SME Chamber

Erasmus+ Programme Stakeholder Forum – GRTU puts private training providers on the agenda

The European Union Programmes Agency (EUPA) held its annual stakeholder forum this week in order to consult interested parties about the upcoming Erasmus+ Funding Programme in terms of priorities and operations. The forum meeting was a positive initiative as it brought to the table the Agency’s vision for the upcoming cycle whilst receiving feedback from the major operators to ensure better attainment of EU-funded projects that fall within Erasmus+.

Earlier this month GRTU held a meeting with its members in the private training provision industry specifically to gather feedback on previous experiences of funding projects and challenges faced that may have served as hurdles to hinder private providers from participating. At the stakeholders’ forum held by EUPA, GRTU representative Matthew Agius raised pertinent concerns of private providers to which EUPA promised due attention. The main points involved:

1. Human Resources Implications – Think Small First

If national priorities truly are to increase private training provider participation in such funding programmes, then the way these are designed and administered have to keep in mind the realities of small business operating in the sector. The administrative burden that can be handled by public providers with state-funded human resources to handle such project work is not an option for private providers. It is expected that documentation is necessary to ensure transparency and quality, but administrative work which is unnecessary make participation in such projects unfeasible and impossible.

2. Monitory Role rather than Policing Role

It is understood that public agencies handling EU programmes and funds have to monitor and ensure that proper implementation takes place when such EU funding is being distributed. However, since such monitoring has to take place anyway at the final stages at least, it would be far more appropriate if a handholding exercise is undertaken prior to private applicants making unintended mistakes. These can be fixed at this stage and with an attitude of support rather than of policing.

3. Competing Against Public Providers

Private providers are often at a disadvantage when compare to public entities which are competing or even handling such funds. This has to be taken into consideration and appropriate measures to rule out unfair competition have to be put in place if private providers are to be attracted to compete for such funds as otherwise these will automatically see such applications as an unnecessary exercise which takes up irreplaceable resources when they are already not at par with their public counterparts.

4. Simplification and Communication – Bottom-Up Approach and a One-Stop-Shop

Private providers are not necessarily equipped to first of all be abreast and aware of the funds and programmes available and what the possibility are. Moreover when they are aware of such opportunities, the application procedure and guidance notes for instance, are often too hefty for private providers not to be discouraged. Therefore preparation of documentation should be made in a sense that takes into account the realities of small private providers. There should also perhaps be one-stop-shop that supports and guides all the various elements of EU funding programmes. Communication efforts also have to be tailor-made to reach out to small businesses operating in the training sector and not only to the larger state-funded entities.

5. Closer Deadlines on Cycles

Previously deadlines for funding rounds where set at quarterly intervals. Therefore if a private provider was planning a project application and did not make it in one round, the application could be submitted in the next. However now having a yearly interval between one deadline to the next makes it less attractive to apply. If the private provider would have missed a deadline because of necessary time needed to gather relevant information or find partners for a project, it would have to wait another year. This is often not possible and the providers would either drop the project altogether or implement it anyway without EU programme funding.




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