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A fond farewell to Jan Capper executive director at IALC

Published on Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jan will be leaving IALC to take up a position as the Chief Executive of CUBO, the association of College and University Business Officers in the UK and Ireland.


Jan began her career in tourism, working for British, American and Malaysian travel companies in operational and marketing roles. She discovered study travel when she became marketing director of Pitman Central College in London. Five years later, she moved to Berlin to work in a similar role for GLS Sprachenzentrum.


Jan has managed the IALC secretariat since 1996 and the association has grown exponentially since that time. In her final interview as executive director, Ms Capper reflects on over two decades with IALC.


How did you become involved with IALC?


I knew IALC from my days with Pitman, one of the founding schools. I was working for another member, GLS in Berlin, when IALC decided the time had come to outsource its operation to an association management company. It was the perfect opportunity for me - a project that I could take on alongside other freelance work. I had an interview with Alberto Sampere, Renato Borges de Sousa and Juan Manuel Sampere in London towards the end of 1995. We signed a contract and I took over the operational management of IALC from 1 January 1996. I was very lucky to have an outstanding president and friend in Juan Manuel Sampere in my first three years, and also to work with Anne du Mesnil, owner of ELFE, on the 1996 IALC Workshop in Paris. She exemplified quality and was an inspiration to me.


How has IALC changed over the last twenty years?


It has grown from about 35 to 142 centres, so now we have a small team to manage the quality assurance, member recruitment and all-important marketing activities. We’ve developed a robust accreditation to ensure that new and existing members really live up to the brand promise. We’ve relaxed our territorial policy so that more top independent language centres can join in popular language study destinations. A few years ago we gave ourselves the remit to provide industry expertise, which we do through our annual seminars and industry research reports, as well through sharing best practice among members. And of course, technology has transformed IALC. When I started, we still used the fax machine…


What would be your analysis of the current trends within the study travel industry?


Despite the availability of e-learning and other language technology, there’s no substitute for studying abroad and face-to-face communication. Understanding different cultures is as important in today’s world as speaking other languages. I expect to see new products focusing on the all-round experience, the life skills you develop when you study abroad. And although study travel is a broad and sometimes complex field, I’m confident that our industry will soon have the kind of booking platform seen in the travel industry, reducing the administration between schools and agents and allowing them to focus outward on marketing, hopefully introducing new market segments to the idea of a study holiday.


How has the IALC Workshop developed over the years?


The original formula - AGM and Agent Workshop hosted in the destination of an IALC language centre - has lasted 33 years! Other than that, we’ve grown - to almost 400 delegates at IALC Rouen in 2015. IALC is now attended by top industry service providers as well as schools and agents from all over the world. We’ve also added an afternoon of seminars and extended the event by one night.  The IALC Workshop is much more international now. In fact, the reason we boldly call it the “world’s best language travel workshop” is that statistically has a better global range of language centres than any other workshop out there.


What is your funniest IALC Workshop memory?


So many… but I’m saving this for my memoirs!


Is there anyone in particular who has inspired you during your career?


I’ve been inspired by many people over the years. Just a few that come to mind now: IALC’s energetic and charismatic founder, Alberto Sampere; Tom Doyle (The Language Centre of Ireland) for his eloquence and tact; Barbara Jaeschke and Walter Denz for their vision and energy; Sue Blundell, the former executive director of English Australia, Amy Baker, founder of The PIE, and two top-level agents with whom I always have inspiring conversations about our business: Tereza Fulfaro of CI and Santuza Bicahlo of CVC/Experimento.  I also admire every IALC Board member over the years for dedicating their free time to helping the association.


During your time at IALC, what has been your proudest achievement?


Seeing the association grow in size and status is the ultimate reward for all the behind-the-scenes hard work. I’m also proud to have developed young staff who have gone on to have successful careers in this and other industries.


Why is IALC so unique?


When we commissioned brand consultants in 2016, what struck them was the passion that the directors of IALC language centre have for what they do. It’s this combination of quality, personal service, independence and passion that makes IALC and IALC schools across the world unique.


The IALC team would like to thank Jan for her wonderful leadership and for being such an integral part of the association over the last twenty years and we wish her the very best of luck in the future.

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