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European Vocational Skills Week
News article6 August 2020Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Mobilising intermediary bodies and support networks to boost SME apprenticeships 


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The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) has released a report assessing the Erasmus+ Programme KA3 action: Support for small and medium-sized enterprises engaging in apprenticeships. The call targeted projects that help SMEs to take on apprentices. A total of 91 applications were submitted, with grant agreements issued to 16 projects in nine Member States. The projects started between September and November 2016 and lasted two years.

The call was organised in two groups, targeting different beneficiaries:

  • Lot 1: Partnerships on building capacity for intermediary bodies or partnerships established by large companies to support SMEs (twelve projects);
  • Lot 2: European level networks and organisations supporting SMEs through their national members or affiliates (four projects).

Among the aims of the selected projects was enhancing partnerships among businesses, VET providers and intermediary bodies (such as chambers of industry, trade and crafts), as well as public authorities and social partners, to increase SME involvement in apprenticeships. Projects also targeted raising awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships among SMEs, creating training programmes and useful resources, and improving support services.

From evaluating the selected projects, the report came to the following general conclusions:

  • all projects actively involved stakeholders, creating transnational alliances that anchor the outcomes in sustainable networks;
  • partnerships were built or strengthened to get more SMEs involved in apprenticeships;
  • campaigns targeting thousands of SMEs increased awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships;
  • projects are expected to have a continuing impact on the target groups;
  • toolboxes, guidebooks and documents describing procedures for taking on apprentices are largely still available;
  • the majority of projects created online resources to make useful information to increase the quality of apprenticeships publicly available;
  • most projects conducted thorough quantitative research and consulted experts in interviews or focus groups;
  • some developed tools to assess companies’ readiness to hire apprentices and demonstrate where improvement is needed;
  • several projects trained the staff of intermediary bodies or employees in SMEs to ensure continuous guidance;
  • all projects widely disseminated project results at events, on social media and in written communications;
  • several projects encountered delays in the implementation process but managed to deliver all the main deliverables;
  • dissemination strategies were successful in most projects and the quality of communication and cooperation structures of many projects was also evident;
  • stakeholder involvement was very convincing, with project teams reaching out to a large number of SMEs and other stakeholders such as policymakers, public authorities and social partners.
  • According to the report, projects should now be encouraged to incorporate a comprehensive external evaluation and follow up on recommendations to improve deliverables. Partners should also invest in enhancing the user-friendliness of developed resources and online tools to increase their impact.

Read the full report here.