On the 18th of November, the B-WISE project partners met in Brussels to present the first project report on the “Current situation of skills gaps, especially in the digital area, in the WISEs sector” during ENSIE event “Being a WISE in 2022”. This event included presentations from the main author of the report, Giulia Galera from EURICSE, as well as Lieven Bossuyt from Lichtwerk who prepared the part on technologies and digitisation. Their presentations focused on the legislative and financial framework for WISEs as well as on the soft and digital skills needed by enablers, managers and workers with support needs. Karel Vanderpoorten, from DG Grow, European Commission, was present to present the Commission’s perspective on the report.
Giulia Galera started her presentation by explaining where WISEs come from to contextualise their situation today. Indeed, in most countries, WISEs were created in reaction to labour market failures. Their creation aimed to support the work and social integration of workers with support needs, all the while producing marketable goods and services, which is why Euricse talked about “double output enterprises”. Giulia Galera described the characteristics of WISEs:
Their resources which can be non-monetary, non-repayable, repayable, fiscal breaks, income-generated);
Their legal structures which are depending on the country and the legislation;
The integration models which could be permanent, transitional or mixed.
These different characteristics led to the identification of three different WISEs “orientations”: productive, social and training.
Main trends for WISEs in Europe
Giulia Galera then described three main recent trends regarding the evolution of WISEs. First of all, WISEs are expanding towards new sectors with high added value (such as sectors focusing on green outputs). They also noted that the typology of Workers with Support Needs integrated is always broadening and new WISEs are emerging in reaction to new challenges. Finally, WISEs developed innovative strategies such as working with conventional enterprises, other WISEs or VET providers.
However, there are remaining challenges for the development of WISEs. Indeed, their social responsibility is not fully acknowledged as there are still inconsistencies and fragmentation of support policies in different Member States. Furthermore, WISEs integrating people with disabilities (PWDs) are sometimes favoured, while other workers with the severe support needs are left behind. The aforementioned often have often limited access to resources due to lack of human resources, poor technical and financial skills (public procurement, EU funds...)
Skills needs and skills gaps in WISEs
Giulia Galera, with the support of Lieven Bossuyt from Lichtwerk, then presented the results of their research concerning skills needs and skills gap.
The findings from the reports are divided according to the three categories of WISEs workers (enablers, supporters and workers with support needs – WSN). Indeed, each of them each have their specificities and needs. Enablers need, first and foremost, to develop their managing skills but the lack of resources is sometimes hampering them to develop those skills. Supporters, who need a broad set of skills, mainly lack management and care skills. Overall, their main challenge is their limited capacity to assist WSN and their limited time for training. For WSN, the skills needed are mainly practice-oriented skills and soft skills (communication, collaboration) but they lack on-the-job training in line with their needs and specific skills.
Lieven Bossuyt, from Lichtwerk presented how WISEs are approaching digitisation and the use of new technologies. He underlined that the digital adaptation of individual workplaces is less relevant today although adaptation is at the core of WISEs. Furthermore, digitisation is not yet at the core of WISEs, therefore it is crucial to raise their awareness on the possibilities and to encourage partnerships with other companies. The digitisation and training for digital skills mainly depends on the size of the WISE, a tailor-made support for them is needed to guide them through the digitisation. Indeed, up until now, digitisation is mainly taking place for management and human resources processes and some production processes. To encourage digitisation and technologization in WISEs, it must be human-centred. The key will be to develop an entrepreneurial mindset of managers, to provide more resource, to encourage partnerships and propose dedicated public interventions and policies.
WISEs and the EU
Karel Vanderpoorten, from DG Grow, European Commission reacted to the two presentations and presented the Commission point of view. According to him, the most important findings concern the lack of skills and competences and their capacity to support specific target groups to join the labour market, especially through job crafting. Furthermore, WISEs are useful in some regions as they can provide an answer to the lack of workers by hiring and training new sources of employees. Therefore, the Commission wants to support their capacity to develop and access new markets. For this, ensuring everyone has the right skills is crucial. Therefore, the next steps of the project will be important to identify the right competences needed by enablers, managers and workers with support needs and preparing curricula.
Indeed, in the next months, the B-WISE project will publish more reports on skills needs in the WISEs sector as well as on occupational profiles before preparing training curricula for all WISEs workers.