The 2015 version of ISO 9001 Quality management systems (ISO, 2015) brought into the table a new clause with requirements regarding Knowledge Management, as this is nowadays considered a cornerstone of an organization’s ability to meet customer requirements and continuously improve customer satisfaction, thus assuring business sustainability in the long term. These knowledge management requirements are also shared by other ISO management system standards, including the recently published ISO 21001 Educational organizations management system (ISO, 2018), where the new requirements make even more sense – after all it’s the educational institutions that are expected, by the society at large, to be on the base of the timely development of relevant knowledge (through research) and of its transfer into the market (through their study programmes).
However, in a fast-pacing changing world, most companies struggle to keep their organizational knowledge updated, as that requires subjecting their staff to continuous life-long-learning without jeopardizing their efficiency. The right balance between keeping the staff on their work places and sending them to train is not easy to achieve and is particularly challenging for SMEs, considering their short workforce and the accumulation of jobs and expertise per employee. Furthermore, and on the other side of the equation, lie the educational institutions, who also struggle to keep up with the (constantly changing) market needs in terms of the skills their students are expected to master when entering the world of work.
But what if there was a way to overcome all these challenges, by allowing the continuous development of a company’s staff without having to apart them from their jobs and while assuring educational institutions updated information regarding market needs? There is: Apprenticeships. And it’s a win-win game for everyone involved – business market, educational institutions, students and, consequently, the society at large,
So, how does it work?
By creating well-planned placements for apprentices, an SME can address internal skills’ gaps, assure the continuous development of their staff and prepare sustainably for the future. Apprentices bring fresh knowledge regarding the latest technical and scientific developments and, while being mentored to solve real problems in a real company, they put this knowledge into practice and transfer it to the staff. This results in better products and services, improved brand image and increased profits – and therefore, also in increased competitiveness and long-term sustainability for the organization.
By partnering with SMEs and offering work-based learning programmes, educational institutions create a direct communication channel with the business market which will allow a continuous flow of relevant and timely information regarding skills needs, which can be used to feed their research priorities and curricula development.
Apprenticeships are, therefore, one of the smartest ways of implementing effective and efficient organizational knowledge management – both for companies providing apprenticeship placements and for the education institutions providing the apprentices. And with the added bonus of resulting in less skills mismatch and less out-of-school unemployment in our societies.
So, what are you waiting for? Find out more about apprenticeships at www.learntowork.eu and get your company smarter today!