MAC-Team

Food-Net / food-MAC network

food-MAC study 6: Training Needs in the agro-food sector

poster TNATraining needs are driven by different requirements: on one hand by national and European legislation and on the other hand by business competition, economic growth and innovative technology. The solutions can only be found through Multi-Actor, transversal and transnational Cooperation.

 

 

 

Problematic frameworks and trends facing SMEs
A view in the future shows us that the need for training will increase. For example the legislation EG/178/2002 will be after its implementation to national legislation a fundament for new training needs and training solutions (Traceability, Risk assessment, Risk management). British Retail Consortium Guidelines (BRC) and the International Food Standards (IFS) are examples for training needs driven by business competition.

Mechanisms, support, professional bodies, which could help SMEs

Across Europe and the involved countries there are many mechanisms to help professionals find training solutions. National Organisations and Institutes, Supervision Offices, are from special interest. They are the interface between the legal authorities and the SMEs.
Universities, professional bodies as well as websites and web portals can show SMEs the range of offered products in the Training needs/solutions sector.
For the SMEs the European dimension is one of the most important points for the future. European Community offers a good opportunity to learn from each other.

SWOT analysis from the national surveys done in participating countries
Strengths

  • Most information is on Internet (easy access to every company and staff)
  • All subjects are covered (even if they need adaptation to company’s profile and culture)
  • Increasing awareness of life-long learning (regulation driven)

Weaknesses

  • Difficult to sort out in the high amount of information (not always in local language)
  • Lack of time and resources in SMEs (fast return of money is the priority)
  • Most food SMEs are in remote areas (adding travelling time to the loss of productivity)

Opportunities

  • Growing coverage of ICT facilities (to lower the barriers: company culture, time, knowledge gaps)
  • EU directives (imposing a higher level in quality, therefore know-how)
  • Thriving global market (customers and providers accessible wherever they are)

Threats

  • Most SMEs are traditionally “family affairs” with strong ties to local markets (often reluctant to face the unknown)
  • The long-living “culture of secret” in SMEs trying to innovate on their own (which slows their growth)
  • Difficult financial situation in very small companies (training comes after production).


Recommendations
SMEs in the agro-food sector need a strong network to meet their life long learning requirements and/or their non expressed training needs. It seems important to start from local expertise to help them become or remain competitive in the long run through:

  • Providing them the skills they can’t afford ( external advice, scientific expertise, technical infrastructures)
  • Raising their awareness of the benefits they can get from further training (to collect and select information, to re-organize their labour force, to hire new know-how…)
  • Exchanging good practice & failures with other companies (easier on a trans-national level).

Experience proved that it is easier and more efficient to exchange on a multi competence, trans-national and trans-sectoral way such as in the MAC approach (Multi-Actor Cooperation). It seems important to communicate on success stories to stress the benefits of University/Enterprise cooperation, and its positive impact on companies’ competitiveness.
New skills require new training, and it is crucial that training bodies and companies advance together, to build the right bases for the sustainable growth of the food sector.


The study report is available in the library.