For the high impact they have and the impressive number of training courses given both in and outside of the EU, the BTSF initiative is implemented by a small team at the Consumers Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency. We spoke to the team about how such a small team manages to do so much!
Who's working on the BTSF initiative?
We are just four people here, says Udo Juterschnig, with a laugh. “Well, four and a half, because we have been getting a lot of support from Marc Vandenbroeck who works in another team too.” “We’re small, but mighty’, chimed in the new Head of Unit for the BTSF initiative, Donata Meroni, “and the reach and impact of our activities is huge in training staff of competent authorities to better implement EU animal health and welfare, plant health and feed and food legislation. This is particular relevant in case of crisis, such as diseases outbreaks as we have seen recently with African swine fever.”
What are your main responsibilities?
“Our task is really to implement the BTSF initiative, which accounts for EUR 17 million a year and has trained since its start more than 68.000 participants” says Meroni. “I think there’s a saying ‘the buck stops here’”, adds Udo Juterschnig. ‘What I mean by that is that we are entrusted by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) to launch the calls of tender following the strict rules for public procurement procedures. We also need to ensure that the trainings take place when and where they are scheduled to and that they meet the high expectations and fulfil the needs they were intended to.”
‘We also are the people behind the BTSF World and BTSF Academy’ initiatives, and we are the ones who transform ideas into reality, we make it happen. We aren’t just maintaining the status quo, we are looking ahead and developing ways to expand and provide training to an even greater number of people with innovative e-learning tools, says Marilena Verbari, who just recently joined the team.
How does such a small team meet these responsibilities?
‘When I took over as Head of Unit in 2017, I found a motivated and talented team. They have experience, knowledge and a great work ethic!’ says Meroni. ‘We work really well together and we also have a great network of people who support us in our work.” says Juterschnig. “We work in conjunction with DG SANTE and we have built up a team of service providers and other contacts over the years who know their jobs well and facilitate the on-site trainings.”
“Although at the moment, establishing and developing the BTSF Academy demands a lot of our time and energy, in the long-run it is going to make things easier for us here,” says Efthymia Tzitzikli “Through the Academy, we’re establishing not only an on-line training facility, but also a rich database we can also benefit from. In addition, it will help stream-line procedures like registration, feedback and follow-up.”
”Keep an eye on us. Visit our website and see what’s happening” says Meroni, “because I can assure you, there will be plenty to see, with new developments and activities in the future!”