Integrating Formal and Informal Learning – Experiences from a Competence Development Programme Targeting Manufacturing SMEs
2015 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in the economy in an era of globalization and international competition (European Commission, 2007). It is therefore of importance to deepen our knowledge of conditions that enable innovativeness in SMEs so that such companies remain globally competitive. In recent years, a variety of training and competence development initiatives, in particular efforts that focus on the application of Lean production, have been undertaken in Sweden to support the development of innovation and competitiveness in SMEs. In Sweden, one such initiative is the national competence programme The Production Leap and more than 200 enterprises have participated in the programme’s main components: courses for education in Lean, and coaching of individual enterprises. The aim of this paper is to investigate in what way competence development activities offered by The Production Leap were linked to informal learning within enterprises, and the conditions that facilitate or hinder learning that can contribute to production improvements. The discussion draws on empirical material based on 17 interviews with owners, managers, Lean coordinators and operators from four manufacturing SMEs that participated in The Production Leap.
Based on empirical findings, two conclusions can be made. The first is that competence development activities focusing on Lean production are an important trigger for innovative learning in SMEs. The formal competence development activities offered in the Production Leap programme seemed to have a better impact if the learning environment inside the enterprise was supportive. Competence development as a trigger for innovative learning and thus a driving force for innovation is important but less useful if it is not integrated into daily work activities. The second conclusion made is that three different ways of linking formal and informal learning within the enterprises were identified in terms of different approaches; Lean coordinator-driven approach, engineer-driven approach and an employee-driven approach. All three approaches had some element of employees generating and implementing ideas and actions. In the first two approaches there was joint learning between the employees and Lean coordinator/engineer in the generation and implementation of ideas and actions that took place within the continuous improvement work. Therefore, we suggest that it is essential to consider that employee-driven innovations may be assumed to take different shapes, involving other functions that have the capacity to support innovative learning that goes beyond minor adjustments in the existing standards of the production.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. 1-16 p.
workplace learning, competence development programme, employee-driven innovation
Other Social Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-126073OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-126073DiVA: diva2:911613
The 9th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning (RWL), School of the Arts, Singapore, December 9-11, 2015.