As part of the Gedling Borough Council led international project ‘Increasing Small & Medium sized Enterprises engagement with Apprentices’ NGi have been leading two peer reviews of partner activity in Poznan (Poland) and Sofia (Bulgaria). Our peer review team is made up of partners from the countries named previously as well as Canada and Germany. The aim is to be a critical friend.
A truly good friend will compliment you on those things that you do well; they may learn from you and adopt good practice. But, they will also tell you in a constructive and sensitive way of anything that you could do better.
This then is what we’ve been doing, for a week the visitors review the programmes partners have put in place to encourage a micro, small and medium sized business to take on more apprentices. They then tell the hosts what they’ve learned from them about good practice and those things that could be improved.
So, to whom have we talked to? Well first and foremost SMEs, apprentices and other stakeholders such as teachers/trainers from other organisations and government departments/agencies with responsibility for the successful running of apprenticeships in those countries. Each host showcases their operations and makes sure we meet the beneficiaries of their actions. For the visiting team this has been a fascinating experience, in each country we’ve met a really diverse range of SME businesses from those operating in the ‘Information Technology’ Sector to retailers, beauticians, security system manufacturers, Media Sales and Production and CSR consultants. In addition we’ve met a host of talented young people all of whom speak excellent English.
Then we talk to the staff at our partner, this has been an honest dialogue, both respectful yet challenging, such sessions allow for reflection. The benefit to those partner’s who have been reviewed, is an evaluation involving those who have their best interest at heart – a critical friend.
Both organisations represented by Andrzej Grzeskowiak who is the Director of ZSL Technical School in Poland and Mariana Tancheva Head of the International Department at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce have found the experience enormously beneficial. One interesting aspect to emerge is the shared view that they’ve particularly appreciated having an international perspective. This has generated evaluation that is seen to be fresh, Mariana said “We like hearing about best practice from abroad and the new ideas that create opportunities for us.” Andrzej says “We’ve learned a lot, already our strategy to partner for business has changed, we now seek to work with medium sized businesses rather than larger companies.”