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How Romanian communities should get ready for valuable work placements in social businesses for young people

Understanding what social entrepreneurship is and what it represents for the communities is seen as essential knowledge for young people willing to join Romanian social businesses as apprentices, shows the SIVSEN Comparative Analysis.

The SIVSEN research context

The SIVSEN Comparative Analysis aims to explore the transition from education (e.g., vocational college, universities) into a social enterprise workplace, including international programmes in the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Romania. During the spring and summer of 2021, the SIVSEN partners conducted research on the social enterprise sector and their interaction with the education system and work placement programmes run for learners by VET and higher education institutions, with a particular focus on work placement programmes in social enterprises. 

First, we have already researched available data, reports, and studies on the topics mentioned above. Then, we prepared four reports on our national contexts and one comparative analysis for the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Romania. Further, we wanted to explore the relationship between the social enterprise sector and the VET and higher education organizations in more depth. Thus, we organized focus groups and online surveys with social entrepreneurs and universities, high schools, public or private VET providers, etc. 13 representatives of social enterprises and 14 training and education institutions joined our research efforts in Romania.

Key learnings from Romania

Current challenges of providing work placements in social enterprises

The formal educational system in Romania is connected to companies through the apprenticeship system: vocational schools, the new dual VET system, technological high schools, and universities organize apprenticeship and internship programs in companies. However, we could not identify any formal programme explicitly dedicated to social enterprises.  In Romania, the NGOs and the social businesses, many of them established by NGOs, are the ones that assume the primary role in the development of training programmes for social enterprises’ employees. For instance, NGOs that support vulnerable groups have opened social enterprises intending to provide jobs for the people they serve. With European funds, they have also created special training schools for their social enterprises’ employees.

Talking with social entrepreneurs and training & education institutions, we have learned that the current apprenticeship or internship programmes face several challenges:

  • Lack of resources (time, staff) in both training institutions and social enterprises, to organise and properly manage the programmes;
  • Young people’s lack of motivation and interest toward the social economy sector, but also toward other similar opportunities;
  • Lack of understanding of what the social economy sector is (less visibility of the sector in the community);
  • From the social enterprises’ point of view, there is too much effort and little return on investment in implementing such a programme.

The Romanian social entrepreneurs and the training & education institutions’ representatives believe that in order to build more efficient apprenticeship programmes, relevant for the social economy sector, the communities should find solutions for:

  • Finding extra resources in organising and managing the programmes; 
  • Increasing return on investment for both the social enterprises and the training institutions; 
  • Taking the burden of organising, monitoring and evaluating the programmes from the training institutions and the social enterprises; and 
  • Finding ways of motivating young people to become apprentices in social businesses, and informing them about the rewarding work they will carry on for a social cause.

Work placements expectations and benefits for young people

The communities, and especially the training and education institutions, should get the young people ready for uptaking internships or apprenticeships in social enterprises. The social entrepreneurs think that young people need some of the following knowledge and skills to be able to carry out work placements in a social business:

Relevant knowledge

Relevant skills

  • Knowledge of the field/sector of activity of the social enterprise
  • Understanding of the social economy sector itself and the work ethic of social entrepreneurs
  • Knowledge about social inclusion, and personal growth, teaching & learning methods
  • Knowledge about the social enterprise itself, and its mission & values
  • Social media, digital marketing, app development, and ICT knowledge
  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills, including writing skills for different purposes, or sales/persuasion skills
  • Digital & ICT skills, including social media skills, digital marketing skills, or developing apps skills
  • Empathy
  • Communicating in a foreign language skills, such as proficiency in English
  • Specific skills for the job/tasks, such as non-formal teaching skills, design skills, construction skills, etc.

Finally, social entrepreneurs expect young people to be motivated and determined to learn. They believed that the work placements they provide could be really beneficial for young people. These could practice and develop skills and knowledge related to a career in the social economy sector. They can explore and connect to a specific employer and see if this could be their future employer before applying for a job. And finally, they will get a real connection with and an in-depth understanding of the labour market, specifically the social economy sector.

Read the full SIVSEN Comparative Analysis  here.

Learn more about the Romanian national context of the work placements in the social economy sector here.

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