Skills-Universe

I work extensively in the business skills development sector as a trainer/facilitator. a huge problem that recurs is that the level of application of theory learnt after the learning phase is very low. I often have to assist SME business who are in trouble not because they have a bad product or concept but because they have very limited business skills and do not grasp the importance of be able to lead and manage a business. In the franchise industry entrepreneurs are taught to flip burgers but very little time is spent teaching them how to lead the business. Is simulation perhaps an alternative to trial and error risk management?

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Thanks for raising a discussion that questions the bridge from the world of learning and skills development into the real world of business.  I worked for a time in a company where the owners continually read the latest management theory books.  That meant that we were continually implementing new theories - without attending expensive management education, they were continually learning about leadership and management - and applying it.  Sometimes it worked better than others but the business has continued to grow and thrive.  They were able to implement what they learned because they owned the business - so the question in SMEs then is: if it's their business, why aren't they implementing the leadership and management theory?  

In the example you quote of franchises, is the structure of the skills development programme limited only to the technology of whatever the franchise produces/sells?   

This is a very interesting thought.

To my mind the training of entrepreneurship should be the number one priority in our country because it is the SMME sector which is going to create the jobs, not big corporates (mines, banks, construction companies etc.) or Government.

The problem is that entrepreneurship simply cannot be taught by talk 'n chalk - it needs a learner driven methodology in which learners are given problems to solve and, in finding solutions, they teach themselves. In such an environment, young people's ability to teach each other through social networking becomes a very powerful tool and the Internet as a reference source becomes essential.

I find that developing courses using learner driven methodolgy endlessly stimulating. What is also challenging is aligning these methodologies to the more formal, NQF based structure.

Never a dull moment...........

    

You are 100% correct, however the effort put into teaching of entrepreneurship and business skills is declining in the formal school education sector and is being taken up as part of the enterprise development leg of  BEE. I have been using a business simulator that takes new entrepreneurs through the practice of theory learnt and it challenges them to apply the theory to achieve better trading results. Most aspects of new business development are covered, but it comes back to application of the theory learnt. Learning good business skills must be a challenge not a grind. I ask the question- do pilots not use a flight simulator to learn how to fly?

The majority of unit standard based programmes with which I am familiar require a certain degree or practical application of skills learned as an inegral component of the assessment. Most unit standards will have statement such as "must be capable of demonstrating" or must be able to show and ability to lead" or some similar words requiring an action by the candidate. So just having a knowledge of many issues is no longer sufficient. The new QCTO qualifications will all require learners to have practical knowledge and experience in order to be assessed as competent and all workbased qualifications will require a workplace based practical component. 

My opinion, it's all about an applied approach. Most skills programmes are written with a question mark being placed on the practical application, and I am sure you all will agree this runs far short of being adequate. Having a skilled mentor in place is part of the solution, therefore simulation or shadowing will work, but we need to stop training for training sake, and bring people closer to where the real business challanges lie, that is with working through a problem or challenge, and sometimes making the mistake, and less with the teaching aspect thereof.

I think that Jean touches on the possible solution - the importance of a mentor. Especially in learning the skills of entrepreneurship, the opportunity to try out ideas and various forms of applying in particular circumstances, should be brainstormed and guided by a more experienced coach or mentor. And this is not a three-month programme...

It certainly applies to most acquired skills that once you start doing, the actual learning takes place. Have we not reduced our training system to only imparting knowledge, and declaring competence based on the regurgitation of the facts? The QCTO model has great merit in driving for the application in the workplace, but it all depends on the availability of a suited mentor or coach - in my opinion. The question is how we much can we expect the workplace to provide such input (given that this is not their core business), or how much can the workplace afford NOT to provide such input? Bit of a wicked problem.  

 Zerelda raises a very importnat point. In my view employers take the view that "If, I've paid for the course then it's up to the provider to do everything. After all these years of outcomes based learning, we still have no culture of workbased mentoring and assessment. As the provider community I think that it very importnat to us to bring home the value of this to employers - there are some parts of that competency puzzle that we simply can't provide.

Perhaps our authorities should take a look at the formal mentorship programmes that are applied around the world. Much like the old apprenticeship where a formal tripartate agreement was enforced between employee, employer and the state with the employer getting a tax incentive to formally mentor the employee. It certainly addresses some of the succession problems we have. I am using a very authentic entrepreneurship/new bus simulator that reduces the cost and time spent at the university of life. I had a student tell me today that he had his pants pulled down by a computer and he was determined to rectify the situation by using the rewind key, lets hope he was not into trial and error.

I am surprised that so many agree that the mentoring angle is crucial, and that it is not reinforced more. Are we spending too much time chasing the 'Buck'? I have seen this applied in Germany and Austria on contract, and it works! And we can do much more than just support entrepreneurs with emntoring, we need to make this mandatory throughout. I have worked as a business development mentor for some time, and I promise you, this works.

 Anyone that is familiar with Peter Carruthers newsletters and Business Warriors, his support website for many South African entrepreneurs, will tell you that the learning of the entrepreneur never stops. Every year Peter offers mentor ship to a certain amount of entrepreneur to assist them in their business.

There are ample Learning Transfer strategies and useful Toolkits that can be customised to facilitate the transfer of learning to the workplace. My attached file, LearningTransfer refers. Use it or lose it!

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