The Austrian Equal project “Profession and Work Pact” develops a vocational training model and implements it in two regions - Graz and Eastern Styria.
The whole project lasts for 22 months. This includes the establishment of infrastructure. Field research is undertaken in order to find out the sectors in which the model will be best suited and implemented. It includes the formation of the company networks, the development of the concepts for case management and a system of tutors as well as the practical realisation of the four projects in the two areas. One of the four practical examples could be described as follows: Training as an Energy Cabin Builder, Eastern Styria.
Over a period of ten months (12 hours a week) the company liaison representative researched the sectors that were suitable for the project. Companies willing to take part in the project had to be identified and a company network established. As soon as it was clear which sectors were suitable, the training coordinator started to plan the contents of the courses. Once the participating companies had signed the agreement, their specific needs regarding the qualification of future employees were taken into account. In parallel the employment agencies were asked to send potential participants and an information campaign was launched in the local newspapers to inform people about the project and to give them the opportunity to apply directly.
To obtain social security and a daily allowance, all participants are required to be registered with their local employment authority for the duration of the programme. The selection process took place over several rounds with interviews and assessments. The result was, about one-fifth of those candidates interviewed were selected to participate in the programme.
EnergyCabin GmbH was established in 2005 as a joint venture company of KWB, CONNESS and S.O.L.I.D. The company works in the area of renewable energies and manufactures mobile heating systems that operate using biomass fuel. Training as a professional energy cabin builder is provided in the production area jointly with the “Equal” project. “Profession and Work Pact”
The target group for this training in compliance with the Equal Programme are women and men who have either, not undertaken any training or have a low level of professional training. It is also designed for women who wish to return to work after a term of child care. 10 participants took part in the pilot phase of the training as energy cabin builders; 9 of these were women. In addition to the theoretical and practical components the participants were also offered an intensive and individually tailored support from case managers parallel to the training. Case management gives support to people faced with complex problems such as debt burdens, a lack of child care facilities or family difficulties. The concept as well as the training of the case managers was developed within the frame of the project. The qualification of the case managers took about 3 months.
The training is divided into a specialist theoretical segment plus a provision of basic development and training in social skills. The training content was targeted to the requirement and activity profile in the EnergyCabin GmbH production area. The specialist knowledge the participants brought with them was taken into account in the conception phase. The specialist and practical components were the main content of the training provided by both EnergyCabin GmbH and the partner company KWB.
A training manager (full time) is responsible for the coordination of the content, the rooms, the hours and the trainers of the specific courses. The training lasts for seven and a half months all together with about 25-30 teaching units (about 50 minutes each) a week. The training manager also acts as interface between the participants and the support system.
THE TRAINING CONTENTS
- Basic development and social skills
The basic development component is provided at the start of the training and permits a “gentle” introduction to the subject. For those who need it, a refresher course is given in basic school level German language and mathematics skills plus a basic knowledge of computers. A conscious input is made aimed at the strengths and resources of the participants resulting in bolstering their self-confidence and self assurance. Soft skills like team work, communication or coping with conflict situations are not taught in extra units but are an integrated part of the training.
- Theoretical vocational training
The specialist theoretical training comprises the imparting of knowledge for a range of technical skills. The existing knowledge that participants already possess is brought into the training plan. Instruction is given in carpentry, metalwork, electrical and heating installations and given a basic introduction about renewable energies. Practice and project work is the focus of the specialist and theoretical training. Provision of the training is in modules implemented by a reputable adult education institution.
- Specialist practical training by the associated companies
Practical training for the energy cabin builder participants is provided in the context of an association structure with a group of three companies taking part. The companies involved provide instruction in the specialist knowledge required for the work of an energy cabin builder, which EnergyCabin is not in a position to provide itself. The tutors nominated by the companies involved are prepared for their operational training tasks through the use of a special tutor training tool developed for in the “Profession and Work Pact” Project. This specialised tutor training comprises of communication, employee motivation and feedback. The tutors are also the personal contact partners for the training participants throughout the course period.
The practical training is also a chance for the participants and the companies to get to know each other. It is hoped that most of the trainees on the programme should be integrated as permanent staff of EnergyCabin GmbH.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE FOUR AUSTRIAN VENET EXAMPLES
Regarding the participants
- Participants should desire and show willingness to undertake this qualification
- Subject to the above, the individuals issues (personal, financial, health) will be treated by the case management in parallel to the qualification
- Case management are to review an individuals personal situation prior to commencement of the programme. This is to ensure that there is no disruption to the course by non-attendance or other issues
- Once the participants are ready for training they are motivated, otherwise there are very high rates of absence from the training due to sickness and various other reasons
Regarding the management of the training
- The easier the structure, the better…
- It is preferable that training should not take place in too many different venues or at different times as this is difficult to manage for some participants and especially difficult with those who have child care obligations. However, the difficulty is that there are not many options regarding training through external education institutions in the rural areas
- The modular contents of the training was very positively received by the participants as well as the companies
Regarding the Companies
- We have to develop a network of companies into the programme. To do this, we must convince and assure them of the advantages of the programme both in terms of a productive labour force and as social-economic benefit. This will take time and effort to develop and cannot be undertaken within the existing timeframe
- If the training is specific for a specialised company, there might be a high dependence on that very company for the trainees
- The system of tutors was highly appreciated by the companies and the participants. There will be more demand for tutor training by the companies
- Companies were very receptive to the candidates put forward after undertaking the course as they were able to easily identify positions within their organisation that would suit both the business and the candidates
- The project allows for both the companies and the participants to get to know each other and make for a possible long-term working relationship.