THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
Research over the past decade indicated that the SME sector has experienced the most difficulty in facing and overcoming language and intercultural barriers in the exporting market. In 2007 the extensive ELAN Survey confirmed and identified loss of a minimum of 11% of the cross-border trading. ELAN also showed a clear deficiency in business awareness concerning the links between multi-lingual company strategies and improved export trade.
There is a clear need for companies in the established member states to develop links and trade with the accession countries. In order to expand trade with Europe the experienced, new and accession countries need to help companies overcome both identified linguistic and intercultural barriers. In-CLASS addresses both the gap of foreign language skills as well as the need for improving the understanding of intercultural differences in the European member states.
In-CLASS project responds to these issues through the Language and Communication Audit. The assistance provided by the implementation of language audits to enable SMEs to improve their competitiveness enables more companies to survive and expand through export and in so doing retain higher levels of employment. Furthermore this creates new job opportunities by introducing new employment categories through the consultants and scheme managers.
The main objectives of the project were:
• To review the feasibility of audit schemes in Romania and Italy and expansion in Hungary; to adapt,produce and enhance the training materials in the three partner languages, and to implement and trial these materials by training auditors and carrying out pilot Communication reviews of SMEs in the target countries (and so encourage the business services support system to adapt accordingly).
• To pilot language and communication audit schemes for SMEs in Romania, Italy and Hungary with the aim of identifying language barriers facing SMEs and finding solutions on how to overcome them;
• To establish a quality training framework and accreditation model based on Protocol 1 and 2
• To disseminate good practice from the EURICA and ECLAT projects
• To develop practical materials localised for each country’s particular environment for the Auditor training workshops
• To establish a website for exchange of information
• To develop downloadable multilingual e-materials for training auditors in three languages (RO,IT, HU)
• To enhance existing practice by the exchange of information with Hungarian trainers, who have implemented the scheme
• To select and train 15 language auditors across three countries (RO, IT and HU)
• To pilot European language audits in 30 SMEs across Romania, Italy and Hungary and report on the impact
• To review progress and produce a report in three languages with a summary in English
• To provide on-line access for trained consultants to access necessary tools and resources so as to complete LCAs.
• To provide on-line access for companies to utilise multilingual resources and sources of information to assist them in expanding their export potential and overcoming barriers to trade.
The project met the initial objectives and had an increase in results. The partnership set out to train 15 language communication auditors across the three countries and we managed to train 42. The partnership focused on piloting 30 language audits and we carried out 53. The SMEs that were targeted for the audits came from different economic sectors and thus a greater impact was ensured.
These achievements are important for all the partner organisations because they allowed us to train qualified people, to become more aware of our economic environment and to get in closer contact with the companies in the regions that the audits were made.
In-CLASS project focused on transferring, developing and implementing a new type of European professional: the language auditor specializing in export communication for SMEs in Romania and Italy. In these two countries the scheme did not exist prior to this project. InClass also worked on updating the scheme in Hungary which was the source of the transfer of innovation. Therefore, the project team worked on setting up a new system using skilled and experienced trainers for the training programmes offered. The training sessions supported participants to acquire an innovative approach to personal development whilst increasing their employability. It thus enhanced the already developed system of European LCA auditors, in countries other than the first ones which had adopted it.
The LCA auditor is an expert who has the skills and knowledge to help increase activity in the international market. The audits these experts performed were focused on increasing SME's export trade by introducing an innovative approach in addressing each participating country's particular foreign language and intercultural gaps in the SME sector.
The activities the auditors implemented and the feedback they have received from the beneficiary institutions showed that LCA auditors are extremely important and that they provide concrete input for the bettering of the international business of SMEs.
1. Feasibility and Implementation Plan for Ro, HU, IT - The Language and Communication Audit (LCA) is an auditing scheme to help companies understand where they need to improve in order to increase their business turnover. The scheme goes hand in hand with the ELAN study, which was undertaken in 2006 on behalf of the European Commission and led by Semantica (Romania being one of the countries that participated in that study as well). That study clearly showed that the Language and Communication Audit scheme is highly essential in order to help the countries’ SMEs. The feasibility and implementation Plan is part of the LCA implementation process meaning to identify to what extent this scheme is necessary in Romania, Hungary and Italy. The LCA as stated above is an auditing scheme to help companies understand where they need to improve in order to increase their business turnover. The scheme goes hand in hand with the Elan study, which was undertaken in 2006 on behalf of the European Commission and led by Semantica. All the participating countries in this project also took part in the Elan study. It clearly showed that the Language and Communication Audit scheme is highly essential in order to help the countries’ SMEs. The feasibility study is part of the implementation meaning to identify to what extent this scheme is necessary.
2. European (trans-national) summary in English of overall Feasibility and Implementation Plan for IN-CLASS as applied to each of partner countries - This is a trans-national summary of the three national (IT, RO, HU) Feasibility and Implementation plans that was created in order to provide suggestions for a common transferable approach, with a focus on paving the way for an extension of the LCA in other countries in the future.
3. Auditors Training Syllabus - The creation of the Syllabus of the Auditors Training was lead by Inno-Motive, with input from each project partner. This syllabus represents the the content and duration of the training.
4. In-CLASS Auditors Training Manuals (EN, RO, IT and HU version of the training materials + annexes) - The Auditor Training Manual is based on the previous resources developed in the projects that make the subject of the current Leonardo da Vinci - Transfer of Innovation project. This Manual is to be used to multiply the In-CLASS Auditors Training and to deliver them upon the completion of the project life. It includes the content of the trainings and of the subsequent audits, plus the instruments to be used, the methodology, the examples (case studies) for practical guidance, as well as annexes resources that could be used by Auditors.
5. Project website (www.inclass-project.eu) - The project website has a two fold aim:
- the first and most immediate aim is that of promoting information about the project to the general public and offering of indicators on what the Language and Communication Auditing Scheme aims to achieve (public area);
- the second objective is that of creating an online environment where project promoters, auditors (trained and potential), scheme managers and SMEs could interact (private area).
The public area of the website is available in English and in the languages of the partnership (Romanian, Italian, Hungarian). The private area will only be available in English, as this is an area where transnational exchange of expertise and communication will take place. This area will also act as a depository of various LCA resources, tools, case studies, support information in the languages of the partnership.
6. In-CLASS Scheme Managers Handbook (EN, RO, HU and IT versions of the Handbook + annexes) - The Scheme Managers Handbook is based on the previous resources developed in the projects that make the subject of the current Leonardo da Vinci - Transfer of Innovation project. This Handbook was used to multiply the In-CLASS Scheme Managers in each country.
7. Scheme Managers Trainings - The training of scheme managers ensures that the project has the pool of consultants that will carry out the Management of the Language and Communication Auditing Scheme and will thus contribute to its sustainability upon the completion of the project.
8. Auditors Trainings - The training of auditors ensures that the project has the pool of consultants that will carry out the Language and Communication audits in year 2 of the project implementation and will also contribute to the project sustainability upon the completion of the project.
9. Company Audit Reports - After the trainings for consultants have been carried out in each country the audits were the next step in the preparation process that the future consultants had to undertake. The practical part of the training, the audit, was designed in such a way in which each consultant could better understand the process and the steps that need to be taken when providing such a service. Each consultant has chosen a company and made a report regarding the communication and international aspects. This report has been written in the national language and then translated into English.
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