Policy and implementing partners from the 21 Manager Training Programme countries met at two online workshops to discuss the innovations to the Programme planned for 2022 and to share their experiences carrying out the Programme during the pandemic. Around 150 participants, including representatives of German and foreign embassies, got together on screen on November 17 and 18. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) hosted the event.
"During the pandemic, the Manager Training Programme again proved to be an effective and internationally recognised instrument for promoting foreign trade. It adapted to the pandemic and the new needs of partners, and evolved accordingly," State Secretary at the BMWi Claudia Dörr-Voß said as she welcomed the online guests. "The numbers show how well the Programme was received in its virtual format. In 2021, we worked with 51 groups and a total of about 1,000 participants," Dörr-Voß said. On the second day of the workshop, Director-General for European Policy at the BMWi Dr Kirsten Scholl opened the meeting and talked about the current economic situation. "Cooperation between companies is the key to overcoming the ongoing crisis," Scholl said, adding, "BMWi and GIZ have developed a new training concept for international managers. The MP has a clear future as a platform for German and foreign companies."
Personal interactions essential
Head of the Programme Anne Jach-Kemps (GIZ) shared details on the new programme format and process on both days. "We want to use the experience from the pandemic and the associated boost in digitalisation to strengthen economic cooperation by consistently adapting modern teaching and learning techniques. We have incorporated feedback from our partners into improving the Programme." Jach-Kemps added that the Programme would focus on bilateral meetings and sustainable alumni work in future. At the same time, she asserted, "personal exchange can never be replaced."
In 2022, the Programme will be launched in a social blended learning format, a combination of online and in-person modules. Here peer-to-peer exchange and advising among participants will be key training methods essential to successful learning and cooperation. A tutor-assisted implementation phase will help participants initiate changes in their companies and realise their cooperation plans with the German business community even more effectively. The Programme will conclude with a networking event with MP alumni and local German business institutions to meet the demand for long-term, sustainable, and stable networks. A new, unique learning platform (MP Campus) has been specifically tailored for the Programme and will support and enhance virtual training delivery while promoting communication among participants.
In virtual break-out rooms, conference participants met in smaller groups to discuss the concrete roll out of the adapted programme format, the role of partner organisations, and further programme development. They also talked about the variety of ways the MP has had an impact, the professional development of MP graduates, successful modernisation projects in participating SMEs in the partner countries, and the socio-economic effects. Some partners requested more attention be paid to companies from emerging sectors of the economy, and many said they would continue working to raise the Programme’s profile even higher in their home countries. A number of partner countries also expressed an interest in intensifying exchange amongst themselves.
The key to success: the partnership approach
In a panel discussion, representatives from the BMWi and partner countries talked about ways to strengthen partnerships and create new opportunities for cooperation, and how the MP can help SMEs cope with the economic challenges posed by the pandemic. Yıldız Götze, Head of Division at BMWi, thanked all the partners for their support. "The partnership approach with shared responsibility between Germany and the partner countries is what makes the Programme so successful," she emphasised. Götze went on to praise the uniform, yet sufficiently flexible programme structure for all the countries involved, the shared goals for the benefit of both sides, the sustainability created by continued cooperation, and international networking through the alumni associations as important factors in the Programme’s continuing success and staying power. Finally, she also highlighted "the passion, because we all put our heart and soul into making the Programme more successful."
Representatives from partner organisations described their individual experiences with the online programme. "It has gained more and more acceptance among our entrepreneurs over time," Zaur Gardashov from the Azerbaijani partner organisation Small and Medium Business Development Agency (SMB) said. On the new programme format starting in 2022, he added, "This will allow us to take the MP to the next level. The combination of online and in-person elements will help our participants develop working relationships with the German business community even more effectively." His colleague Mritunjay Kumar, who coordinates the MP in India for the partner organisation FICCI (Federation of Indian Industries), praised the future programme design: "It is a good mix of seminars, practical examples, and business in practice. Also, the virtual courses mean our participants, most key decision-makers, will be spending less time away from their desks in future, so they can continue to take care of business during the Programme." Like Gardashov, he also pointed to how the MP has contributed to increasing the competitiveness of participating executives' companies.
Inesa Iordatii from the Vocational Training Centre of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Chisinau, reported from Moldova: "The online format was a real challenge for all of us, but our partners’ great professionalism is a strength that benefits us all." Moldovan companies are trying to reprofile themselves using online formats and digital platforms, Iordatii said. "This helps them find new business partners." In the Eastern European country, companies have significantly benefitted from the Programme and discovered a lot of new ideas for their business strategies, she added. Ivana Fernández Stohanzlova, Director of Institutional Outreach at the Mexican Ministry of Economy, said the MP has generated a lot of close collaborations. The virtual format was also well received in Mexico, she added. "Another benefit on our end was that we had the opportunity to meet with executives from Chile in virtual groups as well, so it opened another networking avenue on a regional level."“
Together, the panellists looked to the future. "For the brightest possible future, we want to take advantage of online options while strengthening the parts programme that have proven so effective over time. There will be no going back to the old format, even after the pandemic, but we plan to combine the best of the online and the offline worlds," Yıldız Götze explained. .
In a wrap-up session, Anne Jach-Kemps applauded partner countries and stakeholders for being so well-prepared to keep the MP going in the new format. "We know the needs of our partners and continue to elicit their input so we can keep optimising the Programme," she said. Yıldız Götze added, "I am pleased with all the feedback that has shown how successful we’ve been in generating interest in the new format. Active exchange with partners is what keeps the MP so dynamic." Once again, she emphasised that challenges could only be mastered through joint effort. Yıldız Götze then ended on a positive note: "Today we have not only strengthened our business ties; we have built on some personal ones too. We look forward to expanding all the online contacts with face-to-face visits soon. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet in person to celebrate the MP’s 25th anniversary in 2023.".