A ticket to better training for Polish SMEs
Although EU funds for training have been made available to enterprises across Europe for some time, the regional authorities in Malopolska, Poland have identified a lack of uptake of training support funds by small and medium-sized enterprises in the region. In response, the EU-funded PFK project set out to find solutions to overcome the challenges enterprises faced when attempting to access these training funds, which benefit both the SMEs and their employees by improving skills across the board.
" The PFK project has demonstrated that providing funding to businesses using training vouchers while also assuring service quality is an effective method of distributing European funds for development services and motivating business owners and employees to pursue professional development. "
The EU-funded ‘PFK – Subjective financing of education’ project identified that SMEs found the process of accessing EU training funds complicated and burdensome, which dissuaded them from engaging with the procedures completely. This meant that both enterprises and employees were missing out on funding which was directly available for their training needs.
In a bid to simplify the process, PFK designed a new voucher system for accessing the funding as well as a quality assurance system to reassure employers that their employees’ time was being put to good use during training.
Vouching for more accessible access training
PFK came up with a voucher system in the context of a certified quality mark for training institutions. This simplified the transfer of funds (with money going straight from the EU to the training institution) and made the process much quicker. Vouchers can be distributed directly to private individuals in the area of general or professional competences, and to enterprises for developing services. This enabled micro- and SMEs to receive the financing quickly and easily, potentially just days after a new training need was identified.
The quality assurance system also inspired greater employer confidence in the new vouchers. PFK created a quality mark based on the Malopolskie Education-Training Services Standards (MSUES). Institutions are awarded the MSUES quality mark when their services and reliability have been verified through the Center for Quality Assurance of Learning as confirmation of their high-quality of education-training services. By the end of the project, 147 training companies in the region had received the MSUES mark and were thus entitled to use the training vouchers.
Rewarded for cutting red tape
This simplified method of transferring public funds to enterprises also ensures that EU funds are being used appropriately in this context, ensuring that the money is spent on training at recognised quality institutes and nothing else. Such investment in human capital and knowledge transfer has obvious, wide-reaching benefits for the EU’s labour market, economic growth and job creation.
Currently, the voucher system is being used as part of the "Career Direction" project, which has already benefited more than 2 000 people and is expected to benefit more than 46 000 by mid-2023. There is also a voucher system for SMEs that can support over 7 000 employers from Malopolska.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “PFK - Podmiotowe Finansowanie Kształcenia” is EUR 1 146 923, with the EU’s European Social Fund contributing EUR 974 885 through the “Kapitał Ludzki 2007-2013” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.