Vacational training

A big myth and fertile ground for wasting several billions of Euros in the last 20 years has been the financing of “entrepreneurs” to set-up vocational training activities and train, train and re-train, whoever and whatever they came across.

The concept was picked up from economically advanced, western societies which, as of the 80s, experienced a major shift in the working skills, required by their economies. As more and more manufacturing jobs were moving to Asia and more and more jobs were created in services, finance, etc. there was a great and real need to retrain the workforce so that it would adapt and upgrade its skills to effectively serve the new development model and needs.

Alas, in Greece there has never been any real new development of this type. We had very insignificant manufacturing moving to Asia and no thriving and emerging sectors of the economy, requiring new skills. Society has been, more or less, living happily on debt and EU funds. The reasoning behind “workforce skill adaptation” was, if not non-existing, completely marginal.

However, huge amounts have been “invested” in this direction. Several well connected and rising "training entrepreneurs", well connected to the governments of these twenty years, fast and swiftly set up a few offices, put a ramp in front of their entrance (to be accessible to disabled...), hired a few unemployed PhDs and a secretary and... off they went, to retrain the Greek society.

Once I asked one of these guys, that was doing really well from training the Greek society. I asked him whether he really believed that all this training really made any sense and whether it would have any impact on economic development in the country.

He laughed at me and said something wise, that really epitomised the utter nonsense behind these pseudo entrepreneurial training ventures: “All our business has just zero impact on employment. The only impact it has is that, in several cases, people getting our training are better positioned to find a job”.

A truly bold and extremely accurate statement.

In fact, what my, already rich friend, confessed, was what in management is called a “zero sum game”. I get a job. You loose it. Net result: a sheer zero for society! And a very expensive game indeed: Profit margins were well above 30%, while a lot had to be paid out for briberies, and other necessary business. There were cases where a million Euros were handed out for the full “re- training” of a company employees, which never, however, really took place. Company and trainer just split the money and set up a couple of training mock ups to cheat the auditor of the Ministry.

Sad to say, the reaction of the official Greek educational institutions to this hysteria was just none. To some extent, strange too. Because all these newcomers with the two three rooms and the ramp, were, in effect, offering competitive services to the educational institutions. They were handed out several billion Euros and it would have only come as natural this to create some reaction from universities of the like “Hey you guys! Its also us here in this training business; who exactly are you and what exactly is going on here?”

This was not the case. Literally no reaction. Academics were mostly happy if allowed so set up their own vocational training centre, in their own academic fiefdoms. They had no fundamental objection to see real and valuable education shadowed by and confused with such crap activities.

Employment and development have few secrets. Its about launching new products, penetrating new markets and fending off competition and imports in your own house.

All this massive training in Greece just made some pseudo entrepreneurs rich, gave some easy money to companies to participate to training mock ups and produced, at the very best, a zero sum game. And kept a lot of unemployed busy and hoping...

Now minister Katseli is ready to launch a new round of money for this large scale and expensive joke. No matter how nice may “training” sound to her ears, all this crap will not curb even the second decimal digit of unemployment in the country. So its far better and democratic to give it off as an unemployment benefit to young unemployed or support for pensioners, instead of putting, the most of it, in pseudo "entrepreneurs" pockets, corrupt company and government officials and for funding of trainee, classroom, vacations.