The Kodály method is an approach to music education developed in Hungary in the mid-20th century that found disciples all around the world and is now used to improve competences in everything from motor skills to reading and mathematics. It has also been applied to industrial management.
The concept was born, like its creator Zoltán Kodály, in a small city in central Hungary, Kecskemét. For Kecskemét mayor Klaudia Szemerey Pataki the Kodály heritage is more than just trivia – it is an underlying ethos for what she describes as “the flexibility, creativity and productivity” of the local workforce.
“Our culture and heritage is very sympathetic to investors here and the Kodály method of music education is a special attraction,” she says. “It’s a method in which memory has a very important role and also the presentation technique and how you can perform something. It places the human at the centre.
“During music lessons, all children learn this method, and when a multinational company is looking for employees it puts great emphasis on these competences.”
Following German model
It might be an abstract and immeasurable attribute, but workforce is front and centre as a driver of investment, and sometimes such intangibles can make a difference. And added to what she sees as a unique and attractive working culture in the city, the mayor says, is its Germanic influence.
“In our region, after the changes from communism, a German type of working culture has arrived. Now we are celebrating German and Swiss companies with 15 to 20 years of being [located] in Kecskemét, mainly from the auto industry, but besides these factories there are also textile and electronic companies, and the food industry,” she adds.
Hungary as a whole has modelled its education system on Germany’s ‘dual education’ system, which combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school in one course, and even expanded it.
“Within Germany there is not a whole [education] system for the whole country, only on regional levels. Here in Hungary we have the dual-education system up to the higher education system – and for the whole country. So while in Germany it is only on a regional level, in Hungary we have it from the technical schools up to the higher education level, and on a national level,” says Ms Szemerey Pataki.
These factors have landed one major flagship German investor, which seems to have found a happy home in Kecskemét. Car giant Mercedes-Benz announced in July that it will locate a large new manufacturing plant in Kecskemét. With an estimated cost of $1.1bn, it will be the largest FDI project in Hungary's history.
The company already employs 4000 people in the city, and the new plans will employ another 2500. Rainer Ruess, head of production planning at Mercedes-Benz Cars, cited the know-how of local employees as a key factor in the decision, along with strong co-operation and support from local and national authorities.
It is an outsized investment for a small city, but the mayor is confident that more will follow. “Logistically the city is in a very good place in the country,” she says, also citing a favourable tax environment, which she describes as “the best in Hungary”. “There are more big steps that we can take here in Kecskemét, [it’s] not only Mercedes that we could attract.”