Practice firms are run
-in all types of schools and higher colleges in VET secondary education
-in adult education institutions and university
-in medical rehabilitation
in different forms:
-as full time offices
-with three to five hours of operation per week
-in courses with lesson blocks
Number of practice firms in Austria
active practice firms October 2014: 950
What is a practice firm?
The idea has its origin in Austria. Now it is a success story all over the world. Known as
– practice enterprise
– practice firm
– training firm
– virtual enterprise,
Austria has always played a key role in this variety of the total learning environment.
In Austria, we call it Übungsfirma or ÜFA.
If you don’t know anything about practice firms, please read on.
You will find information about practice firms, the ideas and aims, the practice firm market and a lot more.
What is it all about?
We are talking about a model „close to the real-life economy”, a practical element in education, particularly in business education.
The roots in Austria may be traced back to the 17th century. A so-called „Musterkontor“ or model office, set up in the commercial college in the days of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was already more than an experiment. The looks have changed: from over-sleeves, stand-up collars, inkpots and writing stands to blue jeans, monitors and computer networks.
The idea is very much the same as ever, reducing the entrepreneurial risks by providing hands-on training for prospective business people.
Yesterday’s risks have multiplied in today’s world of trans- and multinational concerns, combines and corporations. If the practice firm did not already exist, it would have to be invented immediately.
In relation to its size, Austria is a super power in the field of practice firms. It was the first European country to lay down training firm work in the curricula of Higher Colleges for Business Administration (ISCED level 5) and Business Schools (ISCED level 3).
One full morning per week the class leaves the schoolhouse atmosphere and emerges in business life proceedings.
Small wonder that Austrian practice firm know-how is very much in demand all over the world.
Without cooperation of the economy there is no go. Some 60 per cent of the Austrian practice firms have a partner in the economy. Renowned real-life enterprises assist the students in their practice firm work: they sponsor office supplies and office technology or let them have their catalogues or samples. Or they invite the students to their enterprise to show them around and take them through a day in their firm. Also highly welcome are the partner firms‘ employees: their know-how and counseling is invaluable.
…. is one step ahead
In the above mentioned Business Schools and Higher Colleges of Business Administration, practice firm is compulsory. The same is true in schools and colleges of fashion and of agriculture and forestry.
In other types of secondary VET schools and colleges, practice firm may be chosen as an additional program (part-time schools for apprentices, schools and colleges of management services, of tourism, of engineering, arts and crafts).
Institutions of adult education offer practice firm programmes as well as the university for business teachers‘ education.
True, this form of open learning has little in common with encyclopedic knowledge or the classical approach towards education. As a method of teaching and learning it is interdisciplinary and task-oriented. While in the office the students become employees of the practice firm. Like in real business life, they have to apply for a position and then have to prove themselves in their jobs.
But if students simulate business, their teachers also have to change roles: The pedagogues turn into management consultants or business managers.
There is little left of a typical school day
A practice firm works like a real enterprise. Being present on the international market of practice firms means constantly sustaining business relations with other practice enterprises.
According to their line of business the staff will tackle all real life business cases – they will deal with supplies, marketing the products and services offered by the practice firm, push sales, do accounting tasks and take personnel management decisions and they have to cope with all the administrative and commercial craftsmanship one needs in a true business.
Like in real life, also a practice firm has to pay attention to common business usage and the respective legal framework. Unlike in real life, the goods and services offered and the money implied in transactions do not really exist. What does happen is the exchange of information and papers that are relevant for the business transactions. That is what is meant by virtual training with a „rescue net” that keeps „the trapeze artist from falling off the high-rope” and getting seriously hurt.
From the viewpoint of training the practice firm allows for true-to-business practice and professional and didactic reappraisal. This simulation of the economic reality supports the trainees‘ creativity, self-starting qualities, entrepreneurship, responsibility, teamwork, language skills – in a nutshell, those key qualifications that are also relevant for life-long learning. And it is beyond all doubt that life-long learning is what we will depend on in the future.
Every year a number of cities world-wide are the venue of practice firm fairs. Participating in such a fair is the climax of the year: dealing with the logistics, choosing adequate means of publicity, decorating the stand – there is no difference to any other enterprise taking part in any other fair.
ACT office opening hours:
Monday 8:00 – 17:00
Tuesday 8:00 – 16:00
Wednesday 8:00 – 17:00
Thursday 8:00 – 16:00
Friday 8:00 – 14:00
Office manager: Monika Noé
Telephone: +43 1 53 22 978
Fax: +43 1 53 22 978 18
Mission statement: ACT – the Austrian center for training firms – is a project of the Austrian Ministery of Education and Women’s Affairs, General Directorate for Vocational Education and Training. ACT is the pedagogic and organisational centre of the Austrian practice firm market and the link between the Austrian practice firms and the international practice firm network.
Our clients: We supply the Austrian practice firms with all the information and support they need to run their practice firms. We see us as the link between the Austrian practice firm market and educational establishments, politics, economy, social partners and international practice firms. We work for all Austrian practice firms and their institutions as well as for the organisers, the managers and the employees of the practice firms.
Our co-operation partners:We fulfill the requirements of our customers in the pedagogic-methodical sector as well as in the sector of professional transfer of information and know-how. From the economic point of view we cooperate with enterprises which give practice firms ideational and financial support and help the cooperation between economy and education to become realistic and practical.
Nationally as well as internationally our main aim is to innovate and advance the idea of a practice firm network and to take part in national and international co-operations and projects, which support our aim.
Our employees: Working for ACT means taking into consideration the pedagogic claim and public utility as well as contributing to the internationalisation of the Austrian economic system.
We see us as a learning organisation. Quality management and reference to practical experience are a must. Working for ACT implies mutual trust, open-mindedness and a will to cooperate.
To achieve this, we offer our professional competence and motivation, our commitment, and the ability to create innovative and visionary progression concepts – all this within a dynamic team, which is highly accepted pedagogically and economically and has a superb image within Austria and abroad.
The organization: We are sure that the term practice firm and its meaning will soon be common knowledge. We see the practice firm as the center of all economic training: it supports intensive cooperation between the individual special occupational fields as well as cooperation with real enterprises, which guarantees reference to practical experience.
We plead for the development of optimal models for various forms of implementation and training (best-practice approach), so that the practice firm can be set up in various types and stages of education.
We always observe the national and international framework concerning judicial and economic guidelines, technological changes, pedagogic innovations as well as public and social challenges.
The Owner: For the owner, the Ministery of Education and Women’s Affairs, the work and services of ACT are a precondition for the ideal realisation of the pedagogic idea of the practice firm in the Austrian education system – either as obligatory part of the curriculum or as an option due to autonomous decisions taken by the schools themselves. To spread the idea of the practice firms into areas other than mere school education is our intention and desire.
Our aim is the realisation of the requirements of the Ministery of Education and Women’s Affairs and to contribute to a practice orientated education system.
To keep the organisation constantly up to date with the current state of science, we have a management system according to ISO 9001, certified since the year 2003.
The project management is responsible for a permanent further development of the system in line with the „Continuous improvement process“.