PART III - THE EU BUDGET AND THE CONTRIBUTION OF STRUCTURAL POLICIES
TO ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COHESION
2 The contribution of structural policies to economic and social cohesion:
results and prospects
2.2 Assessing the effects of Community intervention (1994-99)
Objective 4: concentration on the training needs of SMEs
During the period 1994 to 1999, Objective 4 programmes, which were aimed
at helping workers cope with industrial change, were altered significantly,
as the underlying principles were re-interpreted and co-financed policies
Absorption problems, which were evident between 1994 and 1996, were overcome
in the subsequent period, through a softening of the selection criteria
and the application of less stringent requirements for co-financing in
terms of the target group or type of training.
There are two groups targeted by Objective 4 measures, SMEs and workers
at risk of job loss. Substantial efforts were made over the period to
increase concentration on SMEs, but within these, training was mainly
addressed to managers and highly-qualified workers, rather than those
with the highest risk of becoming unemployed.
Evaluation of programmes has identified three types of effect - on firms,
on employees and on training systems.
In the case of firms, the main effect was on changing attitudes towards
continuing training and the kind of schemes carried out, in terms of the
amount of training given, its quality, nature and relevance to industrial
change as well as the number of employees covered.
In the case of employees, the effects were examined in terms of job improvement
(or reduced risk of redundancy) and employability, as reflected in more
and/or higher qualifications. At this stage, however, few evaluations
have been completed because of the delay in the launch of Objective 4
and, consequently, the significant number of projects which are still
ongoing. Those available suggest, in some cases, that firms benefited
more than employees and, in others, that benefits were divided between
greater competitiveness of firms and improved qualifications of some categories
The ESF also had an important effect in improving training systems, through
structuring the continuing training offered, widening the provision of
continuing training in SMEs and encouraging the development of better
systems of labour market analysis.
Although Objective 4 as such has not been included in the 2000 to 2006
period, several of the underlying principles have been incorporated as
part of the priority given to lifelong learning in the new Objective 3,
such as the inclusion of preventative measures in training programmes,
the need to focus on employees at risk and mobilisation of SMEs.