The Polish Equal project "First Shift” has been carried out in the central and western sub-region of the Silesia Province in the south of Poland.
The Project is designed to last from December 2004 until March 2008. The main aim of the project is to retrain 150 unemployed for craft professions, such as: baker, confectioner, hair-dresser, butcher (specialising in sausage-making) or bricklayer. Each beneficiary who completes theoretical training and internship has the possibility to take the state journeyman examination. The participants who pass this exam obtain the journeyman certificate which is recognised in all EU countries.
The target group of the project includes long-term unemployed, aged 18 to 49, registered in local employment offices. It has been assumed that 90 women will be retrained, what constitutes 60% of the whole target group of 150.
The first stage of project implementation was to carry out research concerning the Silesian labour market. The research consisted in surveying 525 entrepreneurs by means of questionnaires which were the basis for the report “The analysis of the needs of the regional labour market with a focus on craft professions”. The survey was necessary in order to include the professions that are in demand so as to avoid training for unemployment.
The project is based on the “training–traineeship–employment” model.
- Before vocational training in enterprises the beneficiaries undergo 10-day-long activation training. This is carried out by vocational consultants and/or work psychologists and are aimed at:
• stimulating beneficiaries to participate in the project in order to smoothly enter the labour market after a long period of inactivity;
• stimulating the beneficiaries to full and active participation in the project in order to obtain full professional qualifications;
• Preparing beneficiaries for independent activity in the labour market.
- Having completed the activation training the beneficiaries simultaneously begin the following two stages: theoretical training once a week and internship in a company four times a week.
- Theoretical training sessions are aimed at preparing beneficiaries to take the examination encompassing theoretical knowledge of a given profession. Theoretical training curricula were prepared by highly qualified specialists. The trainings encompass 264 hours, which equates to 33 working days. This takes place once a week. This is enough time for the beneficiaries to gain ample knowledge required to pass the examination. Theoretical training is given by lecturers with long professional experience.
- Each beneficiary serves their internship with an employer who has teaching qualifications. The internship lasts 100 days (i.e. 800 hours) and takes place according to a previously described schedule. The scope of the programme enables each participant to obtain the best possible vocational skills and it properly prepares them for the practical component of the journeyman examination. The beneficiaries serve their internship four times a week, what with the one day of theoretical training a week makes it possible to observe the 40-hour working week that is obligatory in Poland.
During the whole training the beneficiaries are under constant tutelage of vocational consultants who lend their support from the very beginning until the very end of the project.
This project is the opportunity for employers to find and train a qualified employee. In the period of internship the instructors of practical vocational training receive monthly remuneration for teaching the beneficiary.
Having passed the journeyman examination the beneficiaries are monitored by the Project Administrator for the period of six months. Telephone interviews are used to check how the beneficiaries cope on the labour market.
A positive example of implementing the “First Shift” project is the instance of Mr Jan Kromt. He is a 48-year-old man who became unemployed six months prior to the project. The company he had worked for went bankrupt. After extremely intensive but futile search for a new job he decided to take part in “First Shift”. He was the only participant to be trained for the profession of electrician/mechanic specialising in cooling installations. Despite his age he proved to be a very diligent “student”. In the whole project duration period he had a 100% attendance ratio. He learnt new things surprisingly fast making his employer very contented with his new employee. After some time it turned out that Mr Kromt has a huge potential of creativity and managerial skills. That is why his employer decided to persuade Mr Jan Kromt to found his own enterprise. For the last few weeks Jan has been learning how to run his own business and continuing his training as cooling installations electrician. After the completion of the project, with the help of his employer, the beneficiary is to open a business dealing with the installation of cooling systems in his town. If Mr Kromt decides to further develop his skills in this profession he may pass the master craftsman examination. This exam is the next stage of professional development for certified journeymen and enables them to train their own apprentices in the future.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE POLISH VENET EXAMPLE
The Polish “Lessons learned” document was created after the analysis of conclusions drawn from the first round of the “First Shift” project. The trainings started at the end of July 2006 with 43 participants of which 29 remained till the end.
1. Good examples of activation training
The beneficiaries who were chosen to participate in the project underwent 10-day long activation trainings. The level of satisfaction from these trainings was very high. The beneficiaries had the possibility to socialise, motivate each other and temporarily forget about the problems they have to deal with every day. The possibility to take part in the project gave them hope for a better future so the level of intrinsic motivation at the beginning of the project was very high.
- Activation trainings should always be the first stage of the project carried out for the unemployed.
2. Loss of motivation in participants
First signs of loss of motivation in beneficiaries occurred as early as after the first three weeks of participation in the project. The beneficiaries started to complain about the intensity of training (40 hours a week). There occurred the first conflicts between the beneficiaries and employers. There were also the first problems with the beneficiaries, e.g. caused by alcohol.
- Beneficiaries must be encouraged and stimulated throughout the whole project duration. The people involved in the project should not only include vocational consultants but also theoretical vocational trainers, vocational instructors and coordinators/assistants of the project who are responsible for the beneficiaries. Activation trainings should focus on building up self-motivation skills and looking at the project from the perspective of the profits that can be achieved by the participants.
3. Regular contacts with a work psychologist/vocational consultant
After problems with the beneficiaries occurred it was decided that it was necessary to provide continuous help of a psychologist, who in addition to group activities will have permanent office hours. It was also necessary to introduce individual meetings of beneficiaries with a vocational consultant in order to build up their motivation again.
- Constant monitoring of beneficiaries by vocational consultants.
4. Problems with sick leave
From the very beginning of the training the beneficiaries started to bring doctor’s certificates. This was the first sign that they were not up to such demanding work. One beneficiary started to bring doctor’s certificates in his first week and he continued to do so every week until the end of his participation in the project.
- Preparing the agreement in such a way that participation in the programme will be impossible for people who use sick leaves for receiving remuneration despite skipping classes.
5. The curriculum is too exhausting for some unemployed
During activation trainings before the commencement of the project the beneficiaries should be warned about the intensity of work, which is 40 hours per week. The beneficiaries would like to participate in the project, receive remuneration but at the same time not put too much effort into it.
- Inform beneficiaries prior to the project's commencement about its intensity so that only people who really care about the project decide to participate. From the very beginning beneficiaries must be mentally prepared for the demanding work they have to perform during the project.
6. Problems with attendance not related to sick leaves
Very early in the course of theoretical and practical trainings it turned out that the beneficiaries skip classes due to: problems with children, problems with laziness, difficulties in performing tasks at the employers’, inability to organize themselves, depression, lack of intrinsic motivation, weak will to obtain new qualifications, addictions - particularly alcoholism.
- If possible, providing beneficiaries with additional support, e.g. by directing them to other specialists who will show them how to solve some of their personal problems so that they do not influence their participation in the project.
7. Formal management of the project
A significant problem in the Polish project was the engagement of ample number of people in running it. It took quite a long time to persuade the management of the project’s administrator that the project requires at least a few people constantly engaged in carrying it out. The quantity and complexity of problems which are to be dealt with requires huge personal engagement of many people.
- From the very beginning of the project there must be an adequate number of staff engaged in it with proper allocation of responsibilities and competences.