Overall participants answered positively about their expectation of the course and their satisfaction. Responses show that the course has supported 72% of learners to change their soft skill behaviours. However, national differences cannot be ignored. Impact on individual behavior has been very consistent on Romanian, Greece, Italy and UK participants, and less so on Germany, Netherlands and Sweden’s participants.
The e-learning platform has been perceived by participants in different ways. Most learners did not have technical problems in joining and using NESSIE e-learning. Comments suggest that once people got used to it, they found it easy and enjoyed the e-learning experience. However the debate is still open about whether the web platform is user friendly enough. The consortium accepts that there are some technical glitches in the course material which may have caused the less positive responses from some users. It is also felt that the technical issue is also related to whether or not people received mentoring.
Just over half of the registered people found it quite or very engaging. While this may be seen as a good result, the authors and designers should seek to explore this issue further. Overall the technical aspects can be considered as a good result.
Overall users in the workplace responded slightly better to the course than job seekers. 73% of employees agreed to some extent or to a large extent that they received better feedback from trainers or employers. Significant numbers of users (80%) identified improvements in their own job performance following the training. 90% feel they have improved their CVs. Organising skills appear to be the most improved for people in the workplace, not surprising as one of the two courses was Planning and Organising. All participants were able to identify some area where their lives had improved, with “being more confident in work situations” the most popular with 36% of respondents. We can conclude that for the majority of employed users, the NESSIE e-learning has had real impacts on their professional lives.
Job seekers responded positively, but to a lesser extent than people in work. Perhaps they were less self-motivated as many undertook this activity as a compulsory part of their course compared to all of the employees who volunteered to participate. This is perhaps illustrated by the number who went on to complete the evaluation questions: 99 job seekers out of 324 (31%) who completed the course compared to 199 employees out of 285 (70%) who completed the course.
At the end of the course 60% of job seekers agreed to some extent or to a large extent that they received better feedback from trainers or mentors. 63% felt they had enhanced their performance (70% of mentors noted improvements). 75% felt they improved their CVs. 59% of job seekers answered to a large extent or some extent that they felt more self confident during job seeking. Although these are positive results, when participants’ comments are considered, some users did not see the connection between improved soft skills and improved employment prospects. This could be a reflection of their pessimism about their local labour market and their chances of finding a job, or could be an issue of guidance from mentors. All participants were able to identify some area where their lives had improved, with an increased interest in learning being selected by 42%. 5% found jobs.
For mentors, participation in the course has led to positive impacts. 81% at the end of the mentoring experience had improved professional relationships with their trainees/mentees to a large extent or some extent. 65% of mentors gained new competences to a large extent or some extent.
Responses to the statements, “I have had access to new tools/resources” and “I received more opportunities for exchange of methods, ideas & knowledge” are not so well defined. It appears that only 58% of mentors overall felt they had access to new tools and only 59% of mentors felt they had sufficient opportunity for exchange within the Project. There is a strong geographical difference in this with 100% of Greece and Romanian mentors agreeing they had opportunities to exchange; and 100% of Greek and 93% of Romanians agreeing they had access to new tools.
Throughout almost all results the geographical difference is noticeable. German, Swedish and Dutch users show some evidence of soft skills development, but were more likely to state that there was nothing new in the NESSIE course or that they had insufficient time between completion of the course and reflecting on the impacts for the evaluation. It was harder to engage with employers and recruit employees to participate in the pilot. Soft skills development is quite well developed in these countries so impacts have clearly been fewer.
The situation in UK, Italy and in particular Greece and Romania is quite different. Although soft skills training is common in the UK (the originators of the original soft skills training innovation) the UK participants responded enthusiastically and positively, reporting significant improvements and enjoyment of the learning material. In Italy, and in particular, Greece and Romania, where the innovation is new, results were quite startling with employees, job seekers and mentors. Numbers of participants in Romania and Greece were highest – with Romania alone recruiting 42% of all participants. The economic context in these countries also plays a part. With higher unemployment rates and limited resources for training, it is felt that learners (and mentors) are more enthusiastic to try something new to give them an edge in such a competitive job market.
To conclude, we believe that NESSIE e-learning succeeds in making an impact on its users. The degree of impact is relative to the amount of exposure to soft skills training users have had previously. The material was designed to have a period of at least six weeks between course completion and reflection of impacts on behaviour. It is clear from user comments that this has not always been the case. When used as intended we remain optimistic that impacts would be improved. The e-learning approach appears to work better and be more positively received by people in the work place where the flexibility of approach and self-directed learning fits in with existing commitments. We feel that this consortium has made a positive contribution to the soft skills training environment in Europe and that individuals’ skills and some individuals’ lives have been improved as a result of participation.