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Project Info

SHARPEN stands for 'SMEs HRM Attraction, Retention and Performance Enhancement Network'. 

This is a 3-year project starting 1st September 2016 to the 31st August 2019 funded by the Erasmus Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education projects. The project consists of 5 partner institutions, namely Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK) Finland, Technical University Liberec (TUL) Czech Republic, Zwickau Westachsische-Hochschule (ZUAS) Germany, The University of Huddersfield (UoH) the United Kingdom and Socialiniu Mokslu Kolegija Klaipeda (SMK) Lithuania. 

Many SMEs in the home region of the institutions are facing similar challenges about human resource management (HRM) issues. Thus, the primary objective of this project is to leverage on the people management knowledge, experiences and competencies of all the partner universities to develop a specialization course using technology, innovative delivery methods, and creative resourcing through unique, interactive learning activities. Also, the project supports the attunement of curricula to the current and emerging labor market needs in the partner regions through research collaboration with a handful of key business organizations such as the Chambers of Commerce, Entrepreneurs Association, and local SMEs. The project also aims to increase the digital proficiencies, cultural and language competencies of the partner institutions, both staff and students to better fit in today's globalized and digitalized economy. The partners will join forces to develop an e-learning module which is divided into three phases.

Phase 1 of the module is run simultaneously across five partner universities, teaching similar syllabus through virtual courses, video lectures, webinars, contact hours and independence studies. In phase 2, five outstanding participants will have a chance to participate in the 'Intensive Study Program' (ISP) in one of the partners university location where all representatives from different universities will meet and participate in workshops, cultural activities, seminars to deepen their knowledge based on the information developed in the first phase. During the ISP, cross-border project teams will be formed and they will continue to work together from their respective location to produce practical tools which the project team hopes will bring insights and effective solutions that will improve the process or knowledge of the SMEs in the aspect of human resource management as the final output for Phase 3. In this way, the students will have in-depth knowledge about SMEs, and deeper knowledge about HRM topics and the application with hands-on experiences. The students will also gain more awareness to manage people more effectively in SMEs and multi-cultural environments.

The story behind SHARPEN

In 2013, two of the partners met in the International Week in Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. The discussions led to the idea of helping SMEs to better understand the young talent pool and vice versa, for graduating students to know SMEs better as a prospective employer. A joint research was carried out and the idea was refined after the research.

In 2014, the refined idea was pilot tested with an SME in Kajaani, Finland. Two teams, one from Kajaani University of Applied Sciences and another from Zwickau University of Applied Sciences developed an HR framework for the company and the model was further developed into solutions specific for the company through three theses covering different aspects of people management activities (performance and reward management, talent retention and HR process management). The partner SME was very pleased with the result. This is a strong indication that the idea may also benefit and work for other SMEs.

After the pilot project, more partners joined forces. The rest is history. Now, the idea has become reality, where five regions, five partner universities pooled their knowledge and resources together to make this a successful, beneficial project for their students and most importantly, the SMEs, and to support the development of their respective home regions.

Technical University in Liberec, Faculty of Economics