Spain loves teaching, but people just use the government cash to fiddle the system

Spain loves the whole idea of “education” and “formation”.

Politicians use long phrases such as “Long enough we have suffered economically, and in unemployment terms, without having to suffer as well without the possibility of educating ourselves whilst our bodies are idle” Bastante sufrimos en términos económicos y de desempleo para que suframos también en términos educativos mientras estamos parados”, [Rubalcaba 25/10/10 on investment in education] or  Savater (the philosopher): “We must define the common branch, necessary for the development of the system and to avoid the conflict of the fanatic, the sectarians, or the functionality of the State” (“Hay que definir el tronco común, imprescindible para el desarrollo del sistema y evitar los enfrentamientos de los fanatismos, los sectarismos o la funcionalidad del Estado”).

I could go on, but these things sicken me. (Not Savater, who’s a jolly old boy, but I started looking through government quotes on the subject and had to reel away from the screen, gagging at the sheer hipocrosy).

I was also surprised to see that Iñaki Gabilondo, the Spanish version of Jeremy Paxman, was so often quoted in the last few months on education topics, until I looked closer and realised it was Angél Gabilondo, the education minister. D’oh! Still, nice to know that the main news item on the Ministry of Education’s website was that Snr Gabilondo (Angél, not Inaki) has been asked to sign the Vigo townhall Book of Honour.

I mention this, because all companies are made to pay, as part of their social security payments, a monthly amount for “training”. (However, unless you have more than five employees in your company, you can’t get this back).

This money vanishes into a government sinkhole under the auspicies of the Fundación Tripartita, which aims to, in what the F.T. itself says is the “common definition of our tasks”:

  • Collaborate and provide technical assistance to the Public Employment Service.
  • Contribute to the promotion and dissemination of vocational training for employment between employers and employees.
  • Provide technical support to government and business and labor organizations present in the bodies participating in system involvement.

Hence, the name Fundación tripartita. The above, from their website, my translation into English.

So, the cash that you or I pay on behalf of our beloved employees (ah Hem) goes back into the F.T., which then spends vast amounts of euros on training. Only, it doesn’t. It coordinates hundreds of companies across Spain, employing God Only Knows How Much Of Our Money, to do this vital task.
The government defines the F.T. as:
A Spanish state foundation responsible for promoting and coordinating the implementation of public policies in vocational training in the field of employment and industrial relations. In its management is involved the main trade unions of Spain (CCOO, UGT, CIG) and most representative business unions (CEOE, CEPYME) as well as the General Administration of the State, through the Public Employment Service (INEM).
Any the wiser? Of course, the F.T. is regulated by a government decree, Real Decreto 395/2007 (which redefined the F.T. and amplified it). In short, translating from the R.D. in question, its functions are:
  • Provide technical support to government and business organisation, and labor organizations, present at the State Training Committee and the Board of Trustees.
  • Collaborate and provide technical assistance to the Public Employment Service (INEM) in their management of training initiatives.
  • Supporting Public Service in the design and implementation of electronic means for companies to communicate the beginning and end of training.
  • Preparation of proposals for policy decisions for the subsystem of vocational training for employment.
  • Contribute to the promotion and dissemination of vocational training for employment between employers and employees.
  • Assistance to SMEs to facilitate access to vocational training for employment.
  • Collaborate with the INEM in improving the quality of training, the development of statistics on education and the creation and maintenance of the State Register of training.
  • Participate in national and international forums related to vocational training for employment.
  • Carries out these activities without prejudice to the allocation to the autonomous communities in Vocational Training.
I mean, what the hell does Contribute to the promotion and dissemination of vocational training for employment between employers and employees mean?
In short: companies pay into the F.T. bank, in order to, at the end of the year, draw on free credits to give training to employees. The government decided, for whatever reason, that no SME would ever spend a single penny on training if not made to at gunpoint, and so setup this whole rigmarole in order to make the greedy grasping capitalist bastards pay to educate the unwashed masses (my interpretation).
Of course, with so many billions of euros at stake, and this being Spain, fraud, corruption and outright theft is more than common, it is expected. Don’t take my word for it. From the Pymes y Autónomos association blog:
This type of subsidized training, has been widely criticized by companies, both for their limited use, as well as the existing shadow of fraud on them.
A diplomatic way of saying “what’s the freaking point?”
They continue, in what I assume is a sarcastic tone of voice:
This last point is to be eliminated by including compulsory assessment questionnaires, which have been approved and published in the Official Gazette on 11 June 2010.
So, in order to check if you did the course or not, somebody has to call up the worker and ask them “did you like the course? did you really do it?” Of course, as the Spanish say, “he who makes the law lays the trap” and if a company is sufficiently qualified, it can carry out its own assessment questionnaires. Lovely.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a real news story about some people who were quietly raking in the millions by sending out diplomas to people who paid for them without bothering to make them sit the course.
Part of the problem is that the only courses offered by the training people are so bland that they are of no real use whatsoever (my interpretation). For example, I have here a brochure from a major company that works with the F.T. credits. Amongst its courses are such gems as “Webpage design online (Frontpage 2006)”, “Evalutating training assessment courses”, “El corte del Jamón”*, “Beginners guide to pouring wine”*, “Luminoteca”, “basic English in a catering environment”***, “Excel 2000”, “beginners guide to soldering”, “Use and manipulation of your GPS”.
*: Jamón not included(I checked).
**: Wine not included (I checked).
***: Also German or French.
All of these courses cost either 210€ or 420€. To fit in with the F.T. training credits.
Of course, the government realises that these courses are absolutly bloody useless and unless it hits people with a stick, nobody will ever do them. So it changes the law every year, and pushes the training courses in the new law into the F.T. goodie bag. Here’s an example from (my) real life.
The Data Protection Act has now come fully into law in Spain, for both electronic and paper data files. This means that any company that handles any personal data, even if it is only the minimum necessary to raise an invoice, must implement the Data Protection Act (go on then, Ley Orgánica 15/1999, de 13 de diciembre, de protección de datos de carácter personal), under threat of heavy fines from the State if we don’t. Fair enough? I continue.
The Data Protection Act is, I am amazed to say, so restrictive, ridiculous and heavy handed that satire fails me. For example, you have to tell the Data Protection Agency about all forms you use to collect personal data and what you are going to do with it. Everything.
A real example: Hotels and tourism businesses are obliged, by law, to fill out a form to send daily to the Guardia Civil detailing who is staying that night in their establishment (the form you will have signed if you have ever stayed in a Spanish hotel). This, by law, and if you don’t the G.C. come after you with an efficiency the Tax people must envy. So why, if this law is obligatory, so we have to fill in another form telling the Data Protection Agency that we are filling in this form, and then wait for them to tell us that we can do it????????
The good news is that the government now allows us, for this year only, to use F.T. credits to offset the cost of paying a company to come in and certify that we are complying with the Data Protection Act, so it’s basically free, if we understand as “free” having to pay these damned credits in the first place. However, I topped up the credits and am now sitting my Data Protection Act Certification Course, (which I first did in 2003, that time properly and I enjoyed it). The chappie cheerfully told me not to worry, if I didn’t want to I didn’t have to send the course back but I would still receive my diploma. Fair enough.
I am also sitting my “Tax instruction homework course for SME’s” and “Food Hygiene Implementation Plan for small catering establishments and Handling Course”, all at the same time. Hey, gotta use up those credits, otherwise they expire and you lose them.
Funny story, if you have time? The instructor told me not to worry, I would pass all three, but I couldn’t actually have my name on all three courses as “officially” I didn’t have time to sit them all. Hence, one of them had to go in someone else’s name. I got the impression that it was best not to send in the coursework, in case I got an answer wrong – if I did nothing, they could fill it in for me with the correct answers.
So, we are paying in tax to pay for education courses that don’t mean anything. Since the government has to do something with the money it’s collecting, it makes changes to the law applicable under the credits. Since people are too busy trying to make sufficient money to pay their taxes in the first place, the training people are happy to certify us without us actually doing anything.
And that, my friend, is what is wrong with Spain today.
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