Network F Supporting the adaptability of firms and employees to structural economic changes and the use of information technology and other new technologies.
Project name Opole e-Craftsman
Project number F0551

Project description

The objective of the project is to support development and grow competitiveness of craftsmanship through increasing the degree craft firms can adjust to structural changes in the economy using new technologies. The beneficiaries are 45 craftsmen - employers, 35 employees from craft firms and 25 apprentices. The Partnership will analyse their ability to cooperate, level of knowledge and professional skills and willingness to improve qualifications.

The objective is to improve competence of craft shop owners and their workers in terms of using new IT and communication technologies in their work.

It is to result in increased use of the technologies in craft shops, sales of goods and services, financial operations and settlements with Social Insurance Company and Tax Office. Another task of the Partnership is to help craft shops through developing a comprehensive and innovative model of assistance. Project owners also want to promote continuing education as a necessary element of operating in the ever-changing economic environment.

The main outcome of the project includes four elements. The first is a training model made of customized modules: information and communication technologies (basics of using computers for text editing, using Internet, learning software that supports small business, e-Craftsman platform, presentation of the firm using ICT tools), management module (including legal issues, multidimensional approach to company management in financial, accounting, human resources, technology and production quality terms) and use of computers in practice (modern techniques of design, manufacture, and measurements). The beneficiaries will have an opportunity to learn how to use software for and operate modern numerically controlled machine tools.

The next element of the outcome is a consultancy model for Human Resource and Business Counseling Centre. Counseling topics will usually match training topics in order to maximize the effectiveness of helping the target group become competitive compared to larger manufacturing companies. The Centre's specialists will have to choose appropriate advisers (business, legal, personnel, and vocational ones), who, in a customized manner, will help craftsmen not only learn how to invest in modern production technology, but also how to solve various problems they may normally encounter (including personal problems). Counseling services will be delivered both at the centre and in the field.

The outcome will also include a model for building craftsmanship clusters as a network of extensive cooperation within craft sector, developed on the basis of Austrian experience. Clusters' operation will require cooperation between companies based on a system of mutual discounts, placing orders, making purchases within the cluster and joint promotion and marketing activities. The cooperation will facilitate integration of underdeveloped firms with high-capacity companies through exchanging orders. The cluster model for stimulating cooperation will be tested on a group of about 15 craft firms with no focus on a particular sector.

All the modules will share one common element that ensures use of the skills by the beneficiaries and continuing education in crafts sector: a web platform based on "4 x e" concept. Virtual "e-Workshop" is an environment that will be created especially for craftsmen. "e-Craftsmanship Community" is another part of the portal supporting consolidation of the sector's workers. It will contain such elements as dedicated discussion fora, e-learning courses, and e-messenger for crafts sector. The next element of the "4 x e" concept is "e-marketing" for craftsmen. The portal will integrate individual promotion tools for specific shops, such as their web sites or an e-shop
run jointly by craftsmen.

The last component of the web platform is "e-Teacher of Craftsmanship". The concept includes integration of e-learning courses at the "Opole e-Craftsman" portal. It will become a continuing education tool enabling the users to decide on the training topics, the pace and the limits of learning. Training topics will be constantly updated, depending on the declared interest and legal and organizational changes as well as social and economic developments. On-line training will complement classroom courses and counseling offered by the project. Additional products of the Partnership include training programs, counseling procedures (a model for cooperation with craftsmen and apprentices) and a methodology guide for building crafts clusters.

The dissemination strategy for the project's outcomes includes use of the following methods and tools: campaigns in TV, press, and radio, local campaigns promoting the benefits of using information and communication technology, informative meetings with target group representatives, and presentations of the results at meetings with supranational partners. The Partnership will also publish a guide and issue CD's containing information about implementation of the project. It will also be posted at "e-Craftsman" web site.