Strong focus on agent relations key to success in Latin America
Today ICEF Monitor explores the key to success in four Latin American countries, where a strong focus on agent relations proves vital. We sit down with Mr Jonathan Kolber, Executive Director of International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC). ILAC offers English classes for all ages, levels and purposes, as well as exam prep, summer camps and additional services such as accommodation, university placement, and student activities. Kolber explains that they have a very interactive relationship with their agency partners, asking the agents for market feedback, brainstorming new products and marketing techniques, and helping them improve their efforts on the ground in key source markets. Additionally, he stresses what to look for when selecting agent partners: it is very important that an agent understands the school's profile and promotes the school's image in a manner the school is comfortable with, and ultimately, always works in the best interest of the students. Kolber also discusses how ILAC tailours each product to suit the market - such as residential programmes for teenagers from Mexico - and that one of the secrets of their success has been their ability to "stay ahead of the market and offer products to students as the market evolves." Part two of our interview (below) dives into several of the Latin American markets ILAC is active in, such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, whose students prefer to return to their home countries following their studies overseas, as well as Venezuela, whose students are attracted to post-study work rights. Canadian-based ILAC is no stranger to Brazilian students. Scores of Canadian and Brazilian universities have signed exchange agreements in recent years, and Canada will also receive 12,000 of the 100,000+ students on Brazil’s Scientific Mobility scholarship programme (also known as Ciência Sem Fronteiras and formerly called Science Without Borders). In preparation for such study abroad experiences, university pathway programmes, exam preparation and Intensive English courses prove popular. When looking at the Colombian market, Kolber explains that like Brazil, these students are looking to return home following their studies. Almost 9 million 15-24 year olds live in Colombia, nearly 98% of whom are literate. Today Colombia is one of the largest sending markets in Latin America after Brazil, and the top study destinations are the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. The majority of student referrals are made through agents, hence ILAC places a great deal of emphasis on their strong relationships with their agency partners. Venezuela certainly has its market challenges (i.e., currency controls, political instability), however, with the right approach and a healthy amount of patience, educational providers can achieve results. Kolber explains that ILAC has been successfully "selling pathway programmes in Venezuela for many years." They are well aware that given the current climate in the country, most students prefer to stay overseas and find work abroad after their studies, so ILAC takes that into account when working with agencies in Venezuela.