Incorporating the Marshall Memorial Fellowship Experience
The Institute for a Competitive Workforce’s (ICW) Cecilia Retelle recently participated in the Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF) program which was created by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in 1982. The fellowship is designed to introduce a new generation of American leaders to Europe’s political, business, and cultural environment, through experiential learning. Participating fellows visit five cities during a 24-day trip and meet with a range of policymakers and corporate decision makers.
Below, Cecilia discusses two successful education and workforce development programs in Germany and Montenegro.
Workforce Development in Berlin, Germany
Nihat Sorgex founded BildungsWerkstatt, a workforce development center, in Kreuzberg, Germany 25 years ago. This center provides vocational training, job preparation, and job placement services for the unemployed, people seeking to refine or increase their qualifications, and socially disadvantaged youth. Centers like this have helped keep the German unemployment rate significantly lower than most countries in the European Union by providing the business community with a pipeline to fill workforce needs.
Sorgex shared a story with our group about a Lithuanian immigrant who moved to Berlin in search of a career in banking. At the same time, a local bank approached Sorgex about its need to hire bilingual bank tellers. Sorgex provided the appropriate training to the Lithuanian immigrant who then became an employee of the bank. As it turns out, the bank was located in the same neighborhood as The Lithuanian Embassy and before long, word spread in the neighborhood that there was a new bank teller who spoke Lithuanian. Within weeks, nearly all Embassy employees moved their accounts to the bank.
Public-Private Education Collaborative in Podgorica, Montenegro
Montenegro is a small coastal Balkan country with a population of 620,000 and a GDP of $4.087 billion. Prior to 2005, Montenegro did not have a plan for education, let alone an education department. Rather, it was haphazardly educating some children.
In 2005, the Montenegro Education Reform Project launched to strengthen the capacity of the school system by modernizing instructional methods in an effort to prepare students for the 21st century workforce. Additionally, the government created agencies to oversee and improve the country’s education system. One focus for this newly formed education agency was an introduction to quality assurance mechanisms.
Though Montenegro was committed to improving its education system, it wasn’t until the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results were released that the extent of the problem was fully realized. This was when the business community decided to partner to make changes, and make them rapidly. The business community along with the elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions joined together to set objectives, goals, and dates for achieving them. This ensured that all parties were moving in the same direction with the same goals and targets in place. It also helped the young country identify areas of improvement. The leading role that the business community has played in this partnership has allowed for fairly notable improvements in the education system in a short period of time.
In both the Berlin and Montenegro instances, the role of the business community in education and workforce development was vital. In Berlin, the business community clearly stated its workforce needs to an organization with the capability to fill those needs. In Montenegro, the business community helped train the teachers, develop the goals and improve the outcomes of their students. Both are great examples of the important role of the business community in impacting both education and workforce development in ways that are beneficial not just for meeting their needs, but for enhancing the lives of students and workers.