Despite differences in education systems, the UK and Poland share a common need for a higher level of technical skills in their respective workforces. To solve the problem Coventry University Wrocław – the first British university to set up a permanent campus in Poland – is suggesting a UK apprenticeship programme to equip school leavers and students with the skills needed in a fast-changing workplace environment.

At a meeting at Polish employers’ association, Pracodawcy RP, Coventry University’s vice-chancellor and CEO, Prof John Latham set out the model of apprenticeships in the UK that currently sees 700,000 people of all ages raising their skills in accredited courses paid for by employers. He stressed that the system is adaptable enough to respond quickly to technological change as it affects the workplace with courses that can be updated to reflect the latest innovations. Aidan Friend, managing director apprentices at Coventry University, showed how in the UK, Coventry University is working with employers to provide a job with training that concludes with a structured assessment. The UK’s apprenticeship system is tailored to employers’ needs and is currently skilling 700,000 trainees across all sectors of business. It is funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. Since 2017, all companies with payroll over £3m must pay 0.5% of their payroll over and above that £3m.

Michael Dembinski, the BPCC’s chief advisor, gave the perspective of UK investors in Poland, who praise the quality of the workforce, continually raising levels of their investment and employment. He pointed out the demographic decline which underlies the labour shortage, and said that Poland needed more vocation training provision for manufacturing industry and construction in particular.

Prof Anna Pawłowska and Dr Anna Kuźmińska from the Faculty of Management at the University of Warsaw, spoke about current cooperation between business and academia in Poland and vocational support for students at their university.

After a networking coffee break, Dr Karolina Pokorska of Coventry University moderated a discussion in which participants spoke of the structural issues underlying Poland’s inability to develop home-grown innovation-led businesses, despite being seen as having an excellent workforce by foreign investors.

Dr Jacek Lewandowski, campus director of Coventry University Warsaw, promised to prepare a White Paper setting out the needs of Polish employers and students, the aim being, to quote Prof Latham, to create as system that’s a win-win-win-win for all parties.

The BPCC is keen to involve its HR working group in the preparation of such a position paper that sets out how the skills needed by Poland’s job market are to be provided, and importantly, how such an apprenticeship programme should be funded. A broader discussion on the future direction of Poland’s tertiary education system is needed, said Michael Dembinski, pointing to a mismatch which results in more academic qualifications than the labour market will support, and too few vocational qualifications for what the labour market needs. Polish secondary schools are consistently ranked among the best in the world in the OECD’s PISA survey, yet not one Polish university makes it into the overall Top 600 when it comes to the Times Higher Education Supplement’s global ranking.

BPCC members wishing to input their thoughts about education and training in Poland should contact Marta Zawilska-Florczuk, the BPCC’s regulatory affairs manager.


Video: Piotr Zajączkowski, Pracodawcy RP