International briefing 22: training and development in Spain
Josep-Oriol Escardíbul gratefully acknowledges financial support through the project 2009SGR352 (Generalitat of Catalonia).
Josep-Oriol Escardíbul, Professor, Department of Political Economy and Public Finance, Faculty of Economics & Business Studies, University of Barcelona, and Barcelona Institute of Business (IEB) Avda. Diagonal, 690, Torre 4, Piso 2, 08034 Barcelona, Spain. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Xavier Llinas-Audet, Professor, Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Computer Science, Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Jordi Girona Salgado, 1-3, Campus Nord Building C-5, Office 002, 08034 Barcelona, Spain. Email: email@example.com
In this paper we describe and evaluate recent changes in the Spanish public programs that foster training among the Spanish active population. The analysis updates and complements the Martínez-Lucio and Stuart study of 2003 in this journal because it covers certain aspects related to training not considered there, especially those relating to public policy. Our analysis may also be useful for other countries that have similar characteristics to those of the Spanish training system, such as a high degree of administrative decentralization, a tripartite organization (involving public authorities and social agents) as well as a supply-driven and demand-driven training differentiation.
Population, institutional structure and the economy
Spain is located in southwestern Europe. Its mainland is bordered to the north by France and to the West by Portugal. In 2008 the population of Spain reached 46.2 million people. With the exception of Madrid, the capital area, the most populated areas lie around the coast. Life expectancy is 82.2 years for women and 77.8 years for men. The basic political units in the territorial distribution are the municipalities (there are 8,112), provinces (50) and regions (17).1 The last named have some political responsibilities because Spain is quite similar to a Federal State.
In 2008 Spain was the eighth largest economy in the world, according to nominal gross domestic product (GDP). This was 1,095 million euros. GDP per capita was 24,020 euros. In fact, Spanish GDP per capita was 5.5 per cent above the average of the 27 states of the European Union (EU). The percentage of employed people by productive sector is as follows: agriculture (4 per cent), construction (12.1 per cent), industry (15.8 per cent) and services (68.1 per cent). The 2008 annual average rate of change in the Consumer Price Index was 1.4 per cent (being 1.6 per cent in the Euro area), but it has reached negative figures in 2009, as in most Western economies.
Thus, Spain presents good figures in life expectancy, GDP and inflation. Its main economic problems are unemployment and current external deficit. Related to the former, in the second quarter of 2009, the active population was 23 million and the employed 18.9. Therefore, there were 4.1 million unemployed workers. The rate of unemployment was 17.9 per cent, more than double the EU average unemployment rate (8.3 per cent). Although Spain managed to reduce its unemployment level from 24 per cent in 1994 to 8 per cent in 2007, the rate of unemployment has increased sharply in the present economic crisis. With regard to the current external deficit, the accumulated deficit in 2008 increased to 104,664 million euros (9.6 per cent of GDP, one of the highest in the world in relative terms).
The educational system
The Spanish educational system has the following levels: pre-primary, primary, secondary education, which includes lower secondary (named Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) and upper-secondary education, either academic (bachillerato) or vocational [ciclos formativos de grado medio (CFGM)], and higher education [professional, named ciclos formativos de grado superior (CFGS) and university]. Compulsory education comprises primary and lower secondary (from 6 to 16 years old).
Pre-primary education is organized in two cycles of 3 years each for children aged 0–6 years old. Primary education includes six academic courses (for students between the ages of 6 and 12). Lower secondary education has four courses, and it is expected that at the end, 16-year-old students finish compulsory education. However, in Spain, around 30 per cent of students fail to satisfactorily complete their compulsory education.
Pupils who succeed in compulsory education may follow the academic track (bachillerato) for 2 years or vocational education (CFGM). To enter CFGS pupils must have satisfactorily finished bachillerato; however, there are specific exams to enter both vocational levels for those without the required academic degrees. Because of the implementation of the European higher education area, nowadays university studies (named grado) have a duration of four courses (with some exceptions) and substitute previous licenciatura (5 years) and diplomatura (3 years). Students have to pass a national exam to enter university, although for some groups there are also other ways to get in, such as for those over 25 or those who graduated from CFGS. Finally, university graduate students may attend masters and doctorate courses.
In 2008 there were 7.2 million pupils in non-university studies, 36.4 per cent of whom were in private centers (around 80 per cent in private, publicly funded or ‘concerted’ schools). Thus, Spain is one of the countries with the highest percentage of students in private centers, especially because of the ‘concerted’ schools (Escardíbul & Villarroya, 2009). Moreover, there were 1.4 million university students (10 per cent in private institutions). In 2006, public expenditure on education amounted to 4.3 per cent of GDP (the EU average was 5.1 per cent).
Public training and development policy
Training programs, together with vocational education, have constituted a unified system of vocational education and training since the 1990 Educational Act. The training system is made up of a scheme for training for the unemployed (traditionally called occupational training) and training for employed individuals (continuous training). The two types of training were originally independent, but they were merged in 2007 through the Royal Decree 395/2007. The merged system is governed by the Ministry of Labor and Immigration (MLI), which establishes a common legal framework for the whole country and has management responsibilities. Since the 1990s, however, regional governments known as Autonomous Communities (ACs) have also taken on some responsibilities for training. In addition, social agents also take part, especially in continuous training. The completion of vocational education leads to vocational degrees (títulos profesionales), whereas finishing occupational and continuous training may lead to professional certificates (certificados de profesionalidad). Both are linked through the National Catalog of Professional Qualifications (Catálogo Nacional de Cualificaciones Profesionales), which today contains 390 qualifications.
Training for the unemployed comprises a general Plan for Training and Professional Insertion (Plan Nacional de Formación e Inserción Professional or ‘FIP’ Plan), established in 1993, as well as working/training programs (focused on services of social interest) such as school workshops (Escuelas Taller) and trades centers (Casas de Oficios) for younger unemployed individuals and employment workshops (Talleres de Empleo) for those over 25. Working/training programs last from 6 months to 2 years.
Training programs for the employed started to be implemented in 1993, when the Foundation for Continuous Training (Fundación para la Formación Continua, FORCEM) was created as a result of the First National Agreement on Continuous Training. The foundation, although publicly funded by the MLI [and the European Social Fund (ESF)], had bipartite management bodies. On the one hand, there were the two main employers' organizations and, on the other, the main national trade unions. Training was regulated through two National Agreements on Continuous Training (covering the periods 1993–1996 and 1997–2000) reached by these social agents.
The third agreement covered the 2001–2004 period and was administered by the Tripartite Foundation for In Service Training (Fundación Tripartita para la Formación en el Empleo), which was run by the social agents indicated above and the MLI through the National Employment Institute [Instituto Nacional de Empleo (INEM)], after some irregularities involving public funds had been uncovered. With the third agreement, a distinction was introduced between supply- and demand-driven training plans. The former has been aimed at the personal and professional development of workers (and it is mainly organized through sector and inter-sector plans, managed by social agents), whereas the latter has sought to address firms' needs (companies ask for subsidies for training and employees may demand training leave). The Royal Decree 1046/2003 altered the third agreement by introducing major changes to the system, such as changes to the demand-driven training system and to the role of ACs in supply-driven training.
With respect to the first change, the Royal Decree enabled companies to secure training resources with much less bureaucracy because it eliminated the need to present projects annually to the Tripartite Foundation and allowed companies to finance their training by reducing the amount they pay to the Social Security Treasury if resources were devoted to the training of their employees. The calculation of the training ‘credit’ or ‘bonus’ for each company is based on the application of a percentage (set by the National Budget Act) of the amount paid by the company through the previous year's compulsory training levy. Companies with at least 10 employees also have to invest in training with their own funds (see details in next section). Firms have to keep the employees' legal representative (if one exists) informed about training matters, otherwise they lose their bonus, and there is a procedure in case of dispute where social agents are involved. With respect to the second change, AC governments with labor competences (16 out of 17) were allowed to supply and manage national centrally collected public resources (and their own) for supply-driven training activities within their regional boundaries. However, INEM still manage training activities developed in more than one AC. Finally, the fourth agreement (2006–2010) set out several aims that were developed in Royal Decree 395/2007, such as merging training for the employed and the unemployed and fostering professional certification (see next section).
The funding structure for training is supported by the Public Treasury's collection of a training levy paid by employers and workers. The levy is 0.7 per cent of gross salary. Companies pay 0.6 per cent, whereas 0.1 per cent is covered by employees. Since 1997 the training levy is equally distributed between training for the unemployed and for the employed (0.35 per cent to each system). Resources are managed by the National Employment Institute (INEM) and those AC governments that assume this responsibility. They are mainly distributed to regions according to the number of unemployed. During the 2000–2003 period, the ‘FIP’ Plan accounted for around 700 million euros (around one third came from the ESF), whereas resources for the working/training programs were almost 480 million (30 per cent from the ESF). For continuous training, Tripartite Foundation's financial resources are provided annually by INEM. For the 1995–2005 period, the training levy accounted for approximately 75 per cent, whereas it was 81 per cent in 2006 (the rest was provided by the ESF). AC governments also spend their own funds. Funds to regions are allocated mainly on the basis of the average number of workers excluding public sector employees (who have their own training plans).
The number of participants across all kinds of occupational training is shown in Table 1. More than 80 per cent of learners take part in training related to the FIP Plan. In addition, 15–20 per cent of all unemployed workers (based on the Active Population Survey) have received training since the beginning of this century. The small increase observed in the 2003–2006 period is due to the declining size of the unemployed population.
Table 1. Students in occupational training: FIP Plan, School Workshops, Learning Centers and Employment Workshops
|No FIP Plan||63,068||68,005||64,825||68,168||63,205||54,255||60,542||62,880|
| School workshops||42,909||44,868||36,888||36,404||32,350||27,220||27,481||26,732|
| Trades centers||15,211||10,214||9,436||7,345||7,065||4,357||3,556||3,450|
| Employment works||4,948||12,923||18,501||24,419||23,790||22,678||29,505||32,698|
Table 2 shows information related to continuous training since 2004, when the ‘credit’ system began. However, it has to be emphasized that since 1993 the number of employees trained and total funds for training have greatly increased, the first sixfold (it started with 0.3 million trainees), although the figure has been quite stable since the late 1990s, and the second figure 14-fold (in 1993, only 56 million euros were devoted to training). The overall percentage of women trained has reached 42 per cent (it was 30 per cent in 1993). There are more trainees in demand-driven activities than in supply-driven activities. However, the credit system administers less than 30 per cent of the total resources. With respect to demand-driven activities, the bonus used has increased sharply, though, as a percentage of available bonus it is below 60 per cent. In addition, the overall bonus percentage of training costs (including the wages of employees who train during working hours) is almost 60 per cent. Demand-driven training activities that are not in the workplace account for less than 30 per cent of the total, although this figure has increased each year. With respect to supply-driven activities, most trainees participate in sector plans. Regarding the distribution of funds between levels of administration, the contribution of the national authorities has decreased sharply (from 75.1 per cent in 2004 to 49.5 per cent in 2006) in favour of the ACs. Looking at the type of plan involved, roughly 85 per cent of total funds are devoted to sector plans.
Table 2. Training for the employed (continuous training): 2004–2006
|Supply- and demand-driven training actions:|| || || |
| Total employees trained||1,302,033||1,532,372||1,786,402|
| % overall employed||7.2||8.1||9.0|
| % women||40.1||40.6||42.0|
| Total funds, supply and demand (millions of euros)||593.25||824.89||968.68|
|Demand-driven training actions|| || || |
| Employees trained||595,219||934,128||1,146,679|
| Training actions in firms||39,872||69,895||86,730|
| % on-the-job training||80.2||75.9||70.8|
| % distance||11.4||13.4||17.1|
| % mixed||3.6||5.3||6.4|
| % online||4.8||5.4||5.7|
| Number of firms||–||60,224||87,450|
| Funds (millions of euros) = used bonus||112.42||182.89||229.70|
| % used bonus/total bonus available||57.7||57.4||59.6|
| % used bonus/cost of training||56.2||58.3||60.5|
| Hours of training per trainee||26.3||26.6||28.1|
|Supply-driven training actions|| || || |
| Employees trained||706,814||598,244||639,723|
| Sector plans||1,118,892a||546,071|
| Inter-sector plans||110,129a||54,600|
| Social economy plans||33,967a||20,795|
| Self-employed plans||42,070a||18,257|
| Funds (millions of euros):||480.83||642.00||738.98|
| Regional level||120.00||324.00||372.99|
| National level||360.83||318.00||365.99|
| % funds to sector plans||85.9||85.4||85.3|
| % Inter-sector plans||8.9||9.2||9.8|
| % social economy plans||2.5||2.5||2.6|
| % self-employed plans||2.7||2.9||2.3|
New training and development policies and strategies since 2007
The Royal Decree of 2007
As previously indicated, the Royal Decree 395/2007 merged continuous and occupational training. It states that training may be provided as follows.
- 1Public administrations with responsibility for training may provide training through their own centers or through agreements with public organizations or companies certified to train. A public administration's centers include National Centers of Excellence (Centros de Referencia Nacional), Integrated Centers (Centros Integrados), and other centers for vocational education (schools) and training (INEM's National Centers for Occupational Training, which may be transferred to ACs).
Integrated Centers were regulated in 2005 (Royal Decree 155/2005) and, among other tasks, they are supposed to provide all vocational education and (occupational and continuous) training in fields that they are accredited to do so by Labor and Educational authorities. These centers may be new or accredited from existing ones. Until now, the process of creating Integrated Centers has been quite slow and unequal between ACs. The National Centers of Excellence were regulated in 2008 (Royal Decree 229/2008). They are supposed to be reference centers for all Spain in a specific field of vocational education and training. Thus, they have to analyse the qualification needs of the productive sectors and adapt training to these needs as well as to provide training to all agents involved in the training system (employees, unemployed, employers, trainers, etc.) in an innovative way. These centers also have to be accredited by Education and Labor authorities. Most of them are supposed to be created from existing INEM Centers, although it is not clear yet that they will be able to carry out the tasks demanded in the present conditions.
- 2Private centers for vocational education that have been accredited by the appropriate public administration can provide training leading toward professional certificates. In addition, other private centers can provide training not related to professional certificates if they are listed in registers established by labor authorities.
- 3Employers' organizations, trade unions and other organizations benefiting from training plans can provide training through their own centers or through other accredited centers.
- 4Companies that train their own employees or the unemployed with a commitment to hiring them can provide training in their own facilities or through outside providers.
Training is intended for both the employed and the unemployed, with special attention being given to groups considered to have particular difficulty in remaining in employment. Royal Decree 395/2007 outlines four types of training activity. Although these all existed prior to 2007, the main difference between the Decree and previous regulations was the comprehensiveness of its approach. It covered all existing training activities: demand-driven activities, supply-driven activities, ongoing training involving a combination of training and actual work, and supplemental activities. In addition, the possibility of accreditation of professional competences achieved through experience is considered as a keystone of the new system. Although professional certificates were regulated in 2008 (RD 34/2008), only the recent RD 1224/2009, of 17 July, has established the process by which professional certificates or parts of a vocational degree can be obtained by those with competences learned through working experience or nonformal education.
As in previous periods, funds for training come from the training levy paid by companies and employees, the ESF, and other resources provided to INEM from the national budget. The ACs' governments also contribute funds. Funds proposed by the MLI are discussed in the General Council of the National Employment System (Consejo General del Sistema Nacional de Empleo), which includes one representative from each AC, an equal number from the central government, and representation from the main employers' organizations and trade unions (social agents). The votes of each social agent group count the same as the different levels of government in order to ensure the council's tripartite character. The INEM, the Tripartite Foundation and ACs will manage the resources allocated to training, as explained in the previous section.
Finally, emphasis is placed on the control of training quality. National and regional labor authorities may evaluate the training system quality at different levels by surveying participants on the training received and by evaluating the training centers, and the evaluation of training centers may be published in the centers' registers. Moreover, centers have to allot 5 per cent of the subsidy they receive to evaluating the quality of the training provided.
As shown in Table 3, recent changes in the bonus system are related to the amount of credit available for training, the percentage of private funding required and the amount of subsidy per action. Thus, the credit available has increased for all firms, co-financing is not required to companies with less than 10 employees (before 2007 it applied only to companies with up to five workers), and the subsidized cost of training modules per participant and hours of training has slightly increased. With regard to individual training leave demanded by employees, companies may finance the gross wage costs of participants through the bonus system. They have an additional amount of 5 per cent of annual credit. Training leave is up to 200 hours per academic course or calendar year; it must be on the job and the co-financing requirement does not apply.
Table 3. Recent changes in demand-driven training
|1–5||350 euros||420 euros||0%||0%|
|Mixed||Depending on the amount of attendance/distance/online||Depending on the amount of attendance/distance/online|
Since 2007 supply-driven training activities are aimed at promoting the personal advancement and employability of both workers and the unemployed irrespective of company interests. They are devised by the labor authority (INEM at national level) with the collaboration and technical assistance of the Tripartite Foundation. Moreover, proposals from ACs and social agents are considered through their participation in the General Council of the National Employment System. Social agents also participate in the joint committees that are created through collective bargaining between employers' organizations and trade unions that, among other activities, establish the main objectives and overall priorities of sector training activities. In 2007, collective bargaining gave rise to 56 sector plans, 42 of which came out of joint committees. While ACs may have their own training plans, national training activities are set out as below.
Training plans aimed (first and foremost) at the employed
The employed must comprise at least 60 per cent of overall participants. These plans may be sector or inter-sector, and public administrations determine the proportion of each in each allocation round.
The Tripartite Foundation is mainly in charge of the subsidy proceeding and of monitoring the implementation of the training plan. Thus, the foundation receives the applications for subsidies and recommends approval or rejection of proposals. Subsequently, INEM resolves considering the foundation's evaluations. Once a plan is approved, it is developed through agreements between INEM and the applicant entities: the main national employers' organizations, trade unions, organizations in the social economy and self-employed organizations, as well as organizations created by unions and employers' associations through collective bargaining in sector plans. The same applies to activities developed at regional level with regional governments. In that case, organizations may be representative at national or regional level. Generally, training activities must run between six and 270 hours in duration.
Training plans aimed (first and foremost) at the unemployed
The unemployed must comprise at least 60 per cent of overall participants. Activities include training for the acquisition of professional certificates entered in the National Catalog of Professional Qualifications. Bodies allowed to receive funds for this kind of training include employers' organizations, trade unions, training centers and public administrations. In 2007, 6.5 per cent of all participants were trained in centers owned by labor administrations (INEM or ACs), 12.9 per cent by employers' organizations, companies, trade unions, and organizations related to the social economy, 7.6 per cent by local entities, and 73 per cent by accredited centers for training.
Company training to meet national training objectives
Under these provisions companies and employers' associations focus upon allowing the unemployed to get professional experience as well as committing themselves to hire at least 60 per cent of all trainees. Companies in the first category may receive up to six euros per trainee and training hour, and participants may receive grants for transportation, food, and accommodation. Firms in the second category receive financial subsidies for which detailed regulations are yet to be made.
Training for those with special training needs
This is for those with difficulties in entering the labor market or in acquiring professional qualifications as well as training activities for those in jail, those in the armed forces (with temporary labor contracts), and immigrants (in their country of origin) who require subsequent hiring. This kind of training is provided by local administrations and other public authorities as well as nongovernmental organizations.
The first two kinds of plans are financed through public subsidies awarded through a competitive bidding procedure from labour authorities. The rest are financed through direct subsidies.
Training involving a combination of training and actual work
There are two types of activities that involve theoretical training and practical experience within companies: contracts for training and the working/training programs indicated in the previous section. In contracts for training, which have been in existence since the 1980s, time dedicated to training cannot be less than 15 per cent of total working hours and must be outside the workplace. Theoretical education and working can be in alternation or simultaneous. Participants must be between 16 and 21 years old (the upper limit is not always compulsory), and usually the contract is between 6 months and 2 years. Participants receive a salary based on the collective agreement, but it must not be less than the minimum wage applied to their time dedicated to work. Firms can fund the cost of theoretical education through the credit system, but in that case financial resources are linked to the employment promotion fund of the Social Security Treasury and not drawn from the training levy.
Support and supplemental training activities
These activities mainly concern research and innovation initiatives aimed at improving training and circulating information about the training system as well as to help individuals to secure training, accreditation of competences, and employment.
Discussion and evaluation of recent changes
- 1The recent changes provide a new perspective by combining training for the employed and the unemployed into one system. This will facilitate the coordination of training activities in the complex structure of the Spanish vocational education and training.
- 2It is also positive that the credit system in demand-training activities has been maintained because it simplifies the process of training for companies. However, the low level of used bonus in respect to total bonus available (60 per cent) suggests that more effort is needed from public institutions to foster greater use. The role of the Tripartite Foundation in helping small companies should be extended to include advice on human resource management (Escardíbul et al., 2007).
- 3The role of social agents in training is improved through their participation in joint training-related bodies set up in the framework of the collective bargaining process. This is in line with the willingness of trade unions to extend the regulatory role of labor in areas such as training because much of their influence has traditionally been external to the workplace (Martínez-Lucio & Stuart, 2003). In addition, firms are obliged to keep the employees' legal representative informed about training matters, and there is a procedure in case of dispute where they take part.
- 4Resources assigned to supply-side training activities, which has a social-equity role rather than a specific role in improving competitiveness, increases equality among employees. However, new groups of disadvantaged people have to be considered, such as immigrants and older workers, and there also needs to be a focus on the unemployed, especially in the current context of economic crisis with an unemployment rate of 18 per cent in Spain.
- 5The new arrangements emphasize control over training centers and the quality of training provided. This is much needed because the high presence of private centers has concentrated educational supply in lower-cost courses and the selection of students more likely to enter the labor market as trainees, because training that secures the trainee entry to the labor market accounts for the continuity of public funding (Bonal, 2001).
Challenges facing the Spanish training system
However, other challenges have to be faced to improve the training system.
- 1The accreditation of professional competences is supposed to be a keystone of the new system. Professional plans should be established in a way that trainees and the unemployed not only obtain information and advice from training institutions (or local social services) but also have a tutor who provides professional advice that helps them to find adequate training and jobs throughout their professional life (Oroval & Escardíbul, 2007). Now that it is regulated, accreditation of prior learning should be rapidly developed to cover a wider range of specialities because at present it covers only two. Moreover, it should be the way to foster training for those less qualified.
- 2The role of ACs is not clear. What are their activities as regional authorities in training? There are important conflicts between regional and national authorities that are often taken to the Constitutional Court for final decision.
- 3The role of social agents through (sector) collective bargaining should be extended inside the firm, increasing the role of works councils because these are closer to firms' situations. If training is linked to, for example, promotion or wage increasess, the willingness of employees to train will increase.
- 4Training quality improvements have to consider the quality of training that combines training and actual work (specifically, contracts for training). Here, tutors should have some kind of qualification to guarantee quality standards. Thus, some collaboration between firms (and their trainers) and vocational education institutions (and their teachers) is necessary (Homs, 2009). In addition, training provision should not only consider teaching direct skills but also what are sometimes known as ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to work in a team, innovation, problem solving and decision making, all of which are required by employers.
- 5Public funding of training centers should depend on the selection done by trainees. As suggested in Oroval and Escardíbul (2007), ‘vouchers’ could be considered as a financing system, which would increase trainees' center selection (although equity in selection should be guaranteed among trainees).
- 6Although all recent measures have increased the number and hours of training as well as funds devoted to training, we believe that legislation could go further and establish the right to training for employees (in hours per year for example). Moreover, public training provision should extend throughout the territory to reach areas where private centers are not established (Bonal et al., 2004; Eguiguren et al., 2008).
More research is needed to find out whether these recommendations should be converted into policy initiatives.
Sources of information on training and development, and networking
Regions are officially named Autonomous Communities. They are Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Basque Country, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile-Leon, Castile-la Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre, Rioja and Valencia. Moreover, there are two Autonomous Cities: Ceuta and Melilla (the Spanish cities in Africa).