Developing a Model of Sustainable Learning Appropriate to SMEs in the Automotive Supply Sector
Evidence from national surveys conducted in 1995, 2002 and 2006 shows that, despite a variety of specific Government training initiatives, the UK automotive supply sector lags behind international competition and suffers from severe skills shortages. Long term recovery from this position will require improvements in education, careers guidance, recruitment and work related training. The aim of this research has been to design a model of work related training for the sector to help ensure that the learning involved delivers sustained changes in behaviour and skills. A series of case studies have been reviewed to provide a context of work related training in the sector. Separate surveys were used to benchmark training performance in a World Class manufacturer to understand realistic norms of training output, to sample the sustainability of learning amongst SMEs engaged on similar training programmes and to determine the range of training needs across the automotive supply sector. In total data was obtained from 833 individuals in 389 companies. The initial conclusions that defined the requirements for the model were that The outcomes of training across SMEs in the automotive supply sector were mostly unknown, unmeasured and often unpredictable. For reference, even in large organisations it is estimated that 60% of training budgets lack quantifiable targets. Learners themselves are unpredictable, Training initiatives, deriving from recommendations of the Leitch report and which are „employer led‟ focus on “World Class Manufacturing” which, coming largely from the perspective of Automotive OEMs, means Lean Manufacturing. For smaller SMEs a constrained training offer can be an impediment to growth. Their needs are the more diverse. The model was synthesised from the survey results and its concept tested and refined by a further survey of sixteen predominately automotive companies. Tamkin‟s IES model from Human Resources was also used as a reference comparator. On the input side the new model stresses company readiness and relevance of training. On the output side it adds organisational impact to the accepted but often overlooked measurable outputs. Beneath each of the ten elements of the model there are quantifiable indicators for use with diagnostic tools in either a company‟s HR plan, a training provider‟s delivery planning or a funding agency‟s grant criteria. The companies most likely to meet these quantifiable criteria will be the competitive and innovative companies that operate as learning organisations. It is argued that training targeted on these companies will be cost effective to implement, provide measurable performance benefits and deliver sustainable learning.