€750,000 project promises smoother ride for businesses and apprentices

First partner meeting at CMN’s offices

Cornwall Marine Network and the Cornwall Apprenticeship Agency have joined forces with a consortium of expert organisations across Europe; together they’ll create the blueprint that will make it easier for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to grow their workforce through apprentices. The €750,000 SERFA (Services for Apprenticeships) project started in October 2016 and will last two years finishing in September 2018 [download project brochure].

Here’s the current, well known and documented problem: the economic powerhouse of small and medium businesses need skilled employees to help them grow. Yet currently there are many skills shortages across the UK (and Europe) creating a massive hurdle for SME growth. Training young people on-the-job, through apprenticeships, is seen as the solution but as little as 20% of SMEs are engaged with an apprenticeship programme in the UK. Why is this?

Various research assignments have examined the problem but it seems the next step has not been fully addressed: taking the findings and then creating the blueprint for products and services that will solve the barriers. For example, often apprentices are not as ready for the world of work as they are expected to be, from basic skills such as email etiquette through to understanding and fitting into the culture of the SME.

This project will implement its own research, to complement existing findings, and then embark on a journey that will document the barriers to taking on an apprentice (in SMEs), design product and service solutions to overcome the barriers and then pilot and test those solutions. Products and services created will be designed to be transferable to other support organisations so that they can be easily adopted. The long-term vision: SMEs not taking on apprentices in your region? Dip into the toolbox of solutions created by this project to help turn the problem around.

The long-term vision: SMEs not taking on apprentices in your region? Dip into the toolbox of solutions created by this project to help turn the problem around.

Additionally as part of the project, SMEs will receive specialist support and advice to reduce the risk and uncertainty of employing an apprentice, this will include: identifying the skills needs of the SME, advice on recruitment and administrative procedures plus the training and instruction of in-house tutors. The unique skills brokerage way of working implemented by the CAA will be showcased as an example that all partners should follow to support engagement of SMEs and apprentices.

SMEs will receive specialist support and advice to reduce the risk and uncertainty of employing an apprentice

The partnership to this project is critical for its success; the partners require expert knowledge and experience in this field of work plus the ability to easily connect with and support SMEs. The all-star list includes a mix of research centres, business support agencies and chambers of industry, they include:

  • Cornwall Marine Network – Company training specialist (UK, coordinator) and the Cornwall Apprenticeship Agency – Not for profit apprenticeship specialist (UK)
  • OSTERREICHISCHES INSTITUT FUR BERUFSBILDUNGSFORSCHUNG – Vocational educational specialists (Austria)
  • Center RS za poklicno izobraževanje – Vocational and training specialists (Slovenia)
  • Federación Empresarial de Agroalimentación de la Comunidad Valenciana – Chamber of Industry (Spain)
  • k.o.s. GmbH – Private service and consulting company (Germany)
  • Maison de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle du Pays de Brest – Employment specialist (France)
  • Polska Fundacja Osrodkow Wspomagania Rozwoju Gospodarczego OIC POLAND z siedziba w Lublinie – Not for profit employment specialist (Poland)

The project is part-funded through the Erasmus+ programme which is providing 80% of the finance required, in this case a grant of nearly €600,000. Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. Erasmus+ aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of lifelong learning, including school education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector.

Read project brochure


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