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How does IIP deliver the lifelong learning agenda to SMEs?

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Purpose ‐ This paper seeks to discuss the Investors in People (IIP) initiative in relation to SMEs and to consider the value of IIP in helping to inculcate a learning culture within this sector. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A case study investigating the work of a Business Link (BL) in relation to IIP and SMEs highlights the conflicts advisers face in delivering the government agenda and in fulfilling the education and training needs of SMEs. The case identifies the particular challenges that the advisers face in trying to deliver a consultancy service to SMEs which is valuable to them and which also satisfies the government's requirement for commitment to and recognition of attainment of IIP. The research involved in-depth interviews with IIP advisers at a Business Link which sought to understand the nature of their work, the methods they use and what they saw as the issues and challenges in meeting customer needs. The key issues regarding IIP generally, and in relation to SMEs, are elicited from the literature. Findings ‐ The research confirms previous studies detailing the difficulties in matching IIP requirements with the individual requirements of SMEs. It also highlights the fact that Business Links need to "play the system" in order to reach the government-set targets. IIP advisers are caught in the undesirable position of trying to deliver a useful consultancy service (which may not lead to IIP recognition) to the firm and the need to achieve specified commitment and recognition rates. Research limitations/implications ‐ While it is recognised that a single case has its limitations in terms of universal applicability, this example provides an aspect of IIP that has not previously been explored. The views of those charged with implementing government initiatives are rarely sought, although considerable research has been undertaken with the firms themselves. Originality/value ‐ This paper suggests that a more market-led approach to education and training within the SME community might bring a more positive reaction to learning opportunities and a more appropriate targeting of government funds.
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Keywords: Business Links; Case studies; Consultants; Investors in people; Small enterprises; United Kingdom

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 27 November 2007

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