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Your future lies in your hands

Talent development program run by General Electric.

Back in 2002, when General Electric (GE) made a green field investment to build a manufacturing operation in Ózd, a city in Northeast Hungary, the company realized that the plant offering about 1000 new jobs would need 60 people to work in white-collar positions. It was quite a challenge: people with university/college degree and proper language skills were hired from cities outside of Ózd to fill up 50 of the available 60 posts. As the multinational company is committed to support the development of the communities where it has operations and to employ local people, they felt that they must do something for the future of the city by improving its human capital.

Consultations with the vice-mayor of Ózd, the local leader of Junior Achievement Hungary and the headmaster of the local secondary school led to the development of the Opening Doors Secondary School Talent Development Program, explains Eszter Szabó, Manager Corporate Communications and PR, GE CEE. As GE Foundation, a philanthropic organization of GE, a company with operations in more than 100 countries, has been supporting education projects worldwide, this type of philanthropic support has become traditional by now at GE. As part of the Ózd program, an innovation in Europe, talented secondary school students are selected on the basis of demanding criteria to supplement their secondary school education by learning business English, acquiring practical business skills, learning about networking techniques and developing their communications skills.

They also have the opportunity to build useful relations with the help of teachers from schools in 3 cities where GE has manufacturing operations and GE managers acting in the roles of mentors. During the three years of the project students meet senior managers and other responsible officials from GE. These young people, the future intellectual generation of Ózd, Kisvárda and Hajduböszörmény will be at ease making their ways in the world helped by the program that improves their self-recognition, communications and networking skills, Szabó adds. The program was opened with a day-long meeting, where students had to find their mentors themselves among GE leaders present at the event. It served as a test of their various skills and abilities.

English teachers attend training to acquire the contents and methods of business English teaching with the help of Fast English language school, a leader in adult business English training. The training sessions and the programs take place outside of the schools. The first participants of the program in 2002 were selected from the students of József Attila Secondary School of Ózd. By now the program has been extended to all other schools of Ózd, to Kisvárda, Hajduböszörmény and Putnok, and several companies have joined as partners to support the program. The Municipality of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County found Opening Doors a success and decided to popularize this method of talent development in other cities of Hungary. József Attila Secondary School has become a base-school of the program.

Funded by GE Foundation, over 168 students and 35 teachers have benefited from the program so far. Just like in other areas of life, people use opportunities differently, says Szabó. One-third of the participants acquire the required skills excellently, another one-third learn business English on a satisfactory level, while the third one-third fall behind the others in more than one area. Some of the participants have graduated from secondary school by now and attend university/college. While GE does not require students to return to the company or to the city, the program has the message that if successful adults can give back what they have received, it is a constructive behavior that helps the development of a city. The program helps young people realize that their future lies in their hands, and that they have to make efforts to succeed in life.