Italy's association of eyewear manufacturers, Anfao, signed a two-year agreement with the Veneto region on May 5 to organize about 1,000 hours of courses for people employed or due to be employed in the eyewear sector, partly financed by public authorities.

Those who are already employed in the sector, who operate for the most part in the Veneto region, will be offered continuous education in the areas of marketing, international development, lean manufacturing methods, company management and product and process innovation.

Courses for newcomers will be longer-term and will include in-company training periods. The subjects covered will include manufacturing, product design and industrialization, web marketing and other new marketing tools.

This new public/private training initiative follows on from a similar program initiated in 2013 to update skills in Italy's eyewear industry. The overall investment amounts to €1,125,000, starting with €500,000 for the first year. About 40 percent of the funding is provided by Anfao. The remaining 60 percent will be provided by the EU Social Fund, and managed by the Veneto region's authorities.

The aim of the initiative is clearly to provide an ongoing supply of skilled workers and managers in a high-tech sector with a highly competitive market and to encourage entrepreneurial initiatives. With 80 percent of the national eyewear production based in the Veneto region, there is a clear interest in supporting such a major industry. And with 10.4 percent growth in the sector in 2015, it is possibly the region's only industry that can claim such a level of performance.

The region and the EU also want to encourage companies that decide to repatriate all or part of their eyewear production to a Europe, following a trend that has been gaining ground in the past few years. Veneto's eyewear district exports almost 90 percent of its production. Over one-third of the region's GNP comes from exports, representing 13.6 percent of the national total.