Presentation of the programme

More than 4500 Practice Firms (PF) are located in 20 European countries.
The quality of the apprenticeship provided in a PF is directly depending on the trainer, their ability to organize and manage the learners’ work, to motivate them and instill the required knowledge and skills for their future entrepreneurial work.
There is actually no official curriculum for PF trainers in the traditional education systems of the project partners’ countries. The national central offices coordination the PF network created and animate trainers training programs. These trainings are developing the trainers’ professional skills for their pedagogical mission within the PF.
The project partners will gather, share and complete their pedagogical methods to apply this program to their trainings. The piloting trainings which will occur will encourage knowledge and experience sharing between trainers.

Programme introduction

The Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation Project has led to the development of a practice firm (PF) trainers training programme. The programme was created in cooperation with PF central offices from Italy, France and Lithuania in partnership with EUROPEN-PEN International, based in Germany. There are over 4,500 Practice Firms (PF) located in 20 European countries, which are led by PF Trainers. The quality of learning at PFs depends on the PF Trainers and their skills, abilities to organize and moderate work, motivate, encourage and empower students to be equipped with the knowledge and skills required by their future employer and today’s labour market. However there is no particular teacher’s training institution within a formal education system in any of the partner countries that prepare PF trainers for working at a PF. Therefore central offices (CO) coordinating PF activities provide PF trainers training (PFTT). PF trainers require ongoing professional development to be flexible with new ways of doing business and choose the right activities and tools to organize work at PFs. Prior to this project, most COs provided PF Trainer Training, but there was no knowledge, experience and practice exchange among COs. Some had mandatory PFTT (Italian and French CO), others didn’t have any PFTT. The Lithuanian National Youth and Entrepreneurship Stimulation Programme 2008-2012 noted PFs as one of the practical methodologies for entrepreneurship education. As PFs are being recognised as an important methodology, a PF trainer training programme is needed to ensure quality training at PFs and to ensure general standardization in training and teaching methods within the PF methodology. The results of the project are an integral and sustainable PF trainer’s training programme which is available to all PF trainers. Current PF trainers training experiences and practices have been gathered, developed and adapted to the cultural and political environments of various European countries, piloted and created into a final PFTT programme. PF trainers attending initial and continuous PFTT using this programme will become confident experts able to respond to the fast changing labour market demands; train and teach students at PFs effectively as they will have good preparation for this job, pedagogical tools and material that will be constantly updated and easy to access on EUROPEN-PEN International’s website. In many EU countries, trainers are now offered the opportunity for vital professional development. Using this programme, a trainer’s role in PFs changes from the more traditional role of instruction to the more complex one of helping the learning processes for learners who may differ greatly in terms of learning needs. Trainers’ responsibilities are broadened, including mentoring and counseling, and quality assurance.

Programme Objectives

Promoting the concept

With an emphasis on career readiness, the Practice Firm concept offers a live European and worldwide business simulation that offers trainees a competitive edge through project-based, collaborative learning and the development of skills in entrepreneurship, international business, problem solving and communication. Through developing and managing trainee-run businesses, students learn professionalism, business acumen, corporate knowledge, presentation skills, and teamwork. And through their business and trade across industries, borders, and cultures, trainees develop hands-on knowledge of the expectations of both the workplace and the European economy, thereby improving their employability and spirit of entrepreneurship. Within each country with a PF network, the organization responsible for the promotion of the PF concept and for trainers training is the National Central Office. Each national Central Office provides all essential macro-economic functions and support operations to create a complete economic simulation for PFs in its country. This includes promotion of the methodology to existing and new target markets. The organization responsible for the promotion of the PF concept across Europe is EUROPEN-PEN International. EUROPEN-PEN International (EUROPEN) is a non-profit association providing coordination of and support to the European and International practice enterprise networks. The European network consists of 17 legally autonomous non-profit national Central Offices that together include thousands of Practice Enterprises training hundreds of thousands of students from across Europe every year. The documents included in the promotional section include general information on the concept, the methodology, best practices, the structure of both the European, international and national networks and on the day-to-day activities supported by PFs as well as special activities such as trade fairs. This section is meant for the general public and for use by promoters, new PFs and new trainers to gain general knowledge on our concept.

Creating new PF

This programme includes the required pedagogical materials and support structure to assist in the design, set-up and management of Practice Firms. This approach leverages its international experience through set-up and management of some of the largest networks of Practice Firms in the world. For more than 20 years, this model has been continuously improved through identification of best practices and learnings from various implementation contexts in more than 40 countries. The programme takes advantage of the best materials and practices from the project partners as well as their partner networks to create a full programme package. This section of the programme includes documents on curriculum design for the different training profiles that can be trained in the programmes well as plans, procedures, and staff training materials for the programme. It also provides details on equipment and materials needed for relevant PF activities. For Central Offices, it provides guidelines to improve the program implementation as well as training materials for trainers as well as trainees, including curricula development according to the needs of each specific target group to ensure full operation and impact of the Practice Firms. Practice Firms teaching and learning approach being so innovative and sometimes unsettling for trainers, training is considered a critical success factor for the PF concept. The documents included in the creation of a new PF section include an overview of the structure of the international, national and local networks, national network peculiarities and roles, organization of a PF and departmental setup, business basics and documents for PF trade, roles and objectives of the trainers and trainees, information on the EUROPEN-PEN International quality assessment and certification system, as well as requirements and recommendations for trainers and training techniques. This section is meant for new and existing PFs, new and existing trainers and central office staff.

Enriching the usage of the concept

In addition to giving students a head start on jobs and careers, Practice Firms reinforce academic skills and achievement, reignite student interest in education, and raise their desire for self-development and the pursuit of lifelong learning. Through increased skills, adaptability and insertion into higher quality jobs, trainees fulfil their potential in the labour market and enjoy greater personal growth and social integration. In addition to its academic benefits, a Practice Firm also serves to enhance quality of life and increase mobility for trainees by promoting intercultural learning and the respect of diversity. Because trainees also learn to deal with unfamiliar cultural ideas through their interactions with trainees in other countries, they are much better equipped to adapt and cope to today’s fast-changing business world and learn to effectively handle new situations. For more than 20 years, this model has been continuously improved through identification of best practices and learnings from various implementation contexts in over 40 countries. European-wide standardization and certification are a major plus-value for both employability and mobility. Assessment controls across the European network help ensure quality and training standards are maintained. Information on these controls, evaluations and assessments are included in this section. Other section inclusions include supplementary assessment programmes for trainers, trainees and PFs as well as competency development, quality guidelines and add-ons to the concept learning such as trade fairs and trainee exchanges. This section is meant for new and existing PFs, new and existing trainers and central office staff.

Harmonizing between PF implementation and usages

Practice firms operate throughout 20 European countries. The quality of learning at PFs depends highly on the PF Trainer and his/her skills, abilities to organise and moderate work and motivate, encourage and empower trainees to be equipped with the knowledge and skills required by their future employer and today’s job market. Learning at a PF is a very specific part of educational curriculums. Therefore COs coordinating PF activities provide PFTT. Most long-term PF trainers get an expertise and are able to act fast, quickly and concisely. Today’s PF trainers must also be of changing their teaching methods, tools and attitudes to follow job market and business trends. This section of the PF trainers training programme offers assistance for professional development and to harmonize activities with today’s business realities as well as those of the future. It also exchanges the knowledge, methods, tools and practices from long-term COs that have existing and successful PFTT programmes. The content of the programme has been piloted and tested with current trainers and trainees to ensure suitability and functionality. It includes ways to organise daily work at the PF, motivate students, encourage creative thinking and team building etc. PF trainers taking part in PFTT will learn from the experts to be able to respond to fast-changing job market demands; train and teach students at PFs effectively and learn how to share and use pedagogical tools and materials. The programme offers methodologies and prepared materials adapted by project partners and other European country partners to provide trainers with the most efficient training programme possible. The programme harmonizes all currently used Trainers Training Practices, methods, teaching tools, PFTT standards, certifications, etc. The documents included in this section include examples of best practices, evaluation and assessment systems, communication tools, sample documents as well as flow charts and models for harmonizing and standardizing training. This section is meant for existing PFs and trainers and central office staff for ongoing adaptation and improvement of teaching and training methodologies.