The Czech government's trade promotion agency, CzechTrade, the Czech branch of the international audit and consultancy company Deloitte & Touche and the consultancy firm Adwise have launched a new service for Czech companies - a practical training course aimed at helping companies with gathering information about foreign markets, building knowledge management systems, and improving their presentation skills.
The course is meant to be widely affordable even for companies that lack the resources to train their staff for foreign trade. According to the director of CzechTrade, Martin Tlapa, human resources directly influence competitiveness of companies on both domestic and foreign markets. Training and further education should therefore be an integral part of a corporate strategy. However, Czech firms neglect professional training of their employees: whereas a Czech employee spends around 25 hours a year on further education, the EU average is much higher. In some countries, such as Denmark, Ireland and Spain it is as much as 40 hours a year.
While large corporations can usually afford to implement complex training schemes and systematically develop their human resources, small and medium-sized enterprises often lack the funds needed to train top professionals in international trade and to realise large export contracts.
"In any economy, the small and medium-size enterprise segment is the backbone of the economy. It employs the largest number of people and has the largest potential for growth. That is why as we move towards becoming members of the European Union, we have to work with the small and medium-size sector to try to bring in the competitiveness and the productivity that is so necessary for them to be able to export to other countries."
What are you offering them, how will they benefit from the project?
"We are offering international knowledge and information that may not be available to them here in the Czech Republic at this time, everything from information about EU programmes and wide-ranging opportunities that exist when the Czech Republic becomes a member of the EU, to marketing, to business development, to clients abroad - to give them the information and know-how that is necessary for them to be able to become competitive in an export-oriented world."
Can you tell us more about the course itself? Will it be a formal instruction or should have a practical outcome?
"I don't think it is a question of instruction. It is exchange of information and know-how and it is not to tell them only but to exchange it so that they can take it from there and bring it out further and expand it within their business and within their area of operation. So, it is an exchange of information in areas from the EU to marketing and everything in between."
This should help Czech companies succeed on foreign markets. Do you expect any measurable outcome, any measurable results in a certain period of time?
"It is very hard to put a measurable outcome on this thing. At the end of the day, it will depend on the business to succeed. We are there just to facilitate and improve and help them to that success. So, it is the final step that the business has to take to make sure that they fulfil their full potential and succeed. I do not want to put a number on it but we are convinced that between what the government is doing already, and the government is doing some thing finally, and this initiative, I think you are going to see some export increases in the small and medium-size sector, which is very important for the future of the whole economy."
I also spoke to the director of CzechTrade, Martin Tlapa, and asked him first how the project came to being.
"Our clients asked for such a service. We started with helping companies find business partners abroad but our clients asked for help with presentation skills, with searching for information, with preparation of business plans. This was a demand from our clients to introduce a new top service for them together with professional consultants to develop training in knowledge management."
You mentioned seeking information, presentation skills... Are these the main problems of Czech companies when they want to export, succeed on foreign markets? Or What are the main problems?
"This is a challenge for companies which can be easily improved, because it needs just to invest in the people to help them train these skills. It should significantly increase the competitiveness of Czech companies without any big investment. We are trying to provide this, because it is not only the issue of currency or technology, but so-called soft skills. We are trying to bring these aspects to the attention of the clients and to provide professional service for them to improve these skills."
Is this project focused on the European Union or on the whole world?
"We will be focusing not only on the EU market. Joining the EU is a good pressure for an increase in competitiveness of Czech companies. But we would like to work with the companies to help the top management select priority markets. We are not limited to the EU or any other areas. It will be up to the companies which markets they select according to the competitiveness of the product."
How many companies can take part, given your limited resources?
"We would like to see 20 companies in the first course, and if there are positive results, we have an agreement with Deloitte and Touche to continue with the training for the whole of next year. This is just the beginning and we would like to train many more companies than we are able to now by ourselves."
In your opinion, how many companies would need such training?
"I hope that this course is so good that we should count thousands of companies and I would like to encourage more companies to put the effort and budgets towards training of their own people, because this is something that should significantly increase the competitiveness of Czech exporters."
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