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            Lifelong Training: a tool for competitive
          and dynamic commerce in the Mediterranean

    By the President of National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce,
                        Dimitris Armenakis

                          ROME, 19/11/2008
                        If you learn, you earn.
                               You earn
                            Self respect and
      Earn the “Know how” of being a creative member in this society.

In March 2000 in Lisbon, the European Union, recognizing the challenges that
the European societies face due to the rapid developments in science and
technology, set as fundamental strategic objective to become the most competitive
and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic
growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.”. The growth of
human capital is the epicentre of European policy.

Given the changes in professions and the rapid pace of the required
knowledge increases, especially in certain sectors, there is a need for further
training and education during the working life of the people.

In this context the role of Lifelong Learning becomes very important. Lifelong
Learning aims at providing citizens with learning opportunities at all ages
and in numerous contexts: at work, at home and through leisure activities, not
just through formal channels such as school and higher education. Lifelong
Education is a pedagogy often accomplished through distance learning or e-
learning, continuous education, home-schooling or correspondence courses.

Lifelong learning is most usefully thought of as a policy response mainly by
western governments to a changing world. These underlying changes are a
transition from manufacturing to a services economy, the emergence of the
knowledge economy and the decline of many traditional institutions,
requiring individuals to manage their lives more actively.

The institution of lifelong learning contributes to the development of the idea
of continuous learning resulting in the awareness and continuous progress of
individuals for the whole duration of their lives.

It contributes to:
    the facilitation of adaptability of workers in commercial enterprises
    the improvement of mobility and extroversion in the working
environment of commerce
    the benefit of high quality services for the consumers and customers of
commercial enterprises
    the fight against social exclusion, particularly of sensitive categories of the

Especially in the commerce sector in which a large number of changes have
taken place adopting Lifelong learning is a necessity. The kind of topics that
are suggested, should improve sectors and overall economy competitiveness
and, hence Mediterranean Countries are historically the pioneers of
commerce, Lifelong learning is a way that they should follow in order to
reclaim this characteristic. However, the centrality of the Mediterranean for
Europe, the importance of our links, the depth of our cultural and historical
relations and the urgency of the strategic common challenges we face, need to
be revisited and given greater political prominence.

The various cooperation agreements and programmes in the field of
education and training have contributed to the capacity of the engaged
countries and, finally, become a major tool to develop the human capital and
promote the cultural and social values in the region.

In Greece, commerce is a particularly fundamental activity. 800,000 people are
employed in 350,000 enterprises. More than 95% of these enterprises do not
employ more than 10 persons. Commerce is the basic and significant factor in
the production process, since the contribution of commerce to the GNP has
been rising steadily to today’s level of close to 16%. Moreover, commerce has
contributed immensely to the overall employment through paid and unpaid
labor accounting for 17% of the total employment. Commerce has contributed
to a significant degree to the employment of women. Despite the fact that they
comprise half the total working population, women pay the heaviest price by
bearing the biggest share in the unemployment figures in our country.
Commerce supplies a sizable percentage of part-time employment, thus
providing flexible employment opportunities to women and a major boost to
family income.

In 2008, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce, peak organization
of the sector which represents Greek commerce on both domestic and
international levels, acknowledging the necessity of the above-mentioned
issues, carried out a European Programme named “HERMEION” Lifelong
Learning. Initially 2.000 merchants all over Greece were trained. The
program uses new tools and methodologies, including the blended learning
approach (b-learning), which has an effect in the way that the courses are
delivered. Specifically, each course lasts 100 hours of training, from which the
40 hours are delivered in the class from trained teacher, while the rest 60
hours are delivered via internet, with a specially designed e-learning system.


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