SMEs, including micro-businesses, are the backbone of the European economy and provide around two-thirds of private sector employment in the EU. Yet they often struggle to provide apprenticeship opportunities. Some of the most common reasons include: a lack of training infrastructure and personnel to supervise apprentices, as well as insufficient expertise and capacity to manage complex rules, employment law and administrative requirements. SMEs need a more supportive approach that bigger businesses looking at bridging the gap in their knowledge around apprenticeships processes. The design and provision of such support is the final objective of the SERFA project.
The project will develop non-financial support structures for SMEs to motivate them in recruiting apprentices. In particular, the project will focus on the creation of non-financial services that SMEs require to be able to engage with apprenticeships. As indicated in the list of barriers, the lack of experience regarding training, available opportunities and apprenticeship delivery within SMEs tends to reduce their involvement. Support products, tools and services are required to tackle this.
Serfa will look at different methodologies to support businesses in identifying their internal capacity to generate an apprenticeship vacancy, through a skills brokerage model and direct support, helping securing the recruitment and training of an apprentice through direct and online advice, providing employment law and human resources advice and training the SMEs regarding their tutoring capacity through e-learning modules.
The project will also deliver other activities identified by the call such as:
- Identifying solutions to specific SME policy challenges (through the research Work package)
- Production and dissemination of practical tools focusing on SMEs (through the design of tools for SMEs)
- Peer-to-peer attractiveness campaign with SME employers (through an “Apprenticeship Champion” campaign).