On 14 December 2022, the EAfA (European Alliance for Apprenticeships) hosted a Live Discussion ‘Promoting apprenticeships to SMEs’. The event aimed to foster a discussion among relevant local and regional stakeholders about how they encourage SMEs to accept apprenticeships. The experience of Tuscany (EARLALL regional member) in the wine sector was shared by Miriana Bucalossi, Head of Apprenticeships, WBL Policies and EU Project Management Unit, Tuscany, Italy.
The Live Discussion opened with a panel discussion moderated by Anna Carerro, Deputy Head of Unit – Vocational Education and Training, Cedefop at the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the European Commission presenting the European Alliances for Apprenticeships (EAfA) and the European Year of Skills.
The panellists represented various regional, EU and local stakeholders, including Ms. Bucalossi, Paula Zaplana from the Catalan Small and Medium Business Association; Sergio Corridori, HR manager of winery Cantine Mazzei and Valentina Guerra from SMEUnited.
Ms. Bucalossi, representing the Tuscany Region, showcased the latest apprenticeship policies in the region, notably in the wine sector. As SME enterprises and the wine sector are highly important to the region, local authorities have launched a new dual apprenticeship EQF5 programme to engage companies more in the regional skills ecosystem. The programme is co-designed to strengthen relationships between the VET systems and enterprises. This is to ensure there is better skill matching between organisations and apprentices and to increase the quality of apprenticeship offers.
The move is a shift away from the former ‘alternating’ work-based-learning offer, with new regional (Tuscany) and ESF+ funds available to finance apprentices. The initial results from the new scheme are positive, with 87% of businesses involved appreciating the training model and wishing to be involved in a subsequent cycle. The second apprenticeship course for wine technicians is currently being developed with the Istituto Tecnico Agrario Bettino Ricasoli, Siena, Italy.
Sergio Corridori, from the winery Cantine Mazzei, welcomed the initiative saying that “we are happy to welcome new trainees and to make an impact on the future training.”
The second part of the panel discussion turned to the challenges of SMEs in hosting apprentices, with participants highlighting: the financial costs of apprenticeship placements; the difficulty in matching the company and the candidate; the non-financial and technical barriers in apprenticeship schemes and finding and training apprenticeship tutors to a high quality.
One solution proposed from the discussions, by the Tuscany region, is pre-apprenticeship programmes, where businesses have the chance to try the kind of activities offered in apprenticeship pathways before engaging in them. This allows small businesses to be more conscious of what is expected in their provision of training to apprentices.