The Manager Training Programme: An Asset to Germany and its Partner Countries

A Mittelstand policy that improves the framework conditions for medium-sized companies and foreign trade promotion that supports medium-sized companies in their overseas endeavours – these are important focuses for the new federal government, which have also been firmly anchored in the coalition agreement.

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, already made the fact that he affords these tasks special status clear during his inaugural speech at the BMWi in January 2014.

I was therefore delighted to be named head of the external economic policy division at the start of the year, and to be able to contribute my many years of experience in Mittelstand policy.

The Manager Training Programme (MP) is an important and successful tool within our external economic policy. At the same time, it is an excellent example of just how the Mittelstand and external economic policy goals of the federal government can be bundled within one single programme. I was already familiar with and appreciated this programme during my many years in Mittelstand policy. I am delighted to now be able to help shape it.

We pursue two strategic courses with this programme:

On the one hand, we wish to strengthen the German Mittelstand. One in four Mittelstand companies is today active on the international market. Despite this, there are still many more, who do not dare venture overseas alone. We wish to provide targeted support for the foreign trade activities of German Mittelstand companies. Besides other foreign trade promotion programmes we offer, the MP provides an excellent opportunity.

German companies like to use the opportunities to establish business relations with foreign managers during their time in Germany – be it by inviting groups to the German company, participating in cooperation exchanges, or engaging in well-prepared one-on-one talks. Around half of the foreign representatives conclude business contracts with German companies during or after participating in the programme.

On the other hand – and this is particularly important to me – the MP is far more than just a funding programme for German companies’ foreign trade activities. The MP is above all a partnership-based programme. We wish to help drive economic development and to strengthen small and medium-sized companies in our partner countries in particular in the process.

Within this, I see a number of different aspects that all help boost a company’s competitiveness: firstly, companies from the partner countries enhance productivity, quality and innovative power at their companies by acquiring modern equipment and technology. Secondly, they are able to access new markets by making contact with German companies and to thus create the conditions necessary to increase their exports. And thirdly, when management executives implement the modern management methods or experience of German companies acquired during their training in Germany in their own company, this can lead to a decisive improvement in the internal company structures, help optimise business practices, and motivate employees. The programme thus creates a real win-win situation for both sides – and this is the real reason for its success.

What’s more, the participants generally remain true to the MP and act as important multipliers in their home countries and as contacts for interested German companies. Regional networks develop from the alumni associations already established in a great many countries, which in turn become an important component of the business community in our partner countries and are increasingly networked among themselves.

Today we look back on over 15 years of development and experience within the MP. And you may rest assured that we will continue to develop this external economic policy tool further in the future and to adapt it to the latest tasks and challenges – and that together, on an equal footing with our partners!

Allow me to outline two topics, which will continue to preoccupy us in the future, by way of example:

  • A reliable, affordable, environmentally-friendly supply of energy is one of the central challenges of our time – in Germany and our partner countries. The MP can offer invaluable starting points for economic cooperation and an exchange of experiences in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energies in particular.
  • Signing of the association agreements, including the comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and selected Eastern Partnership countries, helps drive the economic integration of these countries into the European Economic Area. This opens up new opportunities and markets for companies in the partner countries. At the same time, the pressure on the economy to adapt grows – companies are forever facing major new challenges. We will also have to implement and develop the MP further to support the necessary transformation process.

I look forward to countless personal encounters with programme participants and to fascinating discussions with representatives from our partner countries! Let us together ensure that the MP remains a win-win situation for all involved in the future.