Continuing Training

EU Encouragement of Social Dialogue Pays Dividends

Thessaloniki (GR), February 2009 - The recent joint study by Cedefop and Eurofound entitled Contribution of Collective Bargaining to the Development of Continuing Training demonstrates that collective agreements have a largely positive impact on employee training. However, it also shows that training provision in small and medium enterprises and training offered to workers over 45, is still lagging behind.

Cedefop and Eurofound held a joint seminar on 9 - 10 February at Cedefop's premises in Thessaloniki to discuss the conclusions of the study. The seminar focused on the main question the study set out to answer: whether and under what circumstances collective agreements can lead to more and better continuing training provision.

Pointing to the efficiency of social dialogue in providing continuing training, Cedefop Director Aviana Bulgarelli stressed that the scope of involvement for social partners ranges over all training activities as part of a general lifelong learning strategy. Ms Bulgarelli linked social dialogue on training to the necessity of identifying skill needs, not just in sectors but also at the company level; to setting up systems for the assessment and validation of skills; and to ensuring the best possible quality in a very fragmented training landscape.

Manfred Tessaring, Cedefop's head of research and policy analysis, emphasised the importance of social dialogue in providing the best possible training and retraining during the present economic downturn. A failure to train people now, he warned, may lead to the long-term unemployment that characterised previous crises.

"We are facing significant challenges-, he said, "including climate change, technological advances, increasing skill needs, and a demographic downturn - but every challenging situation also creates opportunities: this is where social dialogue can make a significant difference".

Since the Copenhagen Declaration in 2002, European policy has encouraged social partners to get involved in vocational education and training as a way of ensuring better provision and a better match between skills supplied and skills needed.

Encouraged by European policy, several EU Member States have supported a greater role for social partners in training provision. In France, Italy, and Spain, the social partners have concluded intersectoral agreements that were then implemented by national laws.

In Finland and the UK, the social partners were widely consulted in the preparatory phase of reform in continuing training, while the Dutch and Danish governments have promoted consultation toward an in-depth revision of the entire continuing-training system. New bilateral funds are also now providing more incentives in countries with a weak tradition of continuing training, such as Italy and Greece.

Cedefop will continue to study the impact of social-partner participation in the provision of continuing training through many other projects such as its skills forecasts, its work on the development of European tools such as the European Qualifications Framework, and the increased participation of social partners in the Study Visits Programme for Lifelong Learning, which is holding a seminar on 26 - 27 February 2009 on how social partners can help implement European tools in vocational education and training.