For many corporate managers, small-business owners, and other professionals, the question on their minds may very well be “Did I make my numbers?” Their point of reference, though, is not sales figures but rather passing grades.
Today’s highly competitive global economy demands employees be equipped with the latest knowledge and most thorough education, making continuous adult and professional learning an integral part of life. The Geneva region’s largest centre for professional and continuing education, IFAGE (Institut de formation des adultes de Genève), offers a wide range of courses for interested individuals and business professionals eager to add another dimension to their education and skills. Famous management and leadership gurus like Peter Drucker claim the enhancement of knowledge and skills is one the main challenges of business in the 21st century. Recognising the crucial role of information in modern society, Drucker states that “in no other way can developed countries hope to maintain their positions as top economies, let alone to maintain their leadership and their standards of living, without continuously honing people’s knowledge and productivity”.
As Drucker predicted, globalisation has created an environment of fierce competition among multinational and transnational companies in which new political powers and rising economies are taking their places on the world stage. As a result, the battle for talent has become the new rule of the day. For Jeremy Annen, Managing Director at IFAGE, professional life is no longer a lake of still waters. “Gone are the days when an entire career is spent working at one job in the same business enterprise,” he says. “Today, the fast-evolving workplace requires us to adjust and change jobs at least four times over the course of our careers,” he added.
In a land famous for its rail system, this train of thought is common. Switzerland has recently topped the list of the world’s most competitive economies once again. This accolade comes in no small part for the general recognition that the most important asset of any business is a staff of highly educated and skilled employees. Long before people- centred, knowledge-based management theories were branded like banner flags, Switzerland understood that its paucity of natural resources placed an increased importance on the resources it does have: human beings.
Switzerland’s dynamism is a reflection of its high standard of education at all levels. Swiss universities consistently figure among the top 100 in the world and the country’s vocational training system assures a pool of high-quality and innovative skilled workers exists in a variety of specific fields. However, a recent study by Dr Philipp Gonon of the University of Zurich on the challenges in the Swiss vocational education and training system reports that the apprenticeship market in crisis. He reports a dwindling number of enterprises involved in the program and the ensuing difficulty of would-be apprentices in finding placements. Also, some companies are now favouring apprentices with academic qualifications. According to the report, the future lies in a proper balance and integration of the different educational systems. For those who choose the apprenticeship path, the Swiss education matrix offers the option of earning a professional baccalaureate that guarantees eventual access to higher education. Others continue to learn and acquire new skills through various institutions—both public and private—offering adult learning programs.
However, maintaining economic competitiveness does not end with acquiring a diploma. Adult learning and continuing education play a vital role in keeping the country up to scratch. Eurostat files on lifelong learning showed in 2010 that 30% of Swiss in the 25-64 age bracket continue to take part in education and learning—one of the highest rates in Europe. The Swiss Federation for Adult Learning reports that over two million people participate in the country’s adult education program every year.
Adult Education Open to Everyone
IFAGE was created through the 1998 merger of two educational institutions specialising in commerce and industry, namely the Cours Commerciaux de Genève and the Cours Industriels de Genève. A nonprofit foundation since 2000, IFAGE is now a leader in providing the Geneva/Vaud/French border region with a wide range of high standard study options in continuing adult and professional education. Now, twelve years after its founding, nearly 10,000 students a year take courses at IFAGE in classrooms and through inhouse training and distance-mode education.
One of the goals of IFAGE is to provide reality-based knowledge and skills that correspond to the evolving needs of the marketplace on a continuing basis. For example, more than 200 language courses in 12 languages are offered on various levels, tailored specifically to specialised needs
such as Business English, French For Nurses, and German For Receptionists. IFAGE is an accredited centre for proficiency examinations for many languages and awards language diplomas recognised nationally and internationally.
In addition to the language courses, IFAGE provides basic skills training to diploma level in various fields
such as computer science, accounting, business management, public relations, banking and finance, and business administration, among others. These courses are offered with flexibility regarding class hours and training so that working professionals and busy parents can attend night classes and business enterprises can opt for in-house employee training.
Customised, In-house Courses And Training
One of the strengths of IFAGE lies in study and training courses customised to the needs of junior executives and managers as well as to employees of both local and international business enterprises and organisations. Whether it is a desire for language perfection or a need to acquire specific knowledge and skills, IFAGE collaborates attentively with companies and their employees through participative evaluation and individual interviews in order to design and provide the most appropriate courses and training programs. These in-house programs, based on market and workplace realities, allow flexibility and give clear training objectives that respond to the needs of employees and their companies.
Whether senior manager, junior executive, nonworking parent, or simply someone who wants to broaden professional horizons, IFAGE offers a panoply of choices in adult education.
Article by Jane Tenorio Demaurex