Small businesses are one of the main components of economic growth, social development and quality of life for EU citizens. However, the first steps of growth, especially the transition from being a sole trader to hiring a first employee(s), are not always easy. Lack of knowledge about the regulatory environment is a factor, but studies show that barriers are often perceived, and so hiring a first employee essentially requires sole traders to “cross a psychological threshold for which they are ill prepared.”
This lack of preparation has become more evident as reasons for moving into self-employment in the current economic climate have as much to do with the “push” away from other forms of employment, as with the desire to start and grow a new business. The skills gap is further aggravated by the fact that the majority of public sector investment in business training has been directed to high potential growth start ups, while there has been little improvement in the quality of mainstream training for “standard” businesses, including sole traders.
Ambition to Employ will develop a new training model to enable self-employed owner-operators to hire their first employee with knowledge, ability and confidence. This requires teaching the practical, legal and financial aspects of employment and sustainable business growth, but also applying new insights into overcoming the psychological barriers and risks involved.
In order to meet these needs, our specific objectives are:
- Create a self assessment tool enabling an objective assessment of readiness to employ and generating a personalized learning pathway. (IO1)
- Develop a new training model with comprehensive support for business trainers and advisors on how to impart the knowledge, skills and self-belief required to hire a first employee.(IO2)
- Create and market an open, free online course so that busy self employed individuals can access this new training directly. (IO3)
- Train the first group of business trainers from key VET providers in each region contributing both to quality development, dissemination, and above all, the exploitation and sustainability of the project’s outputs.
Ambition to Employ will involve participants in pilot testing and a train-the-trainer learning activity, as well as in multiplier events. As a result, the results will be:
- 20 VET providers will integrate this new topic of teaching to their entrepreneurship training and business support services with 40 more planning to use the model /OERs in following 2 years.
- 220 self-employed entrepreneurs during the lifespan of the project, and 800 more in the following 2 years, will acquire the skills to take on their first employee, boosting their ability to achieve sustainable business growth and contributing to job creation overall.
- Stakeholders in VET and wider business development will increase support for the integration of activities which improve the quality and contribution of self employment above and beyond a regulatory or financial incentive approach. They will recognise the value of combining knowledge creation with new pedagogical approaches to developing entrepreneurial mindsets and softer skills, including risk management and leadership.
Against a backdrop of ongoing political and economic insecurity and weak growth, which has caused a notable rise in the number of self-employed entrepreneurs across Europe, Ambition to Employ stands to make a significant contribution to updating our VET systems and increasing our capacity to teach much-needed entrepreneurial competences. The project will also generate strong return-on-investment in terms of its direct relationship with job creation.
The overall impact will be a strengthening of our VET systems to respond to the changing patterns of employment and entrepreneurship. To date, many policy makers have either turned a blind eye to the fact that the recent rise in self-employment does not correlate to a rise in growth-oriented businesses; or if they are aware of the structural problems pushing people into self-employment, they have favoured fiscal incentives to encourage growth through employment. This ignores many of the real reasons why self-employed solo entrepreneurs are not growing their businesses.
Ambition to Employ establishes a new approach to ensuring the latent potential for solo entrepreneurs to contribute to job creation and wider economic growth are capitalized upon: by creating a new training model and the capacity to roll it out to dozens of training providers across our countries, we provide very practical assistance to this growing target group and show that responsive education strategies can make a difference.