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close this bookJob Quality and Small Enterprise Development - Working Paper No. 4 (ILO, 1999, 35 p.)
close this folder4.0 Lessons from practical experience
View the document(introduction...)
View the document4.1 Increasing training and knowledge
View the document4.2 Integrating competitiveness with qualitative conditions
View the document4.3 Promoting self-help associations and collective solutions
View the document4.4 Developing enabling regulatory environments
View the document4.5 Towards a local, integrated and holistic approach

4.1 Increasing training and knowledge

One of the most important areas to address in the promotion of job quality is that of knowledge and training. This is crucial for increasing workers’ security, for meeting new competitive requirements and for moving local economies along a rising wage and rising standards path of development. Developing indigenous capability (rather than relying simply on inward investment alone) may be an important policy. In Africa, the ILO has been particularly concerned with the development of indigenous capability through its ASIST15 programme. Run by a multi-disciplinary team based in Harare, Zimbabwe, the ASIST programme focuses on labour intensive activities. Training is provided to owners, managers and workers in areas such as health and safety, productivity improvements, and the appropriate use of tools.

15 ASIST (Regional Programme of Advisory Support Information Services and Training for Labour-based Infrastructure and Transport Planning)

In East and South East Asia the successful acquisition of basic knowledge from world sources and the building upon that base to create an indigenous capability has been seen as crucial for the success of many countries. This has included Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea where knowledge acquisition has played an important role in helping move small enterprises in these countries along a higher wage path16.

16 See, for example, Hobday, 1995; Mathews, 1996.

A variety of tools have been used in the building up of such competence. These range from individual enterprises entering special licensing and technology transfer agreements to the creation of sectoral focused training institutions by local authorities. The use of special intermediary institutions to acquire knowledge of best practice from global sources and then dispersing it to local enterprises has also proved successful as has the creation of special programmes to encourage lead firms to transfer knowledge to smaller suppliers17.

17 This last approach mentioned in particular seems to be growing, and possibly reflects an increased recognition of the fact that much knowledge for enterprises comes from other firms, and also perhaps a growing perception of enterprises as occupying positions in networks and supply chains. For example, mention might be made of such programmes to encourage transfer of knowledge from lead firms to small suppliers as the Local Industry Upgrading Programme in Singapore, and the Centre-Satellite Programme in Taiwan, as well as similar initiatives in other parts of the world, such as in Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and countries of Europe. There are also other inter-firm knowledge transfer programmes which give more emphasis to small firms learning from one another, through benchmarking, factory visits, learning networks and other means, and/or in partnership with local knowledge institutions.

At the same time, the upgrading of knowledge capabilities and training support mechanisms is not only important for the development of indigenous enterprises, but also for attracting high quality inward investment. A case in point, in respect of industrialised countries, is the Scottish electronics cluster (providing about 65,000 jobs by the late 1990s), where attempts are being made to move the cluster up market and improve the quality of employment. In this, training and knowledge build-up are seen as crucial. A recent and important step has been to attract into the cluster a key leading edge electronics company from the USA that, it is believed, will introduce crucial knowledge to help take the cluster to higher value activities. Significantly, the crucial factor that attracted the company was not so much cash incentives as much as a guaranteed supply of high quality trained labour, provided by a consortium of higher educational institutes brought together by an intermediary institution.

In respect of newly industrialising and developing countries, Singapore has deliberately marketed itself as a location offering high quality services and labour. It has been very successful in attracting inward investment. In Costa Rica the provision of assistance in training is said to be one of a raft of support provisions, which is said to have influenced a major $500 million dollar inward investment decision by the electronics company Intel (ILO, 1998)