Enhancing SMEs’ Resilience After Lock Down: IHF asbl joined the online Kick-Off Meeting of ESMERALD

On June 23,2021, IHF asbl joined the Kick-Off Meeting of ESMERALD, a Project co-funded by the Erasmus Plus Programme of the European Commission, which brings together seven Partners from six countries (Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain). The KOM was held in online mode due to COVID-19 restrictions.

COVID-19 is transforming the world and no socio-economic models from the past can give examples, lessons learned and solutions to move forward.

The impact on the economy is unknown, but it’s going to be huge. The most vulnerable are the Small/Medium Enterprises: a March 27 OECD Report (“COVID & SME Policy Responses”) indicated that the impact on EU SMEs is already strong. A survey of Polish SMEs shows:

30% of SMEs feared a decrease in sales and worker availability in the next 3 months;

40% experienced increased costs and reduced sales;

27.5% already having cash flow problems.

Post-pandemic EU economy will be uncertain and volatile: neither the entrepreneurship support nor the VET systems will be ready to cope with the challenge and provide suitable and operational guidance, tools and training in response to the crisis.

SMEs will need innovative and relevant training that will take into account the renovated risks and will empower them to face the new challenges as well as to reap the benefits stemming from new opportunities. SMEs will need new skills, competences and operational tools to better operate (or simply operate) in a new business environment.

In such context, ESMERALD provides tangible and timely training solutions to those needs as it will:

1. Develop an OER platform to deliver the ESMERALD training to SMEs and VET providers in eLearning and blended modalities;

2. Take stock of the actual impact of COVID-19 on the real economy, map the specific impact on SMEs, screen policy and industry response to pinpoint the specific needs of SMEs in post-pandemic economy;

3. Develop the ESMERALD training on innovative business models and entrepreneurial skills and competences for SMEs to strive in post-pandemic economy. The training will be made available for FREE and Open Access in six languages to enhance replicability, sustainability and impact;

4. Develop guidelines to promote the adoption and use of ESMERALD in all entrepreneurship support and VET systems possible across the EU;

5. Advance evidence-based policy making for SME resilience with the ESMERALD Manifesto as a policy input for decision makers.

During the meeting, Partners introduced themselves in turn. Then the Consortium as a whole discussed about the overall project implementation schedule, defining timelines and respective duties in the following months. The ESMERALD official website will represent a repository of project’s outputs, results, news and contacts. A mapping activity will follow in order to identify the main trends, issues, best practices and policy support systems in the countries represented in the Consortium. This mapping activity will culminate in a final report on the state of the art about COVID-19’s impact on micro and SMEs and will represent the basis for the development of training courses and tools.

In the Project, IHF asbl brings its expertise and experience as a key social player in international and European projects. In particular, IHF asbl ensures the “European Dimension” of the Project as it carries out all the technical tasks from a “European Perspective”, i.e. carrying out analysis of relevant EU policies and initiatives; extrapolating EU relevant case studies, lessons learned and best practices.

For further information on ESMERALD and other IHF asbl initiatives: