MARKET ACCESS PROGRAM
Challenge of export marketing
Many of Manitoba’s ICT firms are well positioned to expand beyond Manitoba and Canada’s borders. Mature SMEs have made significant sales and developed technology partnerships in the US, and name other countries with significant Manitoba presence. Manitoba ICT companies want to increase their international marketing, trade and technology partnering activities as they look to expand their successful businesses.
It is a challenge to prepare staff for export activities in a rapidly changing industry. Everyone learns through trial and error, but export is a costly business if it’s not done right the first time. Whether it’s the CEO needing advice in negotiating a new technology partnership in China, a junior account manager attending their first US trade show, or a financial manager needing a crash course on attracting foreign investment -- everyone could use a leg up on learning the ‘tricks of trade’.
There are no existing learning programs in Manitoba that focus primarily on mature SMEs that wish to increase their staff’s knowledge and skills with targeted learning. And nobody has time to attend long courses that may or may not meet their learning needs.
Targeted learning for staff at all levels
On-the-job, on-the-go, targeted learning for staff is the key to getting ready for effective export and trade activities that pay off.
As Manitoba’s ICT industry association, ICTAM is filling the learning opportunities gap for Manitoba companies wanting to expand their export and trade potential – and putting ICT technology to work in the process.
Market Access is a pilot program that uses IT to link staff with the right learning materials and the right people -- at the right time. So SMEs can prepare their employees at all levels for successful export marketing.
Market Access is being developed and tested by Manitoba ICT companies from 2008 to 2010. Up to 8 mature SMEs in the ICT sector in Manitoba will be selected to test the integrated learning system during the pilot phase.
How does Market Access work?
Staff will access customized export-readiness learning materials online that are carefully matched to meet their individual needs. As part of the program, employees will be linked with mentors and peers with experience in the area each employee is learning.
Participating companies and their employees will go through four stages:
- Assessment: An assessment team will help identify the existing skills and knowledge of each employee involved in export, and help the company determine what new skills and knowledge are needed to fill gaps, in order to build overall internal capacity for effective export.
- Targeted learning: Employees will follow their personalized learning plan, engaging with the online learning system and in-person targeted learning programs to fill their knowledge and skills gaps -- based on what they need, when they need it.
- Link to community of practice: Throughout the learning process, people specializing in each area will be assigned to coach and discuss concepts as required by each learner. Learners, mentors, and peers may link online, in person, or by phone through the project’s Community of Practice (CoP).
- Apply new skills: Staff will participate in trade missions and export promotion activities as appropriate, applying new knowledge and skills.
Once individuals in companies complete their initial learning goals, link with mentors and peers, and apply their skills, there will be a second assessment to determine the next set of learning goals -- setting the stage for continuous learning within a company.
Benefits to Manitoba ICT companies
Companies participating in the pilot project will see an increase in export knowledge spread throughout the company.
As Manitoba employees gain more skills and knowledge in export, we expect to see an increasing number of successful trade initiatives out of Manitoba. The bottom line: companies will see a return on their investment in employee learning.
Bringing a wide range of staff into the learning program will improve in-house competencies and the overall workplace environment, resulting in increased marketplace success.
Both online self-assessment and professional assessors will work with each company to identify strengths and knowledge/skills gaps for people who are, or eventually will be involved in export activities. Some people may already have a reasonable level of expertise in a given area, while others need more learning opportunities. The assessment helps reduce redundancy creating more cost- effective training that recognizes existing skills and knowledge.
Integrated Learning System – online, in person
The pilot will develop learning modules in finance, export, product delivery and partnering – all offered in various delivery methods including web-based and traditional instructor-lead modules.
Gap training and education provides flexibility that enables companies to customize their learning program, to address specific areas of need and participate in a way that relates to their individual realities.
The Community of Practice – Mentors, Peers and Learners
A unique feature of this program will be to seed a Community of Practice (CoP) program with experts and mentors to work with learners in a controlled environment that connects learners to the people they need to talk to.
In some cases, learners will be guided to connect with other learners or peers in the program, and in other cases, they will seek guidance from an accredited mentor who is part of the CoP.
The Future of Market Access
ICTAM will be testing the efficiency, effectiveness, and results of the assessment model, using the online learning materials in the workplace, and the CoP model of connecting people for learning development.
Financing, structure, participation by other sectors and jurisdictions will be determined based on the success of the pilot.
For more information, email Nancy Zubriski at email@example.com.