American small businesses have a long-standing reputation as being great places to learn on-the-job skills, but in recent years, these firms have also begun to seek outside help to train employees, according to a poll by the National Federation of Independent Business. About 48 percent of small firms surveyed in the National Small Business Poll used industry-specific or trade association resources for employee training within the past three years.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents employing five or more people (up to 250 employees) said they held membership in an industry-specific trade association or business organization. Of those, 83 percent noted that one or more of these groups offer materials or programs specifically designed to train or upgrade some employees' skills.

The most common form of employee training immediately after hiring is to work with someone already in the firm (six out of 10 employers). The next most frequent training method is for an employee to learn by doing the job, adopted by 14 percent. Eleven percent send employees to an outside seminar or course.

The poll noted that few use self-help materials, such as manuals or videos, online courses, or distance learning, but 71 percent confirmed that they had used outside organizations in the past three years to train employees.