Do you own or work for a ICT micro-company?

Are you a freelance or sole trader willing to go next level and hire people to work for you?
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SKILLS+ Learning Resources "fill in" the programme structure developed in the previous activity with the contents that lead to soft skills development in ICT micro-enterprises.

The materials consist of a number of short learning units (learning "snacks") as specified in SKILLS+ Development Programme (O3) and  have followed the approach of single-concept learning or "thin slicing", which is about isolating a single concept and, with very limited information, delivering a powerful impact. 

These learning resources are published within the Skills+ Learning Platform.

This handbook is a collection of learning resources to develop the “soft skills” of small future
entrepreneurs, especially those freelance IT specialists, who are considering to take the “next step” and build a company of their own.

Soft skills are sometimes also referred to as "people skills"; they accompany the hard skills and help an organization use its technical expertise to full advantage. Soft skills can also be defined as the wide variety of business skills and they are increasingly becoming as important as the “hard skills” of today's work force.

The ICT sector plays an important role in the economy in its own right and as a vital supplier to the private, public and third sectors. The majority of those that work in the ICT sector have well developed hard skills and technical knowledge acquired by doing; general up-skilling in the ICT sector has been observed in the last few years. However, soft skills are still among the key skills gaps; according to both European and national evidence, a range of soft skills will become
increasingly important for both ICT specialists and the rest of the sector’s workforce.

Over 99% of ICT firms in ICT sector are SMEs, of which about 90% are micro-sized companies (< 10 employees). Within micro-sized ICT firms across Europe there had been little focus on soft skills development. Of all enterprises, micro-sized firms spend the least resources on lifelong learning. The lack for specially tailored material combined with not-so-easy access and high cost causes low usage.

The (former) sole trader becoming an employer needs new skills to deal with employees and manage their talent for the benefit of the company; the employees need to become more
entrepreneurial, creative, innovative and customer oriented in order to create higher value for their company. The need to develop these soft skills is transnational, and the demand for training will continue to grow especially if it can be delivered in a cost & time-effective manner.

The SKILLS+ project was initiated by six training and business coaching organisations from three countries: the Spektrum Educational Center Foundation and Csík-region Association of
Entrepreneurs from Romania, Fundacion Tecnologia Social from Spain, X-Panel Ltd. The project’s main target group is the first few employees of micro-sized ICT enterprises, and the (former) sole trader becoming a small employer, by increasing competitiveness of micro enterprises in the ICT sector, through the development of soft skills.

The need for development of soft skills in micro-companies in ICT sector has been confirmed by various studies and documents, and further researched using a common approach in all partner countries, so that the findings are comparable, and learning methodology and resources
developed in the project meet the most expressed needs of the target group. Following the
analysis of available European level research, the partners carried out local research in attempt to identify the most important/ necessary soft skills in the ICT sector of their regions. According to the research the most important soft skills to be developed in the ICT micro-companies in partner regions are: communication, problem solving, teamwork, learning mindset, creativity, leadership, strategic thinking, customer service, innovation, risk management.

E-learning was considered a suitable soft skills development tool therefore a learning space was designed and made available in multiple languages via the website.

The present handbook was published as an alternative to the online learning space, to support the soft skills development through classroom-based activities or personal coaching, and it can be used by trainers and individual learners too.

The visual elements of the handbook are inspired by the graphic design of the learning space:
a treasure hunt, where small companies are old clippers roaming around the Sea of Knowledge, where there are hidden treasures and trading opportunities on each island, unexplored cities and unknown spaces. 

The hidden treasures and products are the skills that enable future small entrepreneurs to
navigate effectively their environment, work well with others, perform well, achieve goals and guide their team members to do so.

The islands represent the knowledge units, which are made up of knowledge pills, which are
represented by the buildings. A knowledge pill is the basic item for our learning approach, these are short documents build up of practical theory, examples and lessons learned and integrate some questions for reflection which you can use for analyzing your situation.

The names of all islands have some historical reference related to the age of the Renaissance, and each building is modelled after famous or less known Renaissance buildings across Europe. 

Leaf through this handbook, stop at the soft skills that you think you need to upgrade and …enjoy the quest!