A group consisting of 22 government representatives from the Bavarian region in Germany recently visited Bergzicht Training and Development in a bid to learn more about the work that the NGO does to alleviate unemployment in the Western Cape.

During the visit to Bergzicht Training and Development’s campus in Stellenbosch, which was organised by the Department of the Premier of the Western Cape Government and Dr Dirk Brand, a former Director: International Relations in the Western Cape Government, the group attended an information session on the NGO and interacted with students within their classrooms.

The group is currently visiting the Western Cape, a partner region of Bavaria for 22 years, to educate themselves on a range of topics including the functioning of government systems in this region, teaching and education, safety, social issues, skills development training, development projects and culture.

“Bavaria and the Western Cape have had a bilateral partnership for 22 years and over the years it has grown extensively to now also include various organisations in addition to the two governments.  The partnership has deepened and created many projects with non-governmental organisations, universities, business and a network of friendships that has developed out of this formal co-operation,” explains Brand, who formally managed the partnership agreement between the two regions since 1995 and is currently working for the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University.

“A visit to Bergzicht Training and Development creates a good understanding of what can be done and has been done in the past to create new opportunities for employment and economic independence through skills development and training.  Bavaria, although well-known for an excellent vocational training system, faces new challenges with many unskilled or not suitably skilled migrants in a multi-cultural setting.  There are perhaps experiences that the two regions can share in this regard.”

During the classroom visit, Bergzicht Training and Development facilitators provided the visitors with a breakdown of the focus of the courses and programmes they teach while students shared their experiences of studying at Bergzicht Training and Development, the challenges they faced in accessing skills development training of this nature and also responded to a range of questions that the group had. The visitors also briefly spoke about their participation in the 18-month programme for the development of senior managers in the Bavarian government and about their role within the German government structure.

According to one of the visitors, Dr Jochen Eid of the State Ministry of the Interior of Bavaria, the visit was a “valuable” experience for both the experts on educational and social affairs who formed part of the group and the group as whole.

“Bergzicht Training and Development is a great example of what can be done to overcome the circle of poverty. It has been a very positive experience to feel the good vibrations and the atmosphere of trust at Bergzicht Training and Development. Providing hands-on education and teaching practical skills adresses one of the most urgent needs of society. We were also impressed by the holistic approach of bringing together education and employment. The combination of vocational training and the in-house Placement Bureau is of real value and could be used as a blueprint for training facilities in other countries as well,” says Eid.

According to Ms Renske Minnaar, CEO of Bergzicht Training and Development, visits like these are important as it creates opportunities for Bergzicht Training and Development to share its mission and goals with overseas visitors and build relationships with foreign government officials that could possibly lead to international partnerships in future.

“However, it also allows us to expose our students to visitors from other countries, to learn about those visitors’ life stories and hopefully it gets our students thinking of the possibilities in a world that extends far beyond Stellenbosch, the Western Cape and South Africa’s borders,” says Minnaar.

Photo (above): A group of 22 government representatives from the Bavarian region in Germany recently visited Bergzicht Training and Development. The group is participating in an 18-month programme for the development of senior managers in the Bavarian government along with a few participants from other countries, including China. In the front row are Dr Jochen Eid, Florian Baier, Sabine Greindl, Christina Rölz, Xinchiang Ling, Rebecca Klein, Beatrice Becke, Dominic Reinkowski, and Renske Minnaar (CEO of Bergzicht Training and Development). In the back row are Tobias Rau, Korbininan Zanker, Johannes Frik, Dr Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, Dr Peer Friess, Nico Waibel, Tanja Decker, Dr Dirk Brand, Melanie Habelitz-Wollgam, Andreas Fricke, Julia Schmid, Klaas Wellhausen, Sebastian Röhrig, and Ulrich Spelsberg-Korspeter. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)