Picture: Teaching session by OAMK
OAMK started Latin American market entry activities about two years ago when Riikka Barber, a former student of OAMK´s School of Professional Teacher education, nowadays the CEO of EduNordica, mentioned her tutor her interest in education projects in Latin America. This led to a discussion with Mr. Kimmo Kuortti, the Head of Global Education Solutions. This year, OAMK has concluded contracts with SENA, the National Training Service that operates under the Ministry of Labor in Colombia, and two Mexican universities, University of Monterrey and Universidad de Creatividad e Innovación Humana, and has trained over hundred teachers with OAMK’s competency based professional teacher education model.
Education is a key sector in the development of the region where inequalities and dropout rates are high – skillful teachers play an essential role. “We considered Latin America potential and not quite as crowded as some other locations, so my first tasks was to build a professional network in Colombia. Our next step was a fact finding trip, and from there things started to flow”, Mrs. Barber thinks back. “There are definitely many great opportunities in Latin America. Private educational institutions are probably easier to approach than the public ones. However, every country is different and even within one country there can be several different cultures, traditions or languages.”
The interest towards teacher training has been obvious, but negotiations by no means straightforward. “Nothing is guaranteed! Sometimes the situation seems very clear, but anything can happen along the way. Or vice versa, after months of silence, we get a deal. With our client in Colombia, we had on-and-off conversations for one and half years before concluding the deal. On the other hand, earlier this year we signed two contracts with different clients almost immediately after a trip to Mexico. We know the importance of keeping in touch with our contacts and being patient.”
“It is not enough to approach the potential clients just by sending them an e-mail or setting up a call. You have to get to know them in person. Never underestimate good manners and cultural sensitivity.” Mrs. Barber gives tips to other Finnish companies interested in the region.
“Networks and personal relations are used in a different way than in Finland. In Latin America, if you manage to create a good, personal relationship, people are very happy and open to introduce you to their contacts. I wouldn´t say there is necessarily more bureaucracy, but it is different and adapting to it can be challenging. The decisive negotiations are almost always in Spanish”, Mr. Kuortti adds.
“We were privileged to participate in excellent Team Finland delegation visits to Mexico and Colombia last autumn, during which we created some very important contacts. In addition, the Embassy of Finland in Colombia has been very helpful, and Business Finland and the Embassy in Mexico supported our seminar in Monterrey last February – having the Ambassador as the keynote speaker definitely added more value to the event!” Mrs. Barber acknowledges.
Text: Anna-Leena Siliämaa