Portugal’s national employment agency offers grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to train their new employees. The European Union Grants Advisor (EUGA) helps firms apply for these funds—it wanted to simplify the existing application process, which took months for approval. As a result of an agreement signed between Microsoft and the Portuguese government, SMEs have access to 500 pre-approved training grants and the application approval time is now just 15 days.
Portuguese Businesses Receive Grants in Just 15 Days Rather Than Months
Customer: Instituto do Emprego e Formação Profissional
Web Site: www.iefp.pt
Number of Employees: 3949
Industry: Government – Employment Services
Customer Profile: A part of the Portuguese Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity is a national employment service working towards creating more quality jobs in the country.
EUGA: Microsoft is working in partnership with technology companies, banks, consulting agencies, and other organisations to help more SMEs obtain government funding through its European Union Grants Advisor (EUGA) programme. Through this programme, SMEs and local and regional governments increase their awareness and understanding of EU funds as well as take advantage of a facilitated application process.
Portugal’s national employment agency, the Instituto do Emprego e Formaçã Profissional (IEFP), is a part of the Portuguese Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity. One of its initiatives is to provide training grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Companies use the funds to train new employees who need additional skills before they can start working. While employers gain a competent workforce, grants also encourage them to provide more job opportunities to the unemployed.
The project that helps SMEs make successful funding applications is the European Union Grants Advisor (EUGA)— a Microsoft initiative that, in Portugal, is working with Hewlett Packard, Sonae.com, and Santander. It supports SMEs in expanding their businesses and contributing more actively to the Portuguese economy.
In 2007, EUGA identified some problems with the application procedure, including:
- Slow approvals—it could take months to receive a response from the IEFP.
- Complex forms—applicants had to spend hours preparing each application.
- Unavailability of funds—there was no guarantee of approval.
EUGA found an innovative solution. It started a project called the Technology Plan, where the Portuguese government signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft. According to this, all small and medium-sized technology vendors that are Microsoft partners are eligible for IEFP grants to train new employees. It covers trainees’ requirements for food, transport, lodging, and accident insurance for the first nine months of starting the job. There are 500 available grants.
- Awarded money covers half the salary of the trainee for the first nine months of starting the job.
- SMEs receive responses within just 15 days, compared to months.
- Employers have guarantee of approval if they meet the eligibility criteria.
- Opportunity for 4,700 Microsoft partners in Portugal to receive grants easily, gain highly skilled employees, and become more competitive.
- Employment prospects improve for job seekers.
- The Portuguese economy benefits from both an improved employmentrate and growth of SMEs.