Tech students present EU policymakers with manifesto for a digital tomorrow
Manifesto Initiative follows up success of international ICT talent training programme.
From L to R: Vice President of Huawei's Brussels Office, Tony Graziano, Student representative of Huawei's Seeds of the Future Programme, Lars Suanet, European Parliament Vice President Anneli Jäätteenmäki and Ms Chen Lifang, global President of the Public Affairs and Communications Department at Huawei at the handover of the student manifesto for the 'Digital Europe of Tomorrow' | Photo credit: Huawei
A group of young technology students have outlined their hopes, dreams and fears in a unique call to EU decision makers to ensure the digital revolution delivers a better future.
The 74 students, from across Europe, presented their ‘Manifesto for the Digital Europe of Tomorrow’ to members of the European Parliament at an event in Brussels on Tuesday which marked their completion in an international training programme funded by IT giants Huawei.
Opening the event, Huawei’s Brussels’ office chief Tony Graziano said, "There are over 4.1 million youth unemployed in the EU, an extremely high figure by any measure, and yet in the ICT industry there are unfilled vacancies which according to the European Commission will reach almost one million by 2020."
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This "mismatch" between what is required by the job market and what is being provided by the education system was, said Graziano one of the factors that drove Huawei to develop its international training programme.
"That is why, back in 2008, we launched the programme, to fill a gap that we saw existed," said Graziano.
The ‘Telecom Seeds for the Future’ programme as it was initially known, was introduced to Europe in 2011 and has seen more than 700 European students from 27 countries pass through the initiative.
By 2020 the company expects over 2500 young Europeans to have participated in the study trip programme to China which allows the students to gain first-hand insights into the work of the multinational ICT giant.
In a keynote speech addressing the latest intake of 74 students, Chen Lifang, President of Huawei’s Public Affairs and Communications Department said the Seeds for the Future initiative was the company’s largest CSR programme, spanning 57 countries.
"As a global leader, we will continue to use our expertise and strengths to help develop the youth in Europe and we will create more jobs and development opportunities for them," said Chen, adding, "the best way to predict the future is to create it."
"We hope that Seeds for the Future can help improve the digital skills of European students, encourage them to pursue a career in Science, technology, engineering and mathematics."
Chen told the audience at the packed lunchtime event in Brussels’ historic Concert Noble in the heart of the EU district, that often "real world" insight was more valuable than knowledge and that the Seeds for the Future training programme "allowed students to experience cultural differences" and to understand how a company such as Huawei operates in a global and cross-cultural environment.
"The Seeds for the Future programme can help them become global talent who are sharp, insightful and have strong communication skills."
On receiving the manifesto, Finnish MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki said it was a "wonderful statement of young people’s hopes, dreams and fears," served as "a valuable message to the European Parliament," and "touched upon many of the themes that we European decision-makers struggle with on a daily basis."
Jäätteenmäki, a Vice President of the Parliament for the Liberal ALDE group, said that digitalisation was revolutionising society at a speed that was "almost overwhelming."
"Digitalisation is transforming the structures of our society as we speak. It’s changing the way we work and transforming the very way we own, consume and communicate."
Acknowledging some of the concerns raised by the students in their manifesto, Jäätteenmäki said that although many aspects of the digital revolution were extremely disruptive, she favoured a light legislative touch "since we cannot predict the future, we must be careful not to prevent further development of useful emerging technologies.
"Digitisation will only lead to good things if administered wisely."
Ahead of presenting the manifesto to the MEPs, Lars Suanet, a student representative from the 2016 Seeds for the Future intake said, "Every student in this room, together with many more across Europe, has their own memories from the Seeds for the Future programme that has enriched both their technical and ICT skills as well as their intercultural competence."
Suanet added that among other things, the manifesto was an opportunity for the students in the programme to help shape and determine their futures. "The manifesto speaks of some of our fears, as many challenges need to be faced in order to secure a stable, digital future."
Romanian MEP Ramona Mănescu praised Huawei on the Seeds of the Future programme and on its investment in European based research and development, which she said demonstrated "the progress that can be made in a world without borders.
"We live in an ever-changing world, a place where nothing stays the same for long," said Mănescu, adding, "in a very real sense, Huawei and the students gathered here today exemplify the changes that we are going through."
The centre-right EPP group deputy said digitalisation was the key driver of much of that change. "The digital revolution is bigger than any one country or any one continent. Huawei - employing nearly 180,000 people worldwide - plays an extraordinary role in that digital revolution."
Her Bulgarian MEP colleague, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, told the students that he was "blown away" by the Seeds for the Future programme, which he said struck him "as one of the most positive Corporate Social Responsibility programmes" currently running.
"The fact that this scheme has a global reach, well beyond Europe makes it all the more commendable. The digital revolution knows no boundaries. Geography plays no part: ideas are not confined by borders," said Kyuchyuk.
Kyuchyuk, who has been active in youth rights and freedoms activities for over a decade, added, "As digital technologies put a myriad of new opportunities at our fingertips, we have a responsibility towards the younger generations to ensure that we make the best use of them.
"Giving students the opportunity to get some work experience in a global business environment must be seen as an impressive part of a student’s development."
Europe has all the ingredients for a smooth transition towards the connected age – now it needs to get the mixture right, argues Tony Graziano.
Chance to position Europe at the forefront of global digital economy, says GSMA's Daniel Pataki.
Students understand the need for business-education partnerships, says Tony Graziano.