The ESF is helping to train workers in new skills and to seek out innovative ways of improving productivity. It is also giving a boost to social inclusion with measures to reduce the number of school leavers without qualifications and bring those who face obstacles to getting a job into the workforce, such as disabled job-seekers and women with children.
ESF projects are concentrating on helping people from disadvantaged groups to get a job. Young people looking for their first job, older workers looking for new skills to stay in a job, people with chronic illnesses who want to work – these are among the many groups of job-seekers the ESF is supporting. This support includes projects that give access to the right training programmes, offer help with the job application process, and that work with employers to open suitable job opportunities. An example is the training programme on offer to prisoners and ex-offenders which give them the skills to rejoin working life – close on 7 000 have benefited so far.
The ESF is also encouraging young people to complete their education and acquire the qualifications that employers expect. Special needs teaching is giving those with learning difficulties the chance to work like everyone else. Specialist teachers are helping poor-performing students to catch up, get qualified and move on into working life. And subsidised voucher schemes for employers are opening up more apprenticeship positions – giving young job-seekers the chance to take their first steps into work.
The ESF ‘Educating employees’ programme is funding projects that give workers new and valuable skills and improve their productivity and that of their company. In the retail sector, a range of tailored training options – such as sales technique, management and leadership skills – has helped boost performance in the sector. There are also innovative employee-focused projects that test out new, more flexible ways of working that can bring benefits to workers and businesses alike. For instance, a transport consultancy investigated flexible working environments, a ‘buddy’ system for new colleagues, and new ways to evaluate performance in employee-led ‘nurseries’. Projects such as these are helping the Netherlands maintain productivity levels in its workforce and ensure the availability of high-quality jobs in the future.