World View: Focus on Panama

Panama wants to increase its higher-skilled jobs, allowing its population to produce finished products for export. This upgrading of skills requires specialized education and training.

By Dr. Neil Orkin

Location, location, location! Panama has been blessed with a perfect location to conduct commercial shipping. A ship can cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and vice versa by using the 50-mile waterway known as the Panama Canal. The revenues generated from the canal are critical to the country’s financial success. Panama intends to greatly increase the canal’s capacity by 2014. This unique waterway will have a major impact on the country’s development.

The population of Panama is more than 3.5 million, and it is culturally diverse. It has a very literate population. Spanish is the language of the majority, although some speak English. Banking, farming, and shipping through the canal are its major sources of income.

Where does training fit in? Panama wants to increase its higher-skilled jobs, allowing its population to produce finished products for export. This upgrading of skills requires specialized education and training.

Panama is only a few hours from several major cities in the U.S. It fast is becoming a banking center, as well as a world trade center. Its population is eager to learn. Although there have been anti-American feelings based on past American foreign policy, the opportunity to work for an American firm is greatly valued.

Customer service and management training programs are needed. As finished products are produced in Panama, quality training will be key, as well. Since many employees do not speak English, training in English as a foreign language (EFL) will be needed.

When conducting global training, it is crucial to always be aware of several factors that are present in all cultures. These include:

  • The formality of the culture
  • Language usage
  • The importance of the group
  • How time is treated

Formality: Panama is a country where formality is expected. Trainers are expected to wear a business suit; they do not elicit confidence by dressing down. You should address participants by their last names unless asked to do differently. You will be expected to lecture extensively. The thought is that you are the expert, and your ideas should be heard. Ice-breakers and training games are not viewed positively.

Vocabulary: Check to see if your English is being understood. Although many of your participants will speak English, you may need to adjust your vocabulary. Using computer-generated slides and providing participants with handouts can provide them a better opportunity to learn and retain the course content.

Group Dynamics: The group is important. Participants should not be singled out. Be sure to praise the class as a group.

Timing Is Everything: In terms of time, punctuality is valued in business settings. You are expected to start your training programs on time. Participants will return from class breaks and lunch as asked.

Panama is already a world trade center and quickly becoming an international banking center. With its convenient location, having your organization develop a trained workforce there makes a lot of sense. Its location allows you to provide goods and services worldwide. Latin America is a rapidly growing market. Having a presence there can allow your organization to grow. In short, you can’t afford to overlook the dynamic country of Panama.

Dr. Neil Orkin is president of Global Training Systems. His organization prepares corporate professionals for global business success. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.