The success of EU businesses and industry is vital to increase employment and create new and better jobs. Much of this success is built on the quality and skills of the workforce and its ability to adapt to change. This is why many entrepreneurs and businesses use ESF help to boost the competences and flexibility of their most valuable resource – their workers.
Learning to adapt
In Europe, there are some 23 million businesses and 99% of these are small businesses which account for two out of three private sector jobs. Companies and workers operate in a fast-changing environment driven by increasing global economic integration and the appearance of new technologies. To prosper, they must become more flexible – more able to predict and adapt to changes.
The ESF is helping companies and workers meet these challenges in many ways. For example, better skills may be needed to compete or new and innovative ways of working might improve performance and draw in new workers. Adapting to the opportunities of the low-carbon economy is another focus for ESF support.
The ESF is also helping management to improve export performance that can open new markets and lead to growth. Companies and organisations across the EU are using ESF support to plan ahead, improve their performance, find new ways of working, and maintain and create sustainable jobs.
Helping people set up their own companies contributes significantly to job creation, which is why the ESF fosters entrepreneurship in many forms; such as a group of scientists who start a company to manufacture their latest invention or a recent migrant who has trained as a decorator and wants to set up a small business and employ a few friends to help.
The ESF helps entrepreneurs and the self-employed in many ways, including support for training in basic management, legal and financial skills for setting up a business. Some projects use business mentors to help entrepreneurs through the critical first years. Others promote networks of entrepreneurs to exchange experiences and offer support.
In addition, getting the finance to set up or grow a small business may prove difficult as start-ups can be risky and banks reluctant to lend. In response, there are many examples of ESF microfinance projects set up in EU countries specifically to lend the relatively small amounts of capital that new entrepreneurs might need.