Education and training services: Anticipating the challenges at ATKM Project, Czech Republic in the Czech Republic.
This case study focuses on the training of trainers in a part of the Czech Republic (the Moravian-Silesian region), where coal mining and associated industries dominated until industrial restructuring took place in the 1990s, along with political and social change. The small and medium-sized enterprises and other Czech firms that have developed since have not been in a position to train their own trainers sufficiently to generate high standards of training. In the Czech Republic, continuing vocational education and training (CVET) is not regulated or a requirement, nor is CVET normally supported by any kind of levy or training fund. In this context, a ‘training consultant model’ has been developed to meet the CVET needs of firms, along with competence-based modules for the training of trainers. The training packages for professional trainers are supported through voluntary co-operation and networking between the Association of Management Trainers and Consultants (Asociace treneru a konsultantu managementu, ATKM), trainers, training consultants and small training firms, with the support of the regional authority and European and international sources of funding and expertise. The trainers and consultants who have been trained mostly work with businesses, so the intervention has a direct link to needs and developments in the labour market.
The key intervention that this case study examines is the development of five training modules for the training of trainers and the associated training programmes and networks that the European Social Fund sponsored in 2007. Seen as fit for purpose and context by all the main participants, this is a clear example of a collaborative, ‘bottom-up’ innovation, rather than a regulated, ‘top-down’ approach. The project was led by the ATKM, which developed the modules and organized the training. It was funded through the European Social Fund by the regional authority of Moravia-Silesia.
Czech education and training context
In terms of the development and reform of education and training (and according to the agreed European priority indicators), the Czech Republic compares favourably to most other Member States in that it has high levels of upper secondary school completion, low levels of early dropout and high levels of pre-school participation. However, it compares less favourably in terms of the proportion of low achievers in reading, and it has comparatively low levels of higher education achievement, but with a marked emphasis placed on maths, science and technology in higher education. Indeed, it is often said that the Czech Republic shares with other central European countries a strong emphasis on traditional and thorough teaching and learning in high-level academic disciplines.
For the purposes of this case study, it is important to note that adult participation in lifelong learning began from a rather low base in 2000 in the Czech Republic and remains considerably below the agreed EU benchmark. While there has been an improvement in participation rates, they remain well below the EU average. There are differences between regions in the Czech Republic. Moravia-Silesia is a comparatively disadvantaged region, with high levels of unemployment and much decline in its traditional industries, which has seen only partial regeneration.
Current reform priorities for CVET form part of the country’s developing lifelong learning strategy. According to Cedefop (2010), these are to:
- increase participation in and funding of CVET
- increase support for recognition of various educational pathways leading to a qualification
- establish conditions for matching skills provision with labour market needs
- develop CVET in line with clients’ needs and ensure its accessibility
- improve the standards of staff training in companies
- improve the standards of people working as teachers and trainers in CVET
- develop an information and counselling system.
Background of the ATKM project
In the Czech Republic, the training of employees in enterprises in technical skills has a strong tradition, yet training in the softer, transferable skills is a new professional area that has developed over the last 15 years. Social partners in the Czech Republic are involved in vocational education and training on a voluntary basis, which means that their participation is not legally regulated. Therefore, except for the specific training of employees in certain occupations or industries, CVET generally is not regulated by law. Only in sectors such as health care, energy, public administration, transport, defence sectors and for some specific professions is training legally required and regulated.
In private companies, CVET is not funded publicly or through training levies or taxes, but is provided directly by the employer, if at all. The evidence suggests that foreign-owned enterprises devote more resources to training than Czech companies. As in many countries in Europe, CVET is more common in larger firms than in small and medium-sized enterprises.
No formal qualifications and professional standards exist for CVET trainers in companies, and thus companies define their own requirements. CVET trainers are independent of the companies, operating as self-employed trainers or consultants, and they may be employed by or associated with training firms and consultancies. CVET trainers may be required to have a trade qualification through a trade certificate. However, there is no requirement for expertise in areas such as pedagogy and approaches to teaching and learning. Thus, the training of the trainers is a matter for individuals and firms to take care of. The system is a voluntary one. Because there are no legal and uniform regulations for the qualification of CVET trainers, informal learning plays an important role in their development. While there are no nationwide accreditation schemes, various programmes aim to enhance CVET trainers’ vocational and training skills and competences. The project in this case study was organized in the Moravian-Silesian region, which was once heavily industrialized and has suffered from economic decline and high unemployment rates. Furthermore, start-up companies and the development of new industry have only had limited success in producing employment opportunities since the restructuring and privatization of industry that started about 1990. While the emphasis of ATKM and the project described in this case study is placed on the training of trainers to improve the skills of people in the workplace, the regional authority also leads other initiatives intended to reach socially disadvantaged groups and people seeking work.
The objectives of the project have been:
- to improve the skills of trainers, consultants and coaches working in or for companies (in SMEs in particular) in the region
- to improve the effectiveness of their training activities
- to broaden the portfolio of training methods and instruments available and in use in CVET in SMEs in particular.
Q1. As a HR professional, how would you adopt the evidence-based approaches (below) in order to effect positive change and add value to an organization within the Czech context?
Evidence-based approaches – the following were initiated:
This covers five modules (training through experiential learning, using electronic media for training, partnership approaches, training leading on to a consultant’s role and the personal competences of trainers). The training material is organized in a consistent way and is published in a loose-leaf binder. This is accessible to the participants in the training and also to others associated with the ATKM network. The training materials are not available openly on the Web.
Thirty trainers in the region undertook the training, 20 of whom completed all the modules and received the certificate. This represents a significant impact, because each of the modules focuses specifically on the skills and competence needs of trainers in the region.
The training activity has helped to maintain the networking and the professional links that ATKM can facilitate.
The stakeholders interviewed also all expressed several shared perspectives on the broader outcomes achieved through the project, linked to the wider activity of ATKM.