed by Spain. This vision is that "continuing training should have a function of permanent adaptation and improvement of skills and qualifications to favour both the competitiveness situation of companies and employment, a function of social and personal promotion and of development of workers' employability." The new agreement also maintains the system of different levels of training initiatives: company plans for companies with over 99 employees; group plans, which are sectoral and do not depend on the number of workers in particular companies; multi-sector plans initiated by employers' organisations or trade unions at the appropriate level; and individual training leave. In the same way, the agreement provides for a new form of training initiatives for companies in the "social economy".
The management and operational follow-up of the new agreement will be conducted through joint structures similar to those used for the previous accords, as follows:
- a Mixed State Commission for Continuing Training (Comisión Mixta Estatal de Formación Continua) will be set up, with the role of determining priorities between different training initiatives;
- joint sectoral training commissions will be set up in the various sectors, linked with collective bargaining, and will develop orientations for training initiatives; and
- joint regional training commissions will be set up in the regions (Autonomous Communities), bringing together the most representative trade unions and employers' organisations in their area, with functions similar to the sectoral commissions.
The most important feature of this third ANFC is that through a tripartite agreement (between employers, trade unions and the labour administration) signed at the same time, the government will play a direct part in the administration and management of the continuing training system. To this end, the bipartite FORCEM has been replaced by a Tripartite Foundation for Training in Employment (Fundación Tripartita para la Formación en el Empleo), in order to support and simplify the financial and administrative management of training initiatives.
The renewal of the national continuing training agreements marks a new step towards improving the occupational skills of the employed population, after a period of great quantitative extension of training in companies that was greatly facilitated by the previous agreements. The aim is now to maintain and even to raise the level of training, and to meet new challenges such as: dealing with the quality and suitability of training in relation to the needs of companies and workers; improving access to continuing training for workers with limited basic training and low employability; and establishing the conditions for accrediting the acquisition of vocational qualifications by workers who receive training in the continuing training subsystem, in line with the current National Vocational Training Programme (ES9804152F). (Juan Blanco, CIREM Foundation)