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Lifelong learning and SMEs: issues for research and policy

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Research evidence suggests that SMEs are significantly less likely than larger employers to provide or fund formal training leading to qualifications for employees. The training (or more accurately learning) that does take place in most SMEs tends to be informal, on-the-job and related to short-term business objectives or problems. There are strong arguments to suggest that this type of approach is perfectly rational from the point of view of the small business, but may not produce the optimum level or mix of skills for the economy as a whole. Moreover, there is little convincing evidence to suggest that increased investment in formal training leads automatically to improved business performance for SMEs. Research findings raise a number of issues for policy makers and others who are trying to promote the concept of lifelong learning, and associated policy initiatives, to those who own, manage and/or work in SMEs. This paper suggests a number of directions that should be taken by researchers' policy makers, to promote lifelong learning among SMEs.

Keywords: Employee Development; Research; Small- To Medium-Sized Enterprises; Training; Workplace Learning

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 21, 2002

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