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Harnessing the Learning Assets Within the SME Business Community-SYNERGY

When SMEs succeed, Europe succeeds. ‘SME’ is a little acronym but it covers a huge diversity of companies, sectors and circumstances. Hidden within this large universe of companies across Europe are the champions of tomorrow. Since 2008 Europe has been suffering the effects of the most severe economic crisis it has seen in 50 years: in the majority of EU Member States small and medium-sized enterprises have not yet been able to bounce back to their pre-crisis levels.

New companies, especially SMEs, represent the most important source of new employment creating more than 4 million new jobs every year in Europe. However, support measures for SMEs throughout Europe remain unbalanced with a substantial number of EU Member States still neglecting to take into account the needs or unique characteristics of small businesses, in particular micro-enterprises. Furthermore, despite some progress in recent years, it is still widely held that education fails to offer the right foundation for an entrepreneurial career. When most entrepreneurs start their micro-enterprises they already have a long list of training needs. Despite this, it is a well-known fact that micro-enterprise owners are, at best, reluctant learners in all partner countries. In many cases their participation in training and education is non-existent. As the key decision makers their influence over the learning habits, and disposition toward learning, of a vast cohort of workers throughout Europe is decidedly negative. As micro-enterprises are the engine room of the EU economy the negative impact of this aversion to learning is felt widely throughout our local areas, regions and countries as it stifles growth and impinges on the sustainability of many businesses.

There is a significant 'real-world distance' between vocational education professionals/providers and owner-managers of micro-enterprises in all partner countries. This 'distance' has many facets and attributes, many of which are deeply embedded on both sides of the equation. Whether it is down to institutional policy and practice in vocational education which can result in the provision of courses that are perceived as cumbersome, somewhat dated and overly expensive by micro-enterprise owners or an indifferent attitude towards training among micro-enterprise owners underpinned by time poverty and a lack of regard for the relevance of the available training, these two sectors of society remain almost immiscible.

The SYNERGY project is presented by a consortium of 7 partners representing Ireland, Italy, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Germany and Finland. The consortium comprises universities, rural development companies, VET providers, business support agencies, research institutes and technical experts.

The aim of SYNERGY is to “improve the quality and relevance of VET provision to micro-enterprises to support the transformation of the European economy into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by developing and implementing a bespoke learning environment for vocational education professionals and micro-enterprise owners to ensure the development of micro-enterprises and to enable this dynamic sector realize its true potential”.

The objectives of SYNERGY are: (1) To support the development of a culture of learning within the micro-enterprise sector cultivating positive attitudes towards learning among micro-enterprise owners by ensuring that learning materials developed are relevant to their needs and appropriate to their learning preferences; (2) To support the continuous professional development of vocational education staff by providing a bespoke in-service training program that builds their knowledge and understanding of the business world and supports their work in non-traditional blended learning environments (3) To create a sense of community animating micro-enterprise owners and education service providers towards a common set of educational goals and objectives ensuring that service provision is tailored to address the needs of local businesses; (4) To design and implement a series of cost-effective, flexible, bespoke peer-to-peer learning micro-social networks to considerably increase the range and accessibility of educational services and supports; (5) To provide a suite of bespoke media-rich learning resources that address specific skill needs within the micro-enterprise sector identified through research with the target group; (6) To promote inter-cultural awareness and grow the potential for international business development for micro-enterprises by linking the on-line learning communities created in the different Member States.



LLPThis project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
[Project No: 2014‐1‐IE01‐KA202‐000355]