Experiential Learning Through Training Firm - Formative Valances and Personal Development Opportunities

Abstract

Experiential learning, the learning process for which John Dewey argued, it is now seen as a pressing need in the efforts to boost growth and employment in Europe, noting that Europe needs more entrepreneurs. Integrating entrepreneurship has demonstrated its success for the American culture and successfully has been transferred in the Chinese culture. At the European level, integrating entrepreneurship is seen as one of the possibilities that could respond to issues of absorption and labour market integration. Thereby the education in Europe is required to implement learning models based on practical experiences. The content analysis conducted on the curricula of initial vocational education and training (VET) in Romania revealed the fact that entrepreneurial spirit within initial VET is provided through the entrepreneurship education curriculum, integrated in the curricula frame for secondary education, for the 10th grade, to all pathways, profiles and specializations, with a budget of one hour per week. For the qualifications for the services profile, the modules applicable for the training firm is part of the national curriculum, leaving open the way for expanding the applicability of this component for the other profiles within the local-based curriculum development. Investigative approach analyses the ability to form entrepreneurial skills in the mentioned context, feeling the need to introduce training firm for initial VET regardless of the economic sector for which the student qualifies, in a context with a higher degree of concreteness such as the training firm is.

Keywords: Experiential learningentrepreneurshiptraining firmvocational education and training

Introduction - Why Considering Training Firm an Experiential Learning Method

In order to give the answear to this question is neccesary to underline the fact that for both

concepts the student experience and his active involvement is in the center of the learing process. If

experential learning is a wider learnig method with its roots in the pedagogical conception of John Dewey,

Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget and David Kolb, apllyable for different forms of education, informal, nonformal

or formal, the training firm , as it is understood in Romania at least, brings students’ personal ideas and

experiences into the central learning proccess but in a formal educational enviroment with the purpose of

gaininng antreprenorial skill and competences. And this is because not all the time it is clearelly

understood by students how to act, how to befave, how to implement, how to develop, untill they actually

play a role in the training firm and apply the theoretical knowledge gained through entreprenorial

modules.

Problem Statement – the Training Firm Concept

Looking for definition of training firm according to Romanian educational understanding we

identified some common specifications. Training firm it is a didactic concept based on learning through

practice. It is a simulation of a real company that can be achieved through the direct involvement of a

teacher coordinator. A training firm is a simulated company , which mirrors the real business world

operations in a selected branch. It is a didactic concept, an imitation of a real professional situation

focusing on educational goals (Bara and other, 2012, p.16-30).

The concept of training firm , as it is used by the Romanian practitioners, has many other

synonyms in the world wide cultures, such as practice firm , practice enterprise , virtual company or

virtual enterprise , simulated training firm . By training firm , it is understood the interactive learning

method for developing the entrepreneurship, a modern teaching and learning strategy of involving

students from initial VET and not only, for gaining key competence like: entrepreneurial competences,

teamwork skills, capacity management, working autonomy, decision making and accountability,

independent collection and processing of information, creative thinking, practical application of

theoretical knowledge, solving problem situations, perseverance, workplace organization (Annex no. 2 of

the Ministry Order OMEdC no. 3172/30.01.2006).

The actors of the training firm are: the student who is the situation of learning and gaining key

competence and specialized competences and in the process of his own career development; the teacher

who supports the activity of the training firm , by coordinating, to scheduling and to controlling it; the

school which offers the environment and the social headquarter; the mother firm which is a real partner

supporting the training firm by offering theknowhow” in the area of the training firm activity and

sometime sponsorships it and ROCT (Department for the Coordination of Pre-university Education

Training firm s).

This is the understanding of the concept in Romanian educational system since 2001 when

training firm started to be used for initial vocational education and training system as an ECONET

project experience.

Research Questions

How the training firm contributes to developing entrepreneurial skills for Romanian initial VET system in Romania?

Purpose of the Study

Our study is focusing on gather facts about a training firm phenomenon in Romanian initial VET system.

Research Methods

The mixed methods approach incorporated methods of collecting and analyzing data from the

official web sites dedicated to training firm in Romania. The first web site is http://firmaexercitiu.tvet.ro/

developed within a European Social Founds project - Teacher training in TVET - profile SERVICES,

modern learning method for extending learning interactive training firm , and http://www.roct.ro/. The

second site is http://firmaexercitiu.tvet.ro/, dedicated to ROCT platform.

The second data analyses focused on curriculum documents which are concerning activities of the

training firm departments: Administrative Law Secretariat Department, Human Resources Department,

Marking Department, Supplying Department, Sales Department and Financial Accountancy Department.

Findings

6.1. The Romanian Background of Implementing Training Firm

The ECONET project, mentioned above, supposed involving 10 schools in the process of piloting:

Economic College „F.S.Nitti” Timişoara, Economic College „Th.Costescu” Drobeta Turnu Severin,

Economic College „Ion Ghica” Brăila, Economic College Arad, Economic College „Nicolae Titulescu”

Baia Mare, Economic College „Iulian Pop” Cluj-Napoca, Economic College „Virgil Madgearu” Iaşi,

Economic College „Transilvania” Tg. Mureş, Economic College „George Bariţiu” Sibiu, Economic

College „Maria Teiuleanu” Piteşti. After a three years period of testing within the project (2001-2004),

the result of the project conducted to extending the method to all initial training schools delivering

training for SERVICES profile, introducing it into the specific national curriculum starting with 2006-

2007 (Ministry Order 3172/2006). For the support of the activities of the training firm it was established

the platform ROCT Central in 2001-2002 and ROCT Department within National Centre for Technical

and Vocational Department since 2008-2009 (Ministry Order 5109/25.08.2008).

The role of ROCT is coordinating the network of the training firms at national level and to

simulate the activities of the national bodies with the purpose of maintaining the quality standards (ROCT

acts as the Trade Register, as the Territorial Labor Inspectorate, as the Pension Fund, as the Health

Insurance Fund and other Social Insurances, as the Bank, as the Agency of Employment,

as the Public Finances Administration, also organises and monitories the competitions dedicated to

training firm etc.). In the meantime the platform proved to be over loaded by the high number of the

training companies, fact that concludes to two aspects, first the success of the method training firm,

second the necessity of implementing a new platform for ROCT Central.

Starting with 2008-2009, ROCT is a joined member of the European Practice Enterprises Network

– EUROPEN, the organization which represents 7500 training firm s from 42 countries. The network

includes countries which are already members of the network, but also prospective members’ countries.

Being a member of such network motived Romanian side to raise the standards and be very active. The

ROCT platform keeps the record of 5476 training firm s, from which 3883 are active and 1027 inactive.

Looking at the progress record of training firm from 2001-2002 till 1014-2015, it is easy to observe how

the numbers of training increased constantly (http://www.roct.ro/situatie-statistica/, 11th of September

2016).

Table 1 -
See Full Size >

In order to raise the quality standards and create a competitive environment for the training firm s,

it has been organized by ROCT the international Business Plan Competitions and the International Trade

Fairs which are ruled only by ROCT and also other locally and regionally trade fairs with the approval of

ROCT. In the table below published on ROCT site, it can be observed how the number of participating

training firm s in the trade fairs oscillated in the last 8 year. For example at the local phase in 2013-2014

the number of training firm s is almost with 50% higher than the year before. A possible reason in our

opinion, it represents the opportunity of financing specific activities through European Structural Funds,

but still we could observe that there are other oscillations in other periods also, and the reason could be

the interest of other initial VET schools for experiencing training firm for other domains besides services,

proving the success of the method. ,

Figure 1: Fig.1Romanian Business Plan Competitions And Traide Fairs
Fig.1Romanian Business Plan Competitions And Traide Fairs
See Full Size >

6.1.How Training Firm Does Support Developing Entrepreneurship

The training firm creates the environment in order to involve students in specific activities, to

familiarize them with a real company. It gives the opportunity to simulate the economic processes, to get

used to specific operations and the real business environment, to improve business language, to develop

entrepreneurial skills and proper attitudes necessary for a dynamic business personality like: creativity,

critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, responsibility, teamwork, initiative, perseverance,

self-organization and self-evaluation of individual resources, flexibility.

The results were expected to be observed after crossing the training-firm experience were

increasing the employability of graduates in the labor market, reducing the period of adjustment at work,

better adaptability to change jobs, flexibility, taking initiative and risk. Unfortunately we couldn’t identify

in the educational Romanian system an operable mechanism of monitoring the insertion of the graduates

of initial VET on the labor market, thus we could not identify if we have a better absorption for the

Services profile than from the other profiles.

6.2. The Content Analyses of the Curriculum Dedicated to Training Firms

The methodology of the content analyses used in our research focused on all qualification training

standards provided initial VET for Services profile. The modules covering the curriculum dedicated to

training firm is completed during the 11th and 12th grade. Those modules (Operational planning,

Organization of human resources, Business marketing included in the curriculum of the 11th grade and

The competitive environment, Business financing, Business negotiation part of the curriculum of 12th

grade) have a very practical part of it which are developing under the name of technological laboratory.

Participating at competitions and other trade fairs is an extra curriculum activity, but one which motivate

students a lot, since all the costs of participating at the trade fairs and other competitions are covered by

sponsorships obtained by students themselves.

The training firm is developing at three levels of complexity (http://www.roct.ro/firme-de-

exercitiu/concept/, 11th of September 2016):

Mini - Training firm - Level I (It is recommended as an incentive training prior to teaching -

learning training firm activities. This model of organizing training firm can be used in the local based

curriculum for schools with other profiles than Services or for 9th and 10th grades, Services profile, as a

preliminary stage of establishing training). At this level the training firm is not related to external

environment, it is not registered at the Central Training firms Network/Simulate enterprises in Romania

(ROCT), the practiced situations are initiated by teacher, and the teaching-learning process is action

oriented, student acts specific roles in all departments of the office and assumes duties performed either

individually or in teams.

Training firm - Level II (It applies to new firms – 9th grade direct route, namely 12th grade

progressive route, Services profile). This second level supposes existence of an economic and

entrepreneurial center ( training firm lab ) with adequate equipment. At this moment the training firm is

registered at the Central Training firm s Network / Simulated Enterprise in Romania (ROCT), it

establishes a business relationships with firms on the national market training firm s, it performs all

necessary activities within an enterprise to solve current operations, it supposes organizing presentations

of training firm , it opens a bank account to bank training firm s within existing settlements to perform

ROCT.

Training firm - LEVEL III (It applies to companies with an operational life of over two years and

involving successively several generations of students). The training firm now makes contact with at least

3 training firm s abroad, it conducts operations in foreign languages; students are registered as

collaborators / employees.

In the national Strategy for Developing VET one of the strategic objectives is dedicated to

developing innovation, and national/international cooperation for vocational training, through two

strategic goals, increasing the total number of students involved in programs for innovation and

entrepreneurship till 2020 to 50,000 students (from 40,000 in 2014) and increasing the total number of

students involved in international mobility programs from 4600 to 2020 (from 2,800 in 2014). Focusing

on the first strategic objective which is our topic of research, it is considered that the background was

already established by implementing national strategic projects which included the training of 600

teachers for implementing teaching learning process and vocational training which will lead to

developing entrepreneurial competences for students (for example: training students to establish a

training firm ) and by promoting developing Business plan Competition at local, regional and national.

SWOT analysis (Government Decision 317/2016, p.78) revealed the following weaknesses

regarding developing entrepreneurial competences such as: insufficient extension of the learning methods

which develop entrepreneurial competences of the trainees and insufficient identification of the students

having interest and entrepreneurial affinity, insufficient financial support for organizing competitions of

developing and simulation of business plans and insufficient financial support for organizing and

participation at regional, national and international Trades of training firm s.

Conclusions

Our research could identify some more opportunities of improving the training firm experience in

Romania from analyzing the methodology of training firm s and the information which are presented to

the public on the website: it is not easily to understand the mechanism of the quality assurance of a

network which involved in 2014, 1376 training firm s, more than any other country member of

EUROPEAN – PEN international, it is not visible a benchmarking with the international trends regarding

training firm statistics of transactions, and it is important to make these more visible and relevant for the

quality assurance, and not only reporting the number of training firm s, which can be active or inactive,

but to the number of the students fulfilling the modules dedicated to gaining entrepreneurial competences

playing active roles in the training firm , or even more establishing a mechanism of monitoring the

insertion of the students on the labor market or of those students starting a business after graduating.

Even if the training firm infrastructure needs improvements, the method is a success, since more

and more students from different other VET schools and even those that have chosen theoretical pathway,

are interested to establish a training firm .

References

  1. Mariana Bara and other, (2012), Ghidul firmei de exercițiu – Cea mai bună practică. București: Centrul
  2. Național de Dezvoltare a Învățământului Profesional și Tehnic.
  3. *Ministry Order 5109/25.08.2008 regarding The Establishment of Department for the Coordination of
  4. Pre-university Education Training Firms. http://lege5.ro/Gratuit/geytqobqge/ordinul-nr-5109-2008-privind-infiintarea-centralei-retelei-firmelor-de-exercitiu-intreprinderilor-simulate-dinromania. 11th of September 2016
  5. ** Ministry Order 3172/30.01.2006 regarding The Approval of the Curricula for the Area of
  6. Technologies. http://oldsite.edu.ro/index.php/articles/3983. 11th of September 2016
  7. *** Government Decision 317/2016 regarding the approval of Strategy for Developing VET 2016-2020. http://www.roct.ro/firme-de-exercitiu/concept/, 11th of September 2016. http://www.roct.ro/situatie-statistica/, 11th of September 2016.
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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.109

Online ISSN

2357-1330