Aleksandr Kucherenko gives TJ the Ukrainian perspective on business education.
In the Western imagination, Ukraine is not a hub for business education and training. When we think of Ukraine, we tend to picture a generic post-Soviet country that is still in conflict with its ex-imperial master, Russia, and is struggling to bridge the economic gap with its wealthier European neighbours.
However, while Ukraine is still managing the consequences of its fraught relations with Russia, the country has quietly undertaken a series of fundamental reforms which are transforming the nature of its economy and public sector and fuelling demand for business education and training. Nowhere is this more visible than in the IT and energy sectors.
Ukraine’s IT sector in particular, which employs around 150,000 specialists, is a success story. It is one the country’s fastest growing industries, with exports growing by 540% over the last 10 years and 18 Ukrainian companies listed in the 2018 Global Outsourcing 100.
But for Ukrainian businesses to make the transition from service and outsourcing to the creation of higher technology and more innovation, and participate in more complex international projects, they need to dramatically upgrade their skills, both IT-specific and management.
[Ukraine] has quietly undertaken a series of fundamental reforms which are transforming the nature of its economy and public sector and fuelling demand for business education and training.
The energy sector, the foundation of the Ukrainian economy, is also in a period of dramatic change. Working with an old energy grid passed down from the Soviet era, one that is teetering on the brink of collapse, the country requires a nation-wide upgrade of its energy infrastructure, from production facilities and replacing the electricity and transportation grids, to promoting renewable energy.
The fundamental challenge for Ukraine is, according to a 2017 World Bank report ‘Skills for a modern Ukraine’, that more than 40% of firms operating in the most rapidly developing sectors – energy, IT, agriculture and food processing – have reported a significant gap between the type of skills their employees have and those they need to achieve their business objectives.
The skills challenge facing Ukraine also extends to the public sector. According to the World Economic Forum, the country’s government institutions come in at very low 118th in its Global Competitiveness Index. It needs to deregulate, decentralise and privatise, but it also needs to completely revamp the skills capacity of the remaining state institutions if it’s to create a fit-for-purpose and modern public sector.
In certain respects, Ukraine is well positioned to respond to this challenge. It currently ranks fourth in the world in the number of people with a higher education, boasts a 98% literacy rate, and has one of the highest English proficiency levels in the region. The Global Competitiveness Index also ranks it 35th in terms of higher education.
While this provides a good starting point, the reality is that there are still large gaps in the educational infrastructure. Although the majority hold a university degree, the traditional nature of many university curricula, and the lack of vocational training, means that most specialists and senior managers are self-taught or learn on the job. Where state education has failed, the private sector has had to step-in.
DTEK, the largest energy company in the Ukraine, has long understood that it needs to take the initiative if it is to build the management and specialist skills required for its own business. It also recognises that there is both a need, but also commercial opportunity, to provide these services more broadly.
In doing so, it has partnered with leading business schools such as INSEAD, IE Business School, and the Thunderbird School of Global Management, as well as HR organisations like the HR Certification Institute. Through such partnerships, its students can take advantage of the latest and most innovative training programmes and approaches, including the use of HR analytics and big data, as well as 3D simulations and virtual reality tools.
So, despite the perceptions that may exist about Ukraine, the business education market in Ukraine is a dynamic and growing one. And as the economy continues its rapid transformation, the demand for ever more sophisticated services will increase.
About the author
Aleksandr Kucherenko is sustainability director of DTEK