The skills level debate – the need to deliver higher order skills in the context of marketing in SMEs

Paul Copley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Objectives: To illustrate how discursive practice in SMEs helps shape skills development in the SME marketing context, More specifically this paper questions whether there is a requirement simply for the ‘nuts and bolts’ of learning by doing or for higher order learning to be able to deliver differing skills levels. The paper also aims to assess the importance of social aspect of learning, especially networking and to challenge and imagine aspects of marketing leadership and strategy and other critical skills-reliant concepts.

Prior Work: Much work has been done on skills training and development for SMEs over a last few decades and the same can be said about the skills debate in the UK in its broadest context but also within the SME context. The delivery of learning and the development of skills and competencies have been part of this.

Approach: The approach taken falls within the social constructivist paradigm. Discourse Analysis was employed to make sense of data generated from a small sample of SME and support agency participants. The study employed the semi-structured interview that, when transcribed, provided research texts that were then analysed through a Discourse Analysis lens.

Results: The discourses that emerged in the study suggest the importance of networking, development events and experiential learning of theory that is then put into practice. These are seen as key to skills training success. This paper underlines the importance of critical, social (collective) reflection that is an essential part of learning to learn and metacognition through experiential development and the use of tools such as critical incidents as effective learning episodes. This is especially the case when developing higher order skills.

Implications: The study identifies that learning in SMEs is not as straightforward as some might imagine and that there are implications for the design and delivery of education, training and development for SMEs but also for providers, especially in the area of higher order skills development.
Value: This paper is of value to managers, educators, trainers and developers through further understanding of the skills development and learning, especially in the SME marketing arena, to help them better understand the learning process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
EventISBE 2012: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference 2012 - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 7 Nov 2012 → …


ConferenceISBE 2012: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference 2012
Period7/11/12 → …
Internet address


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