Inception idea: SME mentoring more efficient than sole training

25 years ago, soon after Hungary entered in the capitalist operating mode, the Budapest Business School (BBS) started to put entrepreneurship education on the top of its priority list soon after the change of the regime. It was clear for the school’s management that the role of the small and medium size enterprises, legitimised by the new political establishment, will be crucial for the new democratic society in terms of the economy, employment and social affairs as well.

The experience gained during that period and from the direct involvment in several in European vocational education and training projects (see hereafter) and, as well the feedback of the entrepreneurs participating in the corresponding training showed an astonishing coincidence with international research pointing out that mentoring increasingly proves to be a more effective mechanism than training (e.g. Gray 2011 in International Journal of HRM).

It was also clear that more experienced partners in the field of SMEs were on the western part of Europe so in order to do research, to develop curricula in subjects aiming the development of SMEs good partners were to be sought in the old EU countries. And, of course, beyond the bilateral cooperation, appropriately conceived EU education programmes (Erasmus, Leonardo, etc.) were at hand to ensure incentives for multilateral cooperation in research, education and vocational training.

The major milestones were: An important comparative study of the SME systems of 8 countries in the strand “European materials” of the Leonardo programme was carried out giving an in depth analysis of old and new systems.

On that basis a complete Master level curriculum was developed in the frames of a Virtual campus development project which have been built in BBS’s Master in entrepreneurship programme accredited recently on national level. It was quickly realised that a massive need for entrepreneurship trainings manifested under Master level and with even more vocational focus.

This led BBS to a series of projects, Leonardo and Erasmus+, which have developed or are about developing training materials for SMEs addressing their lack of awareness of new management tools and their capacity and capability for process improvement to enable them to compete on local, domestic and later on global markets.

  • Such developments were aimed at the improvement of human environment of SMEs (ADAPTYKES) or at the generational change process improvement (INSIST).
  • Another project (ENELFA) helped develop 30 on-line modules in the field of entrepreneurship for adults giving the possibility to compose different non degree e-learning courses tailored to the needs of specific clusters of SMEs and facilitating the on-line work of the teaching staff of the partner institutions.

These projects proved to be successful and followed the main trends of international development thanks to the well balanced and selected partnerships.
However, the experience gained from the trainings and the feed-back of the participant entrepreneurs showed an astonishing coincidence with international research pointing out that mentoring increasingly proves to be a more effective mechanism than training (e.g. Gray 2011 in International Journal of HRM).

This point was the genesis of this project:

  • the partners realised that a new approach is needed to create easier access to SMEs that is to apply a two-step programme:
    • train mentors for SMEs (target group No1)
    • and then let them, with their new mentoring competencies and skills, offer their services to the SMEs (target group No2). The academic training aspect for the SMEs disappears and the professional support’s transfer will be realised in a more personal and convivial environment.
  • The project “TRUST ME” will develop a sophisticated curriculum for mentors and start the development of networks of mentors with the long term objective to create national networks covering regions, countries and whole European regions.
  • The partners’ competences are complementary which justifies the transnational character of the project.
  • One key outcome of the project will be a guide on how SME support centres can be established in VET institutions – on the basis of the experiences accumulated by the partners during the long date cooperation, and how this establishment should be replicated in VET institutions in partner countries and in other EU states. The ambitious goal is to give guidelines how VET institutions can improve the relevance of their education to the labour market and enhance their overarching contribution to the competitiveness of SMEs.