SMEs flock to show that's not for SMEs
SMEs flock to show that's not for SMEs
Learning Technologies show February 2016
I enjoyed my visit to the 'Learning & Skills' and 'Learning Technologies' show at Olympia on Wednesday in London.
It has taken over from BETT as my favourite learning technology show with a wider range of interesting products and services. It is a great place to catch up with ex colleagues from BECTA and many other contacts I have made over the years. This includes L&D folk from America that I discovered via Twitter and Periscope. It is a small world.
Attending the show was opportunity to explore of all kinds of learning technology and to discover new ways to support workplace learning. It was good to see virtual reality being demonstrated. I got to chat with the many learning technology/eLearning companies based in Gloucestershire and the south west. I also spoke to delegates about the show during the various stops for coffee.
It was the place to be as it was trending on Twitter #LT16UK and a chance to hear Charles Jennings talk about 70:20:10.
The show is impressive with exhibition stands plastered with the words Global and Corporate whilst displaying the logos of large well know companies.
It is a great show and clearly there is a need for a joint skills and technology event. Yet another survey has been published highlighting the skills shortages faced by UK employers (Report) together with ongoing concerns about UK productivity falling behind that of many other countries.
There were many SMEs at the show. However these SMEs are Subject Matter Experts, not the Small and Medium Enterprises who represent over 93% of UK companies and 60% of the workforce.
Do we have a show where SMEs flock but SMEs fail to tread?
Do SMEs flock to show that's not for SMEs?
Are the products and services and seminars geared too much towards the large employer and corporate markets? (I understand these are the companies with L&D budgets and a volume of learners.) Does the show offer little for Small Medium Enterprises?
You could argue that Small and Medium Enterprises do not need to attend as the L&D experts at the show will disseminate good practice and information about the latest learning technologies. However, I am not sure this is the case.
Let's think about an engineering company in the Stroud Valleys or Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire or a construction company in the Peak District. They employ between 35 and 100 people and have a skills need. Simple, affordable technology could be used to improve the sharing of knowledge and the development of skills. How many suitable and affordable products would they find at the show?
One Learning Management System (LMS) provider included in their marketing material that 78% of companies surveyed had a LMS. This may be true within large organisations or the corporate world but I am sure this it is not a reflection of the Small and Medium Enterprises market. How many businesses will think that a £10,000 a year LMS is good value?
There were stand after stand of eLearning resources and authoring tools. All great products if you need to train large numbers of employees but the production of bespoke material is out of reach for many Small and Medium Enterprises. (However products such as Nimble from eLearning247 may change that.)
Most of the free seminars I watched assumed that the audience worked in L&D not businesses managers who wear many hats. Not a criticism but an observation.
The show is full of educational jargon for L&D professional to digest and debate. Is it 70:20:10 or 80:15:05 or the LMS is dead long live the LMS debate. All valid topics but I believe will leave most busy managers/employers cold.
Let's not throw the learning styles debate into the conversation!
So we have:
- Two great shows with fantastic and innovative products
- An economy dominated by Small and Medium Enterprises
- A skills shortage
- Concerns about productivity
- Technology that can help improve knowledge and develop skills in the workplace
- A disconnection with Small Medium Enterprises?
Or do you disagree? Do Small Medium Enterprises who do not have L&D teams attend the show?
Clearly there are products and services at the show which are suitable and affordable to the Small and Medium Enterprises market but which ones? It would be great to know.
Am I wrong in thinking that these two shows are great opportunity for the elearing and L&D community come together to share information and a rich resource for large companies and corporates but does not support the Small and Medium Enterprises who between them have millions of employees?
The smaller company can use many of same tools and techniques on show but we need to find products that do not require such deep pockets or L&D departments to implement. It would a shame and not good for the UK economy if Small and Medium Enterprises miss out on the benefits of learning technology.
I believe it is possible to help businesses of all sizes create a learning culture and build 'Knowledge' and 'Learning Cupboards' to support knowledge sharing and skills development in the workplace. This is a resources not courses approach to workplace training by capturing, creating, storing and sharing material using low cost tools and techniques. The same techniques as the big boys and girls use but with accessible and affordable tools.
About the author
Gerald Crittle established and managed at senior level the award winning training centre at Clarkson Evans. He also managed phase two of the Technology Exemplar Network on behalf of BECTA now provides a range of Business Support Services.
If you are a small medium enterprise with a skills need please contact me it would be great to talk about your requirements and possible solutions.
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