On May, 6th, the B-WISE project organised a workshop on a “Panorama of work integration at European level – the B-WISE project first year” during the "Social economy, the future of Europe" conference in Strasbourg.
The goal of this session was to present the first results of the B-WISE project, a study on the state of the play of work integration social enterprises in Europe.
The workshop started with a presentation from Martina Paterniti, senior project officer at ENSIE, who presented the overall project. She underlined that one of the goals of B-WISE is to develop a strategy to tackle digital skills gaps experienced by people with support needs. Indeed, the digitalisation will lead to changes in work environments, in the way support is delivered and in lifelong learning methodologies. WISEs can play a key role in this regards and ensure that everyone have access to training according to its competences and capacities, in order to reduce the skills gap. However, the WISEs sector is very heterogeneous as the sector they operate in are numerous, the level of digitalisation varies from one organisation to another. Some WISEs are pioneers but know-how I not mainstreamed across Europe. Furthermore there are some barriers to technology use and digital skills development : high costs and insufficient funding, lack of information on the existing digital technologies, the lack of knowledges and skills on how to use digital devices in the WISEs environment and insufficient training adapted to the needs of the WISEs sector. The main issue is that the use of digital technologies has spread in WISEs and digital technologies are evolving but many workers are still lacking digital skills.
The second speaker was Giulia Galera from EURICSE, who started to describe the work they have made in the past year to prepare their report on WISE state of the art in Europe. She demonstrated that WISEs are double output enterprises that deliver marketable goods and / or services and at the same time provide work (and social) integration to workers with support needs. She also explained the different integration models in Europe, with differences between a permanent (BE, BG, HR, CZ, DE, EL, IT, LV, LT, PL, SK, SI) and transitional (AT, FR, ES) WISEs and of course mixed models in between (DK, EE, FI, IE, NL, PL, RO, SE). WISEs are working in various fields of activity from manufacturing to construction, waste management to maintenance of green areas. They are overall labour-intensive industries, with low added-value jobs. They also deliver health, social and education services. To frame WISEs, the legal structure depends on member state with various situations between the countries : some of them don’t have a specific legislation for WISEs but other have one, WISEs can take different legal forms in Europe from Cooperative to enterprise, foundation,…finally, she underlined the various resources for WISEs.
She then made a focus on skills for enablers (such as project managers, area coordinators, chief executive officer, …. ) and underlined that they need various and complex skills to take stock of WISEs added value. The main relevant skills are management, networking and the ability to negotiate with clients skills. But management skills are often lacking and the challenge is the lack of resources for training them.
Concerning supporters (job coaches, tutors and mentors) their work is multifaceted, they need a broad set of hard and soft skills. The most important skills for them are: management skills, assisting and caring WSN but they also feel that they lack those skills. The challenges are always the same, the limited capacity to assist WSN and their limited time for training. Finally concerning WSN, they are heterogenous category with different skills needs and capabilities. The skills they perceive as the most relevant are the practice-oriented skills (depending on the sector they work in ) and soft skills (communication and collaboration). They feel like they lack the practice oriented skills that are crucial for them to enter the labour market. But the challenges are the lack of on-the-job training in line with WSN needs and skills.
The trends for the WISEs sector are the increased legal recognition and visibility of WISEs, especially via WISEs legal statuses. They also identified that WISEs are expanding to sectors with high added value, and increased attention to green economy, with a low relevance of media and technology literacy. Finally, WISEs are developing innovative strategies surch as partnerships with other WISEs, conventional enterprises or other WISEs.
The main challenges are the ecological and digital transformation, regional inequalities… that showcase a need for collaborative solutions. Furthermore, WISEs social responsibility is not fully acknowledged, there are inconsistencies and fragmentation of support policies, WISEs are integrating people with disabilities someitens benefit from more favourable treatment. Access to resources is limited due to lack of technical and financial skills and technical support.
After those two theoretical presentations, two good practices from WISEs have been presented.
The first one was Lieven Bossuyt from Lichtwerk who made a presentation on “Inclusive technology in (social) employment – Smart assistive Augmented reality work and training stations”. Lichtwerk is not a WISE but a cooperative that aims to support social economy actors, industries and VET centers. He underlines that one of the biggest challenges now and in the future for social and non social economy is the discrepancy between the future jobs that will be more complex, will need new digital skills,.. and employees that will have less employability (not trained, missing the right skills,…) to find a balance between both, is a role for social economy enterprises by adapting the work so it becomes feasible for the workers, by reskilling and upskilling the workers so they can complete more complex tasks successfully. To rebalance, we need coaching, training and technology. Lichtwerk is specialised in assistive/inclusive technology, which aims to support a person to do its task. It can be physical support (exoskeletons, personalised interfaces), psycho-social support (smart coaches, augmented reality) or cognitive support (personalised interfaces, augmented reality). Augmented reality and personalised interfaces are key for the future.
To finish, Gregor Cotic from SENT Slovenia, presented the No Coercion approach his organisation uses when workers experience a mental health crisis. This is a tool aimed to support service users, their families and mental health professionals, with a strong digital impact. This is a practice that takes place online and in face to face with specific exercises and help the beneficiaries to develop IT and coping skills at the same time.
To find more about good practices : https://www.bwiseproject.eu/en/wises/good-practice