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Title DELOS
Developing learning organisation models in SME clusters
Aspect
Concept Findings Challenge
Synopsis The guiding principles highlighted below are aimed at enhancing the role played by clusters in developing training and employment support of SMEs:

(a) Three main constituent components of organisational learning need to be targeted in relation to training and support policies: information-gathering; knowledge acquisition and competence consolidation and development. At present, SMEs are relatively active in knowledge acquisition activities, but not in lower-level market intelligence gathering or higher level competence development. They need to be made aware of the need to balance these three different components in their human resource development planning and management.

(b) The entrepreneur is a pivotal figure in decision-making, but the evidence suggests that a large proportion of SMEs are in 'crisis management'  rather than pro-active learning situations. Since entrepreneurial decision-making styles are closely associated with such crisis-management, there is a need to encourage SMEs to adopt a more participative style of collective learning. Microenterprises and new start-ups are particularly prone to ‘crisis-management’, and the lack of a coherent organisational learning strategy. Since this situation is almost certainly associated with lack of resources, it would suggest the need for support services that can provide pooled resources for SMEs. 

(c) There would appear to be significant gaps in the skills capabilities of European SMEs. Small firms tend to concentrate their efforts in developing and enhancing production-based skills,  but there is a clear lack of competencies in marketing and in cross-job skills. Training and support policies also need to address the lack of expertise, and practices, in skills auditing amongst SMEs, their support organisations and regional development agencies. There is a  need for a European Skills Accreditation System, as outlined in the White Paper on Education and Training. However, such a system needs to be attuned to the particular features and needs of SMEs. It would therefore need to capitalise on the extensive use of informal learning networks used by SMEs (Sarcina 1998, pp. 14-18).
 

Reference The final project report (Sarcina 1998) elaborates possible actions resulting from the guiding principles.
See also project info on DELOS.
Descriptors D-LO  EP03          E03c
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO