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Operation development for Europe's SME support agencies

The aim of the project is to improve the performance of SMEs by encouraging greaterparticipation in learning by SME managers. Research shows that the major barrier toSME manager participation in formal learning is their perception that it is not relevant totheir needs, and that training needs to be developed which is tailored to them. Thistraining, however, needs to be quality assured, if real value is to be added to SMEs inorder to drive real competitive advantage. But such quality assurance, to be reallyeffective, needs to cover the entire range of support that SMEs receive from publiclyfunded bodies.The project will analyse the training and other services provided to SMEs in 5 partnercountries, and develop a quality framework and quality assurance process to cover both(i) the competencies required by trainers, advisers and coaches who provide individualsupport to SMEs plus (ii) the standards of service which are required of local SMEsupport centres and the ways in which they engage with SMEs and develop productsand services to support them.Once the quality framework has been developed, partners will develop and trial a rangeof training materials, both (a) for the local SME support centres and theirtrainers/advisers/coaches and (b) for teams of advisers who will work with them to helpthem reach the quality standards and assessors who will formally assess the extent towhich they do, and where possible, grant them a certified status. Once products havebeen tested and refined, the partners will develop promotional materials to disseminatethe standards and training materials more widely within Europe. They will also develop afranchising pack for organisations wishing to utilise this intellectual property once theproject is completed.
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