Globetrotting master craftspeople: knowledge transfer, 3D printing and start-ups in Rwanda

After completing the International Master Craftsperson training course, German experts share their know-how with the rest of the world.

Matthias von Cyrson is a mechanical engineer with Evonik AG in Marl in Germany’s Ruhr region, where he is also responsible for supervising young apprentices. In his free time, he likes travelling and getting to know different cultures. When his company gave him the chance to combine the two things, he didn’t have to think twice. ‘It was a brilliant opportunity,’ he says, ‘being able to share my knowledge in other countries, seeing new places and meeting new people.’

The International Master Craftsperson training programme prepares experienced master craftspeople with a background in industry or the skilled trades to work in the field of international cooperation. The network now involves around 60 craftspeople from a variety of different trades. The course includes a practical assignment in a foreign country. The Frankfurt-Rhine-Main Chamber of Skilled Crafts has developed the programme and conducts the courses in cooperation with the development cooperation scouts (‘EZ-scouts’) programme of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The EZ-scout programme, carried out on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ), places development policy experts into industry and trade chambers as well as sector and umbrella organisations. The experts consult on funding and cooperation opportunities between business and development cooperation. Together with the businesses, they also come up with ideas for specific projects.

Matthias von Cyrson, who is an expert in 3D printing, spent his practical assignment in Rwanda. The Westerwelle Foundation has opened the Westerwelle Startup House Kigali, with support from the Evonik Foundation. And this is where von Cyrson taught young people about 3D printers, using a special two-day basic training course he developed. Many of the participants came from the young country’s active start-up scene and were very interested in von Cyrson’s know-how. ‘The collaboration with the people there was excellent. I found the entrepreneurial spirit and thirst for knowledge very inspiring. It was interesting that, for most of the young entrepreneurs, personal profit wasn’t the main motivation, but rather the benefits for their country.’

Thanks to the International Master Craftsperson training programme, specialist skills that are in high demand are becoming more readily available in the partner countries. This makes it possible to develop and sustain local training courses and pass this expertise on. Meanwhile, through their visits to foreign countries, the international master craftspeople also have a chance to develop their own networks and partnerships, which may lead to follow-on assignments.