Ben Godwin, the Director of External Relations in Capital Education
Ben Godwin, the Director of External Relations in Capital Ed-ucation, is convinced that the success of his frm is based on a progressive business model operating at the heart of the new Kazakhstan capital. “The right approach to client relations, built on a positive internal atmosphere, enables us to beneft from the rapidly-developing economy here in Astana and become a leader in the education feld.”
Ben, what brought you to Kazakhstan and how did you begin work here?
As far back as my school days I remember being interested in the history of the former Soviet Union. I then had the opportunity to write my Masters dissertation on the economic development of Central Asia from 1991 under the supervision of professors who had extensive experience in the region. This was an extremely benefcial experience and inspired me to head out to study Russian in the region after graduation. I also spent a considerable amount of time working for a consultancy frm advising financial organisations on investment risk in the region before coming out to work in the European Commission here.
How did Capital Education come into existence?
As I was fnishing work at the European Commission I needed to make a choice: return to Europe and pursue a career in an area such as the diplomatic service or stay in Kazakhstan and try something altogether new. The idea of launching a project in Kazakhstan was extremely appealing and I was sure that it offered were far more opportunities to for me develop. More than anything I wanted to work independently and try something by myself. This is when I joined my two local partners to work on Capital Education.
I understand that Capital Education provides professional training for large organisations. What kinds of services does this involve?
One of our key areas of activity is professional training for large organisations and companies. As Kazakhstan’s economy matures, companies require their staff to have the highest level of qualifcation and are prepared to invest in them. Our services give Kazakhstan specialists access to leading international consultants from leading universities, business schools and professional associations. Our considerable network is able to offer a wide range of spheres including human resource management, oil and gas engineering, management, fnance, time management, logistics and IT.
How does your language training difer from other centres?
Despite the large demand Language training in Kazakhstan is still in an early stage of development. There are no major international language schools and modern teaching methodology is often little understood. We have introduced European standards to our courses based on the Common European Framework of Refer-ence for Languages. We have also worked hard to recruit top interna-tional teachers and develop an internal culture of development, ensuring all have the ability to operate at the highest level. And in fact our clients have come to expand such a standard of service from us.
Who are the eventual benefciaries from your trainings?
We have an extremely wide portfolio of services. We have over 400 clients beneftting from our services at any one time, from schoolchildren to members of parliament. Some learn general or business English, others are preparing for international exams, while others still are receiving professional training within their companies and organisations. Our full-time trainers are qualifed teachers but have a number of other quali-fcations in business, IT, and journalism.
One of the key areas that Capital Education specialises in is student recruitment. Why are Kazakhstan citizens so interested in international education?
I think, in the frst instance, it comes from the parents. Parents here are prepared to invest huge amounts in their children’s development. I think that the parents really understand that an education from a leading international institution enables students to be competitive in a globalised economy. This is of particular relevance to Kazakhstan due to the rapidly growing number of inter-
national companies operating here, whether it be in the energy sphere, mining or retail. People recognise the opportunities that this education can bring them.
You chose an original approach to promoting international education in Kazakhstan with the Education Life television project. Could you tell us more about it?
We have always been interested in launching new and creative projects. Education Life is unique in that it is the only programme on Kazakhstan television that looks at the experience of Kazakhstan students studying abroad; how they live, the ben-efts of their education and what they hope to achieve in the future. The frst series was flmed in the UK in an ‘info-tainment’ format, ensuring it was informative while maintaining entertainment value. It has been a considerable success here and programmes continue to be made.
I hear a lot about the Capital Education team. Could you tell us more?
Our team is relatively young, par-ticularly by international standards, but it consists of highly talented and motivated people. Most of the team have received education abroad and are already respected specialists in their feld. We are all creative people and have established a very positive working environment based on respect and professional development. For example, we provide various trainings each week for all on subjects ranging from leadership skills to organising personal fnances. This maintains a dynamic atmosphere and encourages a very powerful team spirit.
Without such a strong team we would not have been able to create such an interesting company and launch so many projects. We have achieved many frsts in Kazakhstan, such as our television project and have also worked hard to modernise and create effciencies within the education market. For example, we are the frst and only company to send students for education abroad free of charge. There is no reason to charge clients for this service but all of our competitors do so. Client demands are rapidly changing as they become more aware of the possibilities available to them and the only way to succeed in this kind of market is to be at the forefront of innovation.
What other services does Capital Education ofer?
We run education and recruitment exhibitions in the major cities of Kazakhstan such as Astana, Almaty, Karaganda and Ust-Kamenogorsk. These events increase awareness about the possibilities of international education and gives young people the opportunity to get a world-class education or fnd a job in an leading company.
We also run a scholarship pro-gramme with the U.S. Embassy here in Astana for teenagers from disad-vantaged backgrounds. They receive 6-hours free English language training a week over the course of two years as well as careers training and other skills such as public speaking and acting. Upon completion of our programme they will have an excellent chance of receiving a scholarship at a top U.S. university, completely changing their outlook on life.
What would you say is the principle cause of Capital Education’s success?
As I said, I think it comes down to a strong team and the correct approach towards our work. Kazakhstan is going through a really interesting period at the moment, where a lot of young, very talented and motivated people are starting to make real changes to their country. They are ambitious, entrepreneurial and keen to launch new projects. Being in Asta-na, Capital Education has really ben-eftted from this trend and is playing it’s own role within it. By giving our staff the freedom to develop and pursue new projects we have established a very strong, progressive team. As a foreigner, it is really exciting to be a part of this process.