Investing in Europe's next generation: Seeds for the Future

Businesses and policymakers unite to tackle youth unemployment and broaden young peoples’ horizons.

By William Louch

03 Dec 2015

EU policymakers, leading corporate figures and the King of Belgium came together recently in Brussels for the launch of a European programme to tackle youth unemployment. 

The European Pact for Youth was outlined at the recent Enterprise Europe summit by European employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility Commissioner Marianne Thyssen. The Pact aims to combat youth unemployment through initiatives led by industry, government and education. 

Thyssen opened the summit, organised by industry group CSR Europe, announcing that the European Commission fully supported the pact, and saying that, "already the initiatives are starting to show encouraging results. Over the last year youth unemployment has decreased by 500,000."


In a keynote speech, Chen Lifang, corporate senior Vice-President of ICT giants Huawei highlighted that, "we believe that over the next two decades we will enter the digital society - one of the most important developments of the last 1000 years; the young people of today are the first generation of the digital age."

Madame Chen went on to outline why Huawei supported the European Pact for Youth initiative, telling participants that Huawei was, "honoured to be a member of the Pact. We will apply our ICT expertise to support the education and development of young people, help them gain more skills and create more jobs and opportunities for the next generation."

Explaining that, "The most talented among them will become thought leaders, strategy leaders and technology leaders," Madame Chen asked, "How can we help them gain more knowledge and improve their skills?"

She then presented two key initiatives that Huawei has been running across Europe over several years in a bid to boost young people's employment prospects, harness their technological potential and increase their cultural awareness. 

The first initiative Madame Chen mentioned was Huawei's flagship 'Seeds for the Future' CSR programme. This aims to bridge the gap between IT education in schools and universities and the world of work. 

Madame Chen said; "We have implemented the Seeds for the Future programme in 57 countries. About 1500 students have participated in this programme, from over 150 universities, including Oxford and Cambridge."

To demonstrate Huawei's commitment to stepping up their involvement in tackling youth unemployment, Madame Chen said, she was "happy to announce that over the next five years, we will invite a further 2000 European students to study and gain experience at Huawei's headquarters in China," adding that, "It gives the students the opportunity to visit and study at Huawei's headquarters in China, to train with experts and become familiar with cutting edge technology. It also allows them to experience Chinese culture and broaden their horizons."

The company's second initiative is the Huawei Innovation Research Programme (HIRP). This initiative, launched in Europe in 2010, is similarly large in scope and aimed at establishing partnerships with universities and research and consulting institutes. These include the University of Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and the Technical University of Munich. 

According to Madame Chen, the programme has "already funded 107 research projects this year, covering areas such as graphene, wireless, optical cloud computing, media technologies and cyber security."

She again highlighted Huawei's commitment to expanding the initiative, saying, "We will expand HIRP to more universities and research institutes to jointly explore the information society - its theory and its technical architecture."

Following Madame Chen's speech, various panel discussions were held where the audience heard from young people currently benefiting from traineeships in large companies. The event concluded with Philippe, King of the Belgians joining a number of young people onstage to demonstrate his support for the Pact.

Following the European Pact for Youth's launch, Huawei hosted a lunch celebrating the Seeds for the Future initiative. The event offered the programme's participants the chance to meet and talk to a number of MEPs and to hear again from Chen Lifang and from Mairead McGuinness MEP, a European Parliament Vice-President. 

Addressing the students, Madame Chen said that she hoped that the Seeds for the Future programme would both inspire young people to get involved in the information society and digital future. "We aim to sow the seeds and train more visionary leaders for the information society."

McGuinness, who also addressed the students said, "Huawei's Seeds for the Future programme is an excellent initiative, offering undergraduates the opportunity to experience both the business and cultural aspects of China. This is positive to enhance understanding and it is a good addition to the existing Erasmus approach of the EU. Huawei are to be congratulated on introducing and expanding the initiative."

She also welcomed the opportunity to meet the Seeds for the Future students, saying, "Recently I got to meet Irish students who spoke very highly about their experiences in China this year, so much so that they expressed an interest in returning to China to learn more about the country."

The chance to meet the students was something Franc Bogovič, an EPP MEP, also enjoyed. He said, "I really enjoyed spending time with students. Like them, I also recently visited the company Huawei in China. Its main focus is investing in R&D and in perspective youth - from all over the world."

He welcomed Huawei's decision to expand the scope of the programme saying, "The programme has not yet been implemented in Slovenia. But, due to an unprecedented interest, I am sure next year will be different."

Martina Werner of Parliament's S&D grouping, also offered her support for the scheme, saying, "I highly appreciate every eff ort to promote ICT skills and to attract young people to ICT education. Building the bridge from school and university knowledge to the industry is an important element of Huawei's Seeds for the Future initiative."

Irish MEP Marian Harkin emphasised the benefits of the programme in terms of helping Europeans gain a better understanding of Chinese culture.

She said, "I asked two students what they had learned. One said 'the Chinese are very committed; if they start something they finish it'. Interestingly the other spoke of the importance of family. Therefore this initiative is a real opportunity to gain some understanding of work, life and culture in China."

Gaining an insight into Chinese culture was something that students in the Seeds for the Future scheme highlighted as a particular motivation for applying for the scheme. 

Frederick Bruce, a student from the UK, said, "I thought it looked like a fantastic opportunity as I had never been to China before but always wanted to go. I was particularly interested in seeing how different Chinese culture is from the West and how this affects how businesses are run."

Matteo Colucci, an Italian participant, described the scheme as "an extraordinary experience," before adding, "It was great to see how different China is and visiting Huawei's head office was incredible."


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