Dual Vocational Training for SMEs in the BSR

The universities, chambers and educational institutions directly participating in the project as partners will be involved in transfer and implementation activities. Likewise, the international exchange of participants will be organised by the chambers, universities and educational institutions in collaboration with SMEs which function as training partners within the dual system. In the process of developing their non-economic operations, as prepared and initiated by the international exchange of participants within the project, the enterprises will be advised by the participating chambers. The chambers further guarantee that SMEs will be directly and intensely involved in all transfer and implementation activities.

It is a professed goal of the EU policy and other national policies to sustainably support international activities of SMEs, to enhance the qualifications of workers and increase their mobility. The SMEs have considerable growth reserves with respect to their international operations, e.g. the export share of German and Polish craft sector remains below 4%. International knowledge and experience of specialist staff and higher mobility are crucial prerequisites for taking advantage of international growth possibilities of SMEs and for ensuring high employment. In this respect, the project makes a significant contribution to increasing the mobility and promoting the international character of SMEs.

The target groups of the project are as follows:
a) young people entitled to study at higher schools; upon completion of dual Bachelor degree courses, they are excellently educated to take up permanent work at SMEs or as self-employed entrepreneurs;
b) people undergoing vocational training; upon increasing the quality and much more practice-oriented education, they acquire excellent competences and gain international experience;
c) students who wish to gain practical experience in SMEs and international experience;
d) SMEs participating in these dual study courses may, in this way, satisfy their demand for qualified staff and develop their international operations

The effects of the project on the above target groups are obvious. The participants (target groups a) – c)) acquire excellent competences; they improve their skills and chances on the labour market. This is an important contribution to overcoming the problem of shortage of new blood in SMEs. The participating SMEs (target group d)) can take advantage of their growth possibilities, protect the existing jobs and create new ones.

The project objectives, entirely conforming to the Maastricht Declaration, the Lisbon Strategy and other EU strategies and national policies, can be summed up as follows:
a) implementation of extensive and high-quality trainings for future entrepreneurs and managerial staff in the form of dual Bachelor degree courses;
b) improving the quality and attractiveness of vocational education by way of increasing the quality, extending the practical component of training and international exchange;
c) increasing the mobility in the course of training and improving international competences;
d) contribution to supporting SMEs by providing qualified entrepreneurs as well as managerial and specialist staff, and also by promoting the development of international operations;
e) promoting regional and international cooperation among the universities, educational institutions, chambers and SMEs, as well as establishing the Baltic Sea Academy to promote a long-term cooperation

The above objectives address different priorities but the project is clearly focused on the second priority, i.e. improving the quality and attractiveness of systems and procedures related to the vocational training and continuing education.

The success of the project should be measured by using, inter alia, the following indicators:
a) number of dual study courses that are transferred and implemented;
b) number of participants of dual study courses, the acquired competences and examination results;
c) possibilities of implementation of dual study courses in Gdańsk/Pomerania and Estonia, in particular the establishment of supporting consortia in these regions/countries;
d) improvement of dual elements and the quality of vocational training, in particular the development of the part of the training performed in enterprises;
e) number of participants of international exchanges and results of an assessment of research projects developed abroad;
f) number of participating SMEs and the level of their satisfaction with the competences acquired by their staff, as well as practical benefits for the company;
g) number of companies establishing close relations with foreign companies in order to develop a cooperation;
h) promoting the sustainability, in particular establishing the Baltic Sea Academy with its own legal form and stable existence

The term of the project is two years; most of the time will be needed for transfer activities and organisational works to be carried out in the accepting countries/regions. The dual study courses last for three years (engineering course) or four years (management course). Thus, further results and successes will only be available upon project completion. The situation is similar with an intensive introduction of dual elements to the vocational training. It can be started in the course of the project, but not completed. However, upon project completion, the project works will be continued by the Hanseatic Parliament as part of its responsibilities as an association of chambers representing small and medium-sized enterprises from all Baltic Sea states.

The Hanseatic Parliament regularly co-operates with eight universities from the Baltic Sea Region (four of them are project partners), and has already concluded with them an agreement concerning the organisation of dual course studies. Other universities (in particular from Germany, Poland, Finland and Sweden) have already declared in writing their interest to co-operate at the next stage as transfer partners and further to realise the dual study courses inclusive of the international exchange. In the course of the project, the Hanseatic Parliament in collaboration with 10-12 universities intend to establish the Baltic Sea Academy as a permanent institution, having its own organisational and legal form. In this way, partners want to lay solid foundations for their cooperation and further to insure its sustainability.

Under this project, Germany will significantly contribute to improving the quality and attractiveness of systems and procedures related to the vocational training and continuing education in the countries of the Baltic Sea Region. At the same time, the German partners and their vocational training systems will definitely benefit therefrom, as follows:
- The dual Bachelor degree courses provide for the necessary training abroad and the acquisition of international experience.
- The international mobility of trainees and specialist staff will increase.
- The strengthening of cooperation among chambers, educational institutions and universities and of international relations will result in further development and quality improvement with respect to the domestic vocational training systems.
- The participating German SMEs will get the specialist staff with international experience and a substantial support for developing their international operations.