The decision-making paths are shorter than in large corporations. The hierarchies are flatter. This means that, from the very first day, every employee has more responsibility and more room to shape things. This is an ideal setting for young people who want to make a difference with their work.

I launched proEconomics because there are still very few women in the specialist and leadership levels in manufacturing SMEs. Think of this business prep year as an excellence initiative for the country’s SMEs. On the one hand, it provides participants with insights into the specific SME work setting. Alongside the fulfilment of the highest quality expectations, this also demands flexibility in completing the widest array of duties. The work itself is diverse and varied, and there are many different ways to shape things on an individual basis.

For us, every employee matters! At the same time, the program is cooperating with high-ranking corporate and university partners to inspire participating young talents to enjoy their own commitment. We expect that, after completing their studies, the young women will deploy their personal qualities in professional and leadership positions in SMEs.

Manfred Kennel, Owner of f.u.n.k.e. MITTELSTANDS GmbH, initiator of proEconomics

“SMEs need people of action”

»The proEconomics concept

SMEs as a talent factory

SMEs are justifiably seen as the spine of the German economy: More than 99 percent of all companies in Germany are SMEs. They contribute more than half of the country’s value creation, almost 60 percent of the jobs, and around 82 percent of apprenticeships. Young talent is essential if we are to shape sustainable competitiveness and innovative strength for SMEs. This is why proEconomics is investing in the development of leaders and people to take responsibility, with a demanding, high-quality program. proEconomics strengthens ambitious young women who are interested in economics and want to make a difference: supporting them as they develop their self-efficacy, providing them with effective techniques, and showing them how and where they can shape their own careers in the world of SMEs.

A holistic approach

At proEconomics, preparation for a career as a specialist or leader goes beyond just communicating relevant knowledge. The program offers the opportunity for each participant to work on her own personality. A person who bears responsibility must, of course, have specialist knowledge, but there are other essentials, too: reflectivity, creativity and a sense of responsibility. Exploration of philosophy promotes these characteristics. In personality-development seminars and philosophy workshops, participants learn to extend the horizons of their own thinking. Questions about responsibility as a manager and about corporate ethics play an important role, as does reflection on one’s self and working on one’s own personality.


The SME economy is not an island. The vast majority of SMEs are already active on an international level, and this trend is set to increase in the future. For this reason, proEconomics takes a special approach to encouraging and promoting intercultural competence, openness, and a respectful attitude towards others. The class intakes are deliberately international, participants gain transcultural experience during their internships abroad, and there is close contact with the international networks of proEconomics partners.

»Innovative fusion of economic theory with entrepreneurial practice

proEconomics is positioned before degree studies in economics so that the participants can develop a motivating perspective on why it is worth giving their best during and after their studies. To achieve this, the program fuses theory and practice in an innovative way. Highlights of this fusion include:

Project work for companies

Companies in the partner network approach the participants with specific entrepreneurial problems. The content of courses is individually tailored to the project themes, optimally preparing participants for putting knowledge into practice in their company settings. After a successful project application phase, the participants develop original solutions at the partner companies. For the implementation of the projects, the young women take on the role of management consultants, gaining experience in professional interaction with business partners.

Business check-ups

In the Go for Management and Globetrotter modules, participants develop small training concepts for our partner companies. The best concepts are offered to the partner companies and, where needed, conducted on-site. This strengthens the participants in their professionalism and supports them as they transfer acquired knowledge to practice.

Participation in E-TOP PITCH DAY

Together with startups, young entrepreneurs and innovators, participants pitch their own ideas for innovations. This allows them to test their own creativity and presentation skills. They also receive nuanced feedback from the jury — along with a huge confidence boost if they find investors and sponsors for their innovation idea.

Mentoring and Global Management Network

Every participant has an inspiring and successful leader by her side, someone who is or was personally active in a leadership position. Individual goals are developed and pursued in cooperation with this mentor. The aim is for the personal contact to continue beyond the Prep Year, supporting participants in their career planning over the long term. This support also has an international flavour, as participants also gain access to the proEconomics Global Management Network, an international networking platform at the leadership level of industrial SMEs. Participants in proEconomics are directly involved in the organisation of these networking events.

PROGRAM TIMES 01.09. – middle of July


Close collaboration with highly regarded university and commercial partners is an integral element of the program. Alongside excellent universities and SMEs, numerous experienced leaders support proEconomics — for example as mentors and lecturers.

Excellent universities

proEconomics is in the process of buildng a network of established and renowned universities in Germany and neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, along with their professors and lecturers — partners with an outstanding reputation in the field of economics. At universities and on our campus, participants attend lectures and seminars and sit exams that give them credit points for their later degree studies.
The benefits that cooperation with proEconomics brings to our partner universities

» Preparation for studies results in a reduction of the student drop-out rate

» The best domestic and international students

» Positive public relations effect

» Networking with international SMEs

» Advancement of women

» Practice-based theses completed in collaboration with partner companies

» Participation in E-TOP innovation project

» Funding opportunities

Hidden Champions – industrial SMEs at home and abroad

proEconomics equips young women to take responsible positions in successful industrial SMEs in Germany and abroad. Internships, real-life commercial projects, company check-ups and management networking allow participants to establish lasting, career-building contacts with industrial SMEs during the program. During the proEconomics year, participants complete three internships with partner companies:

» Work experience in a manufacturing company (4 weeks)

» Internship in Germany (8 weeks)

» Internship abroad (8 weeks)

The benefits that cooperation with proEconomics brings to our partner companies

» Support in recruiting activities

» Establish lasting and formative relationships with tomorrow’s leaders

Marlene Maurer, f.u.n.k.e. MITTELSTANDS GmbH, Head of Human Resources & Organisational Development


„For me, industrial SMEs mean responsibility, dynamism, and the opportunity to play a role in shaping the business. The sector gave me the opportunity to take a management role, regardless of my age and my experience within hierarchical structures, with the independence to implement my ideas in a lasting way. I am excited by the commitment, the will, the courage, and the ever-present connection between action and result that characterise industrial SMEs. These factors produce a feeling of being part of the company, sharing in the business, and this in turn has a positive effect on the actions of every member of the organisation.

The proEconomics program, which f.u.n.k.e. MITTELSTANDS GmbH has the privilege of supporting as a partner company, has won me over me on several levels:

» The Management Network and the fusion of personal development with economic practice provide, in my view, the ideal preparation for taking on a responsible role in the domestic and international industrial SME sector later on. Participants in the program develop into proactive participants in business.

» The close contact and interaction with companies allows proEconomics to reveal the attractiveness of the industrial SME sector.

» As an HR specialist, I see this program as an optimal solution to the problem of making the best future professionals and leaders aware of SMEs early on; at the same time, it presents us with the opportunity of making our employment structures more diverse by bringing women into positions that are still, in some cases, dominated by men.”