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Online training opportunities for the workforce in Europe

The Interim report Promoting online training opportunities for the workforce in Europe (2017-2019) was published 30 October 2018. The report of this new European initiative has been prepared for the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) and the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) of the European Commission.


The work was carried out by PwC, EDEN (the European Distance and E-learning Network) and Espace Mendès France, together with an expert group. I have been involved as an expert and evaluator in the project, which is a very interesting and promising initiative. The report gives a deep overview of the field and addresses a number of recommendations.


Based on extensive desk-research, in-depth interviews with stakeholders and policymakers, two expert workshops and an online survey disseminated among practitioners and industry professionals all over Europe, the main barriers for European SMEs to adopt new online solutions were identified. The most prominent barriers proved to be related to a general lack of enterprise learning strategy, as well as a lack of awareness of relevant online training solutions by employers and employees. The key measures at the EU and national levels that were suggested for tackling the abovementioned barriers refer to developing better coordination and mechanisms that would offer information on the opportunities and benefits of online training solutions for SMEs, good practice examples, as well as an opportunity to share experiences with trusted third parties and peers. It is also necessary to strengthen communities of practice for enterprises engaged or considering engaging in online training, where good practices and experiences can be exchanged by enterprises themselves.

One of the key conclusions is that existing policies and programmes have been mainly supply-oriented and mostly led by the academic sector, while there is now a clear need for more demand-based and industry-led initiatives. The latter implies initiatives aiming at providing enterprises and SMEs with much better solutions, information, and guidance and at increasing their interest, benefits, and motivation to use new and relevant online training platforms.

Read the full report here

The report presents the key findings from the activities performed during the first phase of the initiative (2017-2018). It contains a state-of-play analysis in the European Union with regard to the adoption of online training solutions by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for the acquisition of high-tech skills by the European workforce. It specifically presents a description and in-depth analysis of the market and policies and initiatives on online training for the workforce in the specific Member States, as well as inputs for a common vision - towards 2030 - based on stakeholder contributions. Finally, it addresses key challenges, mitigation measures and proposed solutions. It is very difficult for SMEs to find, attract and retain skilled workers especially in high-tech fields. In addition, they typically cannot afford significant training costs requiring long periods of absence of their staff. However, upskilling and reskilling is of key importance for them, as new technological developments quickly make existing knowledge and skills obsolete. New online training developments offer promising opportunities in this respect as they can provide a more flexible, cost-effective and efficient way to train staff. Online training has already become an invaluable resource for most established, large-scale businesses. The adoption of online training solutions by SMEs happens at a slow pace, as the market – in spite of considerable progress – remains immature. This will change in the coming years, as new developments enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and pedagogical innovation will foster the emergence of powerful online learning platforms and solutions. In order to stay competitive, SMEs need to embrace the emerging education and training revolution and develop a culture of open learning, just in time and just for me training

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