baseline survey which was carried out among SME clusters in five
countries includes the following findings related to learning and training:
by doing confirms to be the prevailing method of acquisition of know-how:
in fact, on-the-job experience is considered as the most relevant way of
acquiring “technical” knowledge, followed by “mentoring” (i.e. the advice
and help from an experienced person) and the training courses for staff.
The best results in terms of improvement of know-how and competencies have
been recorded by the enterprises which have temporarily introduced experts
in the firm or have incorporated new workers. The know-how existing among
staff and the firms’ accumulated experience is transmitted in day-to-day
business decisions frequently in informal way, i.e. through a communication
system (mainly oral) which is implicitly understood by anyone who wants
to use it. Formal rules and procedures are widespread and the participation
in working committees is generally used.
In spite of the growing importance of informal ways in acquisition and
storage of know-how, training activities for staff still represent
a cornerstone. The problems related to the access to training are more
connected to the quality of the offer than to the quantity: the enterprises
perceive these activities insufficiently tailored to their requirements
or too time consuming, and these feelings seems to grow considering the
future attitude. The quantity of supply does not seem to be an obstacle:
the range of programmes and the proximity of training centres (both private
and public) are considered as satisfactory by practically all the firms
with no training orientation.
The lack of financial resources seems to be the main obstacle to
the undertaking of training activities: More than half of the enterprises
ask for public intervention in co-financing this kind of investment. Training
oriented enterprises think that government (at local, regional, national
or European scale) should support them in needs analysis and, above all,
should involve them as much as possible in defining the contents of training
programmes in order to make them more tailored to the real needs of the
company (Sarcina 1998, pp. 47-50).