How do you cooperate with the Czech people?
“Most of the professions in my working life included cooperation with companies, institutions, or regional authorities in the Czech Republic, mostly in the Pilsen Region. Since 2008 I‘m responsible for the joint office of IHK Regensburg and the Czech-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Prague and I share this task with two smart female colleagues in Pilsen. Over the years I got to know many different people and could create a widespread and growing network. I’m lucky that many of these contacts have developed into more or less close friendships although I didn’t really succeed with the Czech language. I’m sorry! Besides my job, I try to give some support to the Center Bavaria Bohemia as a vital cross-border network and platform for people-to-people activities. Overall, I feel privileged and I’m grateful for the experiences in this cross-border topics, especially with all the inspiring colleagues I met so far.”
West Bohemia and Bavaria were historically quite closely linked. These ties were severed by the war and the Iron Curtain. In the thirty years since the Velvet Revolution, have they been fully established again?
“I was born close to the borderline and grew up with the impressions and realities of the iron curtain. Some of the most moving moments in my life were the first meetings and handshakes of people during these weeks in January 1990. I think really most of the people on both sides recognize the open borders and all the perspectives of this Bavarian-Czech neighborhood as a gift. The common traditions, the cultural heritage, the open labor market and especially the intense network between companies, schools, municipalities, and universities have created a strong and sustainable relationship in our border region.”
How does the cooperation between German companies and businesses work with Czech schools? Does it even work?
“German companies in general are very experienced in cooperation with schools and vice versa. Approximately 2/3 of school absolvents start their job career in the dual vocational training system so the connection between both sectors is strong and diverse. Although the system on the Czech side is different the cooperation between companies and schools makes sense anyway. We support such cooperations very actively because there is a win-win for young people preparing for a job as well as the companies who want to qualify their future employees and specialists. Practice-based training in the office or on the shop floor combined with good theoretical knowledge founded by the vocational schools should be the focus. Around 10 companies in the Pilsen Region (mostly subsidiaries of German companies)have established this model in close cooperation with regional vocational schools and they show good results. Our General Manager Roundtable, an established network of German companies based in West Bohemia, also supports projects like „Pupils discover technology“in elementary schools to win them for technical subjects and lessons. The interest and also feedback from the schools are quite positive.”
What does the collaboration between companies, universities, and municipalities in Germany look like?
“Municipalities in Germany are keen on a good school and qualification infrastructure, and they invest a lot of money to provide good conditions. The vocational training sector is at eye level with the academic sector and both qualification sectors have their career prospects and of course also a linkage. Very interesting in this case is the strategy of theDeggendorf Institute of Technology(Technische Hochschule Deggendorf/THD). They have established a regional network of 15 technology campuses in the border region between Passau and Weiden. This campus network represents technology transfer units in various technical disciplines, always fixed on the resources and core technologies of leading companies in the respective region. The investment for a campus often is a public-private partnership between municipalities, companies, and regional funds of Bavarian state resp. EU. Overall, the collaboration is really creative and intensive.”
What of this would be appropriate to bring to us, to the Czech Republic?
“Together with representatives from German companies I was invited to a few panels for the innovation strategy of the Pilsen Region. From my point of view, this process is is on the right track. We are open-minded and try to manage topics in a partnership way with our Czech colleagues. The border situation was an obstacle for so many years. In the last thirty years and especially in the last decade the border is more and more of a driving force for innovation and cross-border cooperation with added value. I see great awareness for this fact on both sides and we meet on a level playing field.”
If some German businessman approached you with the question: Should my company expand to the Czech Republic? Should I build my new factory in the Pilsen Region? What would you say to him?
“In the past 30 years more than 150 companies from Bavaria established companies, production sites, sales and service points or start-ups in the Pilsen Region and nearly all of them developed quite well. Together with our partners of the Chamber of Commerce in Pilsen we supported this process. The Pilsen region shows excellent economic figures for years now and due to its good locational factors, it is one of the most innovative and successful in the Czech Republic. A limiting factor for the whole border region is the workforce. On the other hand, there is so much quality and perspectives for life to win qualified people from other regions/countries to come here. Furthermore, we must respond to the change happening in many industries for more sustainable products, services, and business models.Therefore, the advice for an investment is very individual and depends on the goals of the investor.”