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  • Discussion Brief for the Export Strategy-Maker

    AGEXPRONT’s Foreign Trade School

    Mr. Alvaro Aguilar, General Manager, Technical Services Division, AGEXPRONT!


    The Association of Exporters of Non Traditional Products of Guatemala – AGEXPRONT - created its Foreign Trade School, whose motto is "learn to export with exporters". As this suggests, the main purpose is to promote an exporting culture and train exporters. Its mission is to help raise the level of competitiveness of the exporting sector through training and quality advice. 

    Programmes and courses have been designed to respond the needs that have been identified in Guatemalan firms by the various sectors wishing to export and/or consolidate their exports, with the aim at reaching every hierarchical level. 

    Objective 1: Provide assistance to the various exporter sectors 

    At the outset, needs are detected through a specific methodology. This is done with exporter businessmen who belong to the Boards of Directors of the committees of exporters of every sector, viz: 

    • Agricultural Committee (ornamental plants, ecological products, snow peas, berries etc.). 
    • Manufacturers Committee 
    • Committee for Wooden Furniture Manufacturers and other forestry products 
    • Handicrafts Committee 
    • Laboratory Committee 
    • Hydrobiologicals Committee 

    Once their needs have been pinpointed, the Training Plan aimed at these sectors is prepared to cover production, processes and the marketing of export products. Approximately 60 events take place each year, run by the Association alone or in cooperation with the academic sector, with government institutions or international agencies. 

    For example, in the Ornamental Plants committee, we are planning and designing, together with the Del Valle University of Guatemala, a modular training programme for the technical staff of nurseries. With the Committee for Ecological Products we are offering a modular programme on organic production. In addition, we conduct seminars on Integrated Pest Management and Nursery Techniques. In the case of the Manufacturers Committee, we offer seminars on market diversification, with the Mexican and Dominican Republic markets as examples. In the case of the Furniture Manufacturers’ Committee, a training course is offered for operators in conjunction with INTECAP, the Training and Productivity Institute, and we are conducting a social programme with City Hall. 

    Objective 2: Train human resources to participate in the export process 

    AGEXPRONT sets up programmes and offers courses to build the skills and abilities that will allow participants to know the general framework, international marketing techniques and specific procedures of the exporting process which they can then implement efficiently in international business. 

    Courses, programmes, workshops are offered on the following subjects: procedures for exporting specific products, a technical course on DITEX (technical) exports, a course on international physical distribution, and a programme for executive secretaries, among others. 

    Objective 3: Provide assistance to new exporters 

    The Export Management – ExportPymeprogramme has been offered since 1998. This is the result of the Human Resource project whose initial stage was funded by the Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation, achieved through the implementation efforts of the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO in Guatemala and in Costa Rica. The objective is to provide the capacity in countries to further business and human resource development with a practical orientation, including training and consultancy activities. 

    The programme was based on the Technical Exports Course (DITEX) that the School had been offering for approximately nine years. It was able to call on the professors who already teach the course. 

    The programme met the needs of small and medium size companies, including: 

    • lack of knowledge and fear by executives of small and medium sizes about starting to export 
    • limited managerial capacity among exporters, which means that their products are unable to access international markets or unable to stay in that market 
    • lack of competitiveness in the face of globalization 
    • lack of knowledge of the options they have to find potential customers and market niches that may be accessible for their products 
    • lack of knowledge of sources of information and consultation 
    • deficient administrative structure and lack of long-term planning. 

    Nevertheless, throughout the course, other needs have been detected in small and medium-size companies in areas like financing with accessible credit lines, technology transfer and the Internet. These are important subjects that are presently not being covered, but efforts are being made to enter into alliances with agencies and projects that are related with these in order to cover them in the future. 

    The programme started by selecting the leaders of each theme, who must meet the following requirement: be professionals with exporting expertise. The final selection was done by ITC. With the cooperation of consultants, the contents of the modules was prepared, knowledge of theme leaders was updated and the profile of participating companies was defined: 

    • It should be an already established company, with presence in the local market 
    • It should have a manifest interest in exports 
    • The participant should be the owner or Manager of the company 

    ExportPyme is a high-level programme, whose objective is to increase the business managerial ability of small and medium size-companies to lead export businesses and be able to get their products to permanently conquer a share of the international market, be able to raise their competitiveness so that they are better equipped to face globalization and properly incorporate them in today’s world international trade. 

    The components that make it up are very important for this programme: 

    • Diagnosis: Do a diagnosis of the status of these companies in order to learn where they are weak concerning international trade. 
    • Training: Keynote lectures with cases, conferences, success stories told by other exporters on products which are relevant to participants.  
    • Consulting: Consulting to solve specific problems detected through the diagnosis or during the course of the programme, when at trade mission is organized or later, when contacts have already been established. 
    • Trade mission: Trade activity that allows participants to implement the knowledge they have acquired and establish contact with potential buyers for their products. 

    What participants like 

    Some comments from participants on what they like: 

    • How practical and applicable the material of the courses is. 
    • The value of hands-on experience 
    • The ability to implement the knowledge acquired, and above all, the time that they have had to prepare to participate in the trade mission 
    • The interaction accomplished between participants and leaders 


    • Participants: 42 trained business persons 

    ExportPyme has 23 participants from 14 companies that are interested in exporting. 

    • Theme leaders: We currently have 18 theme leaders who have 

    been trained and updated on export matters. 

    • Number of courses taught: 3 programmes have been offered which have 

    Emphasized manufacturing. Based on experience, we offer a course adapted to the agricultural sector. 

    • Self-sufficient: After the withdrawal of CCI’s support, 

    the Programme is 80% self-sufficient. The remaining 20% is covered through an alliance with the Technology and Productivity Institute INTECAP. 

    Capacity required for the programme to be implemented and maintained 

    • The fact that the school belongs to an Exporters Association is one of its top advantages, not only to make it possible to detect the needs of the sector but also to be able to search for and select theme leaders who are professional exporters. It is also very important for participants to have the other specialized services offered by the Association. As part of the themes that are taught, they obtain updated trade information and they are constantly informed of trade fairs, missions, experts, etc. through information on the work being done by the other departments of AGEXPRONT. 
    • It is also necessary for there to be credibility, in which the recognized prestige of the Association plays an important role. Training is one of the important purposes of the Association. 
    • It is necessary to have a good data base of exporters with didactic skills and the wish to share their successful or unsuccessful experiences to others; exporters who do not see participants as potential competitors and who are in agreement with the vision of the Association, which is to turn Guatemala into an exporting country. 
    • There is constant updating of the support material that is given to participants. 
    • AGEXPRONT provides adequate infrastructure and modern audiovisual equipment. 
    • Constant assessment ensures the quality of programmes 
    • Strategic alliances with institutions help strengthen programmes. 


    In companies that took the training, it was found: 

    • The companies improved and increased their local skills. Some are exporting to the Central American market: El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. 
    • The programme has helped to improve their organization in the estimation of costs the administration and in export documentation as well as in market analysis, quality, creating new ideas in the products design and packing. 
    • The programme has motivated and helped them to extend their vision and prepare themselves to export. 

    They now request support from consultants and for participation in fairs and trade missions. 

    A ex-participants commission of the programme has been established to offer support. A work plan has been elaborated and members meet periodically. 

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    Posted 18 August 2010 
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