Research has shown the importance of continuous investment in skills (lifelong learning). Small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) in the Netherlands tend to invest relatively little in lifelong learning. Research by the Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs (EZK) has shown that the main obstacle to increased (structural) investment in the continuous development of employees is not a financial but practical. For example, smaller companies find it more difficult to free up personnel to participate in lifelong learning activities, but also find it more difficult to identify learning opportunities suitable to their specific company / sector.
The Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs responded to this challenge with the MKB!dee: A programme that supports SME’s in the development of lifelong learning activities that fit the needs of their specific company type, size and sector. The programme is funded by the Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs and part of the broader MKB Actieplan ('SME Action Plan'). It is implemented by the Dutch national STEM platform supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) which monitors and evaluates the programme. Participating SME’s can apply for a total grant of max. 125.000 euro (individual SME’s) or 200.000 euro (multiple SME’s) for the development of new / experimental lifelong learning activities relevant for their company / sector. The main objective of the MKB!dee programme is twofold:
In addition to general quality criteria, project proposals submitted by SME’s are evaluated on the extent to which they contribute to pre-defined policy objectives of the Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs. These include: