One project that has supported such cross-border exchanges is the EU-funded MobiliseSME project, a sort of “matchmaking platform” for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The premise of the project is simple: employees of SMEs take part in exchange placements to SMEs in other EU Member States. The aim is to expand their professional skill set, gain international experience and exchange best practices.
Employers, meanwhile, are able to develop the skills of their staff and open up new opportunities with foreign partners, while learning from the outside perspectives of the employees they bring in from abroad.
The exchange programme has made a significant impact since its conception, with more than 400 companies signing up on the platform and over 50 exchanges taking place between November 2016 and June 2017. The project may ring a bell for some readers, as it was previously featured in anarticleon the EURES Portal back in July 2017.
MobiliseSME’sevaluation report, published in October 2017, highlighted the positive feedback of those who have so far benefited from the project. In total, 91% of sending companies and 95% of host companies were happy with the match they found, 90% of companies stated that their cross-border business will develop thanks to their exchange, and 75% said they will now be able to introduce new products and services.
“MobiliseSME really helped us to fulfil our aim for developing the technical and marketing skills of our employees, which showed results in a short time,” said Emanuele D’Angella, an Italian entrepreneur based in Spain who hosted employees from other companies.
The feedback from participating employees was equally positive, with 90% of visiting employees acquiring the new skills they expected and 81% stating that their exchange contributed to their professional development and future career opportunities.
“MobiliseSME helped us to understand new market opportunities abroad, which is a very hard thing to do with the limited resources available to SMEs,” said Triin Tammearu from Estonia, who visited a company in the UK with the programme.
After a highly successful pilot project, MobiliseSME is now turning its attention to the future, and it’s clear that those behind the project are thinking big.
“The first step would be to scale-up the project size in order to target all Member States and rely on more national SME networks and business support organisations to inform companies about the existence of the exchange programme,” explains Stefan Moritz, the Managing Director of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME. CEA-PME is the biggest European confederation of voluntarily associated SMEs and leader of the MobiliseSME project consortium.
Mr Moritz says the ultimate aim of the project is to build a sort of “Erasmus for SMEs”, a large-scale exchange programme comparable to the EU’s flagship student exchange scheme.
“The data shows there is real interest in Europe for a mobility scheme of this kind,” he says. “The aim is to fill a vacuum by giving SMEs the opportunity to face globalisation in a simple way: going out to learn from others.”
The project has achieved great success so far, but as Mr Moritz tells us, “the success of MobiliseSME is only valuable if it is the start of a bigger process”.
“Given the tremendous benefits of expanding on a programme like this, it is very important that we keep up this momentum,” he says.
The MobiliseSME project was financed by theEU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation(EaSI), which is managed directly by the European Commission. It brings together three employment programmes:EURES,PROGRESSandProgress Microfinance.
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