Picture: PIXABAY
Picture: PIXABAY

Corporate clients are becoming more demanding in their pursuit of customised executive education, says Lee-Anne Vasi of Nelson Mandela University Business School.

Where once companies were prepared to leave many of the teaching decisions to schools, "now they are very specific on what they want and how they want it", she says. "They come in knowing the kind of expertise they want the school to provide and may even specify which member of faculty they want to present it."

With education budgets under pressure, clients want to know their money is spent wisely and cost-effectively, says Leon Mouton, head of the school’s executive education division. That’s why there is a shift away from open programmes, which offer general education to managers and executives from several companies, towards customised courses, which are company-specific.

Open programmes have their advantages. According to market research for the FM, companies that use them say they offer students a broader view of the general business world, as well as fresh ideas from outside the company or business sector.

But when money is tight and trading conditions difficult, these advantages may be trumped by narrow, short-term views. Customised programmes offer an education with practical application to the company and the ability to reinforce company values.

Still, there is a limit to how cost-conscious clients can be. "Some organisations opt for the cheapest quote, irrespective of what’s included," says Mouton. "If we met some demands, we’d almost be operating out of the boot of a car."

Individual mentoring and coaching are in particular demand, says Vasi. Technology programmes, particularly those dealing with the potential impact of artificial intelligence, are becoming more popular. However, she says companies must not get carried away. Futuristic concepts are all very well, but "there will always be a place for teaching the basics of management".

Mouton says the school wants to increase its teaching specialities, to include health management and international trade. Being based in the Eastern Cape, where much of the SA motor industry is based, it also wants to get involved in the development of black components manufacturers. A new development plan for the motor industry demands more local content in SA-made vehicles and the creation of a black-owned supplier base.

Mouton says schools must continually be looking for new sources of revenue. "I believe in the view that if 75% of your income was not developed in the last three years, then you are regressing," he says.