We had some time for an interview with Maria Lazarou, the IMA representative for the project EUPA_NEXT.
FC: Can you briefly introduce yourself to our IMA Members, and also give a short overview of your IMA career?
ML: I was born in Cyprus and studied in the USA. I am an Office Administration Senior Instructor and Program Coordinator at Cyprus College, a position held since 1987. I am currently working on a BBA in Marketing Communications and Social Media.
I joined IMA Cyprus in 1990 and became a member of the Newsletter Committee until 1998 when I undertook the position of Coordinator of the Newsletter Committee until 1999. Between 1999-2003 I served as Assistant National Chairman and between 2003-2006 as National Chairman of IMA Cyprus. In 2006 I was elected as Deputy Executive Chairman of IMA and in February 2009 I served as Acting Executive Chairman. From 2009 to 2013 I served as Executive Chairman of IMA.
Between 2013-2015 I served as Conference Manager of IMA Cyprus 2015 Conference.
Regarding EU projects, I represented IMA for the following projects:
2015-2018 EUPA_NEXT - Validation of formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case study of Administration Personnel international project.
2011-2014 EUPA - The main objective of EUPA was the development of a qualifications framework for personal assistants.
2012-2015 IMA & ECDL cooperation on a Leonardo Da Vinci certifications for Management Assistants throughout Europe.
FC: Maria, can you explain what EUPA_NEXT is all about and why it is so important?
ML: Research demonstrates that the sector of office administration is quite important and will continue to be one of the first professions in demand until 2020. The project EUPA_NEXT is the continuation of the very successful project EUPA (Leonardo DOI), which has developed a qualification framework for administration personnel in four EQF levels (levels 2,3,4 and 5) as well as the assessment tool and training materials for level 2.
EUPA_NEXT aims to assign credits to the qualification framework (levels 3-5) using ECVET and develop curricula and training materials for the trainer for the same levels as well as e-books for the learners.
EUPA_NEXT will certify all curricula and training materials with ISO. Additionally, EUPA_NEXT aims to develop an assessment for the certification of levels 2, 3, 4 and 5. The assessment will be ISO certified with a relatively new standard ISO17024 that certifies personal competences.
EUPA_NEXT will promote the career of administration personnel through training and ISO certification in different levels.
FC: When and how did you get involved in the EUPA_NEXT project?
ML: As Senior Lecturer of Office Administration I am involved in various EU projects and in cooperation with a number of companies involved with EU projects. Ms Christiana Knais, Managing Director of
MMC Management Center LTD, contacted me and asked me whether we would like to be involved in her proposed projects. Since 2011 we have had an excellent cooperation via EUPA and EUPA_NEXT.
FC: What were the main challenges at the start? How did you tackle these?
ML: As mentioned before, there has been a very fruitful cooperation with the project’s coordinator, Ms Christiana Knais, as well as her colleagues and other partners. Working on various tasks for the development of the project was definitely the biggest challenge, considering it was a professional development for me as well. In addition, through those efforts, I gained knowledge and experience, as every project proved to have a different set of challenges to tackle.
FC: Did the IMA network and its members contribute to the success of the EUPA_NEXT project? If yes, in what way?
ML: It certainly has, and I am grateful to the Executive Committee as well as every single member of IMA because they supported me when I needed their feedback in various different ways, i.e. translations to French, completion of questionnaires, evaluation, etc.
FC: What do you think will be the biggest assets of the project for the job of management support professionals?
ML: Through the EUPA_NEXT certification, which is recognized worldwide, administrative personnel can identify their abilities, qualifications as well as their potentials. This is a win-win situation for administrative personnel as well as recruiters and organizations when they apply for work according to their qualifications.
FC: Do you feel that the project will contribute significantly to the education of future management assistants?
ML: Definitely! Even though in all partner countries, Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Slovakia and Spain a number of administrative personnel already attended the training and gained the certification, there is a possibility for continued usage of what has been provided after the lifetime of the project, such as continuing to provide trainings and certification if a request to do so appears. I should also mention that even it is an EU project, non-European countries/members/administrative personnel can join.
I am positive that people will take advantage of EUPA_NEXT in order to be certified and recognized for their qualifications throughout the world at no cost.