Micro-businesses are a key part of the UK economy. They represent 96 per cent of the business population and make a significant contribution to job and wealth creation in the UK. In 2018, micro-businesses accounted for one-third of employment and just over one-fifth of business turnover.
Given the economic importance of micro-businesses, there is a growing evidence base as to the challenges and opportunities faced by the owner-managers of micro-businesses in the management and development of the business. There is a lot written about challenges related to access to finance, access to markets, the impact of late payment and the lack of a level ‘playing field’ in terms regulatory and legislative compliance. There is less focus on access to skills and learning although recent research by the Enterprise Research Centre in 2019 has highlighted the growing importance of access of skills as a key challenge impacting upon the management and development of micro-businesses.
However, available evidence suggests that there are a number of barriers to micro-businesses accessing appropriate support to assist in accessing the skills that are needed. For example, in 2011, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Micro-Business noted that:
Owners of micro businesses need to be experts in marketing, accounting, sales and human resources (just to name four skills that they need to possess to be successful). Whilst running the business and performing such a wide variety of roles just to survive, it can be difficult for micro business owners to acquire the skills needed to ensure their enterprise can grow … whilst the skills courses currently offered by the government and others are useful, it is worth exploring the extent to which skill-specific bite-sized courses might be more appropriate for micro business owners (APPG for Micro-Business, 2011, p. 8).
Learning and skills development in micro-businesses
Micro-businesses are not just small ‘large’ businesses. Whilst micro, small and large businesses may have similar learning and skills needs (e.g. being able to manage and lead others), the way in which micro-businesses will talk about these needs will be different (e.g. people as opposed to talent or human resources), the specific nature of the needs will be different and the responses will need to be different.
The Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership in 2002 was one of the first reports to highlight that there was a need for a different approach to supporting learning and skills development in micro-businesses. They suggested that there was a mis-match between the learning and skills needs of owner-managers and the type of provision on offer, in terms of availability, accessibility and appropriateness. They called for education and training professionals to join the owner-manager in their life-world in order to support the development of demand-led learning and skills provision. Think Enterprise | 29
However, research undertaken by SFEDI as part of an Erasmus Plus project (the ME2ME project) has identified that there is still a lack of tailored, or demand-led management and leadership support for micro-businesses particularly in terms of skill-specific bite-sized support which reflects the realities of what it is like to manage a micro-business.
The ME2ME Project
The ME2ME seeks to address this gap. Its overall aim is to develop a set of demand-led and tailored learning and skills resources for the owners of micro-businesses.
The project consortium consists of 7 partner organisations from seven different EU member states led by INNEO (Poland). The other partners are: Future in Perspective (Ireland), Innoventum (Finland), Kaunas Science and Technology Park (Lithuania), Pandokrator (Hungary), Reintegra (Czech Republic) and University of Pitesti (Romania)
The key outcomes from the project will be:
A series of bite-sized learning resources which map onto the key needs of micro-businesses
An ‘introduction to developing demand-led learning’ which can be used by owners of micro-businesses to develop their own learning and skills resources
A series of activities and resources for vocational education and training professionals to support their engagement with micro-businesses
A policy paper highlighting the key issues for developing demand-led learning and skills resources for micro-businesses.
Further information on the project can be accessed at: https://me2meproject.eu/en/about/project+information/
In the UK, there will be an opportunity for owners of micro-businesses to learn more about the project and use the learning materials at a workshop on the 27th June in Durham.
If you would like more details on the workshop please visit:
If you would like to get involved in testing the materials, please contact Leigh Sear on 01325 468017 or [email protected].