The pandemic year 2020 brought about the biggest change in the 20 years of the Programme, which has been running in a virtual format since August 2020 – and is enjoying increasing popularity. In an interview, Reimut Düring, Head of the Programme, speaks about this significant development and the plans for the future of the MP.
In spring 2020 all Programme activities were stopped. What led to this decision and what consequences did it have?
When entry restrictions were tightened in Germany and the partner countries of the Manager Training Programme in mid-March 2020 due to the coronavirus, it was clear that we would not be able to maintain the Programme format with the four-week stay in Germany. The participants who were in Germany at the time had to travel back to their home countries, and all planned visits of further groups to Germany had to be postponed for the time being. A solution had to be found to continue the Programme. In close consultation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the partners in the 21 Programme countries, we decided to set up a virtual format; with the support of the training centres throughout Germany, it has now been implemented.
What characterises the Virtual Programme?
The participants complete an eight-week online Programme under the “Fit for Partnership with Germany” motto, during which they become familiar with German corporate culture and are prepared for establishing business contacts with German firms. This is done in interactive training sessions and video meetings with German entrepreneurs. The classical components such as visits to companies, further training in the areas of management and B2B meetings all still take place, just in a virtual form. For 2021, a one-week stay in Germany is planned to supplement the digital Programme. During their stay, the participants will have in-person, on-site meetings with German entrepreneurs, visit trade fairs and interact with other Programme participants.
What advantages does this format offer?
The digital Programme format enables our participants to expand their management skills and to build up and strengthen business relationships with German companies – without having to even leave their own firms. Thus, foreign and German participating enterprises are able to establish lasting economic relations and advance their businesses despite the current restrictions related to Covid-19. The training modules in the virtual Programme are highly interactive and provide a lot of room for questions, exchange and personal support. And, following their participation in the Programme, the entrepreneurs become part of a worldwide network with already more than 15,000 alumni.
In 2020 there were also numerous new features for alumni of the MP.
Right from the start, it was important to us to continue the work between the partner countries and Germany and to deepen mutual economic relations. So we wanted to consciously support our alumni in these times of crisis and continue to give them the opportunity for networking with each other. The follow-up events, which are normally held for one or two days in the home country, were also held virtually. We spoke with each partner country to find out which topics concern the enterprises there. The result was a series of online events with specialist lectures, further training and formats for an intensive exchange of experience. Demand remains at a high level, which naturally pleases us very much.
What conclusions do you draw after the first months?
The Manager Training Programme can also be implemented under corona conditions, is well accepted and leads to economic results – as the past months have shown. Roughly 650 managers participated in 2020, many of them very successfully. The numerous business contacts that have been established and the contracts concluded show that the new format is effective, as does the direct feedback from participants. This confirms to us that we are on the right path.
What are the next steps for 2021?
For the time being, the virtual Programme will continue in its current form. It has established itself and we are glad that almost all partner countries are now participating in it. We are expecting more than 54 groups in 2021, who will be participating in the Virtual Manager Training Programme. Nevertheless, we naturally want to enable our foreign managers to have direct contact to the German business sector as soon as possible. A one-week stay in Germany is planned as a complementary element to the virtual Programme in 2021. However, this depends on the global pandemic development and the possibilities for travelling. For the long term, we see hybrid models that comprise both online and physical attendance modules. In the meantime, we are keeping our fingers crossed for all of our participants and alumni for a successful business year. And we hope that our new video clip will convince many more entrepreneurs to apply to participate in the Programme.
You can find out more about the Virtual Manager Training Programm here.