With the support of the European Commission within the framework of LLP.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
LEONARDO DA VINCI Partnerships
Start Date: 01 August 2012
Project Duration: 2 years
SMART is a small scale, Leonardo da Vinci Partnership project which is focussing on the specific needs of groups who are either unemployed or working at the very edges of the employment market and who are often socially as well as economically marginalised. These include, for example,
- people that have lost their job because of social changes due to the economic crises in particular European regions
- migrant workers
- older adults
- part-time / unskilled / low-pay workers and others in unstable employment.
There was an initial research phase in which each of the four partners reviewed the situation in their own area and identified specific groups with particular employment problems together with reporting on any initiatives or interventions that have tried to address the problem.
The objective of the project is to develop SMART training modules (Short Module Adult Reconversion Training) and to work with local employers and social agencies to pilot and deliver the modules at local level.
Each partner is addressing a different target group but we have discovered useful and interesting overlaps and shared problems – many of which have been discovered as the project has progressed . For example, the Norwegian partners are working on developing and piloting modules for immigrant workers who are disadvantaged in the labour market and need additional skills e.g an understanding of the labour market and language skills. The Small Business Development Association in Poland are focussing on people in rural area where unemployment is acute and are preparing and piloting modules to help them start their own businesses. Knowledge sp z.o.o in Poland are working with young adults in areas where the decline in heavy industry has caused massive unemployment. They are working on modules to equip young people to “think laterally” in terms of new employment possibilities.
Pontydysgu are working with people forced to work in low-paid, unskilled part-time jobs because of the lack of availability of full time work. These jobs are primarily in the hospitality industry (bar workers, kitchen staff, waiters etc) and we are developing and piloting modules with this group which will give them transferable skills (e.g customer care, basic hygiene certificates, handling money, first aid) to increase their chances of either getting a full time job in the hospitality industry or ‘moving sideways’ into other sectors such as retail, leisure or tourism. We have secured the backing of local employers to certificate and recognise the programme through local and regional trade associations and chambers of commerce.
All partners have developed their modules and there has been an exchange of modules between partners for comment. We are now in the piloting phase and the modules will be further refined in light of feedback from the pilots. The modules will be pooled and held in a databank together with teaching materials as they are developed. All partners have also formed relationships with local employers and local employer groups although this has taken a different form in each country because of the different target groups and different infrastructure.
The first student visits, which are study visits in the relevant sector (e.g visits to hospitality sector in other countries, visits to rural areas to look at entrepreneurship etc) started at the end of September 2013.
As the project has progressed, one of the common issues that has emerged is dealing with large numbers of people who basically operate within the black economy. Very little is being done at a practical level to support or up-skill these ‘workers’ because they are not officially ‘workers’ and in most cases they are not eligible for training courses as many of them do not qualify for funding. For example, in the hospitality industry, migrant workers and students account for a large number of those employed in low skilled part time jobs in bars and kitchens. They are almost always paid in cash and may not be registered as employees or eligible for social benefits. This is also the case with peripatetic workers in farming and other rural industries. In addition, in both examples the work is almost always seasonal. As they are not registered they have no legal protection and if they are ill and do not turn up for work, they are sacked and have no money. This often results in homelessness and their original illness is often worsened by their living conditions and the fact that they cannot access the health services. Those that are registered workers are in much the same position as if they work less than a set number of hours a week they do not enjoy the same protection as full time employees. As a result, turn over of staff is very high and employers can hire and fire workers without penalties.
Our aim is to try and give workers a set of basic employability skills which will make it less likely that they lose their jobs in the first place but secondly, if they do get dismissed they are more likely to find other employment. In addition, the Norwegian partners are developing modules that address social issues such as becoming a legal worker, health insurance, housing, benefits etc. Simultaneously, we are working with employers to persuade them of the value of training their part-time staff and developing a stable work force.