Ed­u­ca­tion is to­mor­row’s gold mine

Hu­man cap­i­tal is our most prised re­source—an al­most in­fi­nite re­source, if we are ca­pa­ble of de­vel­op­ing it to its full po­ten­tial

The Daily News Egypt - - Commentary -

The glob­al­i­sa­tion of trade and com­merce since the late 1980s has led in par­al­lel to a glob­al­i­sa­tion of the labour mar­ket, in or­der to meet the huge needs of emerg­ing economies. It is what we call to­day the ‘tal­ent war’. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, a global mar­ket for higher ed­u­ca­tion has devel­oped, driven by new, com­mon diploma stan­dards de­ter­min­ing that schools and univer­si­ties need to work harder than ever to at­tract the best stu­dents.

Com­pe­ti­tion is stronger than ever

This com­pe­ti­tion has be­come even more in­tense with the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion and the rise of in­dus­try 4.0. Coun­tries and com­pa­nies the world over are aware that they need to at­tract those who have the high­est po­ten­tial—in the fields of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, big data, con­nec­tiv­ity, cy­ber se­cu­rity, among oth­ers—and train to­mor­row’s tal­ents if they want to be lead­ers on in­no­va­tion’s fore­front.

“Coun­tries and com­pa­nies need to at­tract those who have the high­est po­ten­tial and train to­mor­row’s tal­ents”.

Emerg­ing coun­tries have long been fo­cused on the con­struc­tion of their econ­omy, but they are now also be­gin­ning to treat ed­u­ca­tion as a pri­or­ity— of­ten with spec­tac­u­lar results.Thus, China has built one of the most suc­cess­ful univer­sity sys­tems in the world with nearly 7.5 mil­lion grad­u­ates in 2017, twice as many as in 2007.This fo­cus on univer­si­ties, as well as on heavy in­vest­ments in R&D, has led to China be­com­ing one of the world’s most in­no­va­tive economies. The coun­try climbed five places in the 2018 Global In­no­va­tion In­dex. China now ranks ahead of coun­tries such as Canada and Nor­way, to name but a few.

The gov­ern­ments of In­dia, Brazil and Rus­sia man­i­fest sim­i­lar in­ten­tions – as do all coun­tries that want to ac­cel­er­ate their growth in the com­ing decades.

Ad­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion means in­creased pros­per­ity

Ad­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion leads to fresh in­no­va­tion… and there­fore, in­creased pros­per­ity.The 2992 No­bel prize win­ner Gary Becker was the first economist to es­tab­lish a clear link be­tween in­vest­ments in ed­u­ca­tion and in­come growth, at both an in­di­vid­ual and a na­tional level. Rel­a­tive to com­pa­nies, his en­light­en­ing con­cept of “hu­man cap­i­tal” ex­plains why com­pa­nies who in­vest more in train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence fur­ther suc­cess.

Gary Becker’s anal­y­sis is ob­vi­ously even more rel­e­vant as the on­go­ing spec­tac­u­lar dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion un­folds; con­tem­po­rary in­di­vid­u­als need to mas­ter nu­mer­ous, di­verse and con­stantly evolv­ing skills, as do com­pa­nies and modern so­ci­eties.

Com­pa­nies have an ed­u­ca­tional mis­sion

As Chair­man and CEO of Thales, but also as a cit­i­zen and as a fa­ther, I be­lieve more than ever that our in­vest­ment in hu­man cap­i­tal needs to evolve and in­ten­sify for ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit.

How? I will talk about what I know best: busi­nesses. I be­lieve that a com­pany can only ex­ist and re­main in­no­va­tive if it takes its role in ed­u­ca­tion very se­ri­ously.

There are dif­fer­ent ways to do this. We know the strength of the Ger­man model, with its ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grammes for teenagers start­ing from the age of 14. A few years ago, the CEO of one of the largest Ger­man car man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies started out as an ap­pren­tice – demon­strat­ing if need be, that com­pa­nies can train and foster tal­ents, setting no lim­its on their am­bi­tion other than their own com­mit­ment and de­sire to learn.

“A com­pany can in­no­vate only if it takes its role in ed­u­ca­tion very se­ri­ously”.

An­other method that we favour at Thales is to col­lab­o­rate with aca­demic ecosys­tems around the world.We sup­port ecosys­tems with, of course, an aim of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,but above all for rea­sons re­lat­ing to our most am­bi­tious mis­sion, which is de­sign­ing, de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing tech­nolo­gies that will con­cretely im­prove the daily life of all, i.e. to en­able tech­nol­ogy to as­sist mankind.

What we do in Canada is em­blem­atic of this ap­proach. Mon­treal is a fan­tas­tic hub of in­tel­li­gence and knowl­edge, struc­tured around pres­ti­gious univer­si­ties and driven by a gen­er­ous vi­sion – the “Mon­treal Dec­la­ra­tion for a Re­spon­si­ble De­vel­op­ment of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence”. That’s why we chose to es­tab­lish a global re­search cen­tre in Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence eX­per­tise, CortAIx, and a new ex­ten­sion of our Dig­i­tal Fac­tory.

CortAIx re­searchers hence col­lab­o­rate closely with re­searchers from the Mon­treal In­sti­tute for Learn­ing Al­go­rithms (MILA), the In­sti­tute of Data Val­ori­sa­tion (IVADO) and the Vec­tor In­sti­tute of Toronto to de­velop to­mor­row’s tech­nolo­gies whilst honour­ing eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples.

Sim­i­larly, the com­pany’s com­mit­ment to the ENCQOR pro­ject (the evo­lu­tion of cloud ser­vices in the Que­bec-On­tario cor­ri­dor for re­search and in­no­va­tion) is also based on part­ner­ships with aca­demic and re­search in­sti­tu­tions.The ENCQOR pro­ject will boost in­no­va­tion and en­able the suc­cess­ful de­ploy­ment of 5G through­out all of Canada,

This ap­proach is the model for the dozens of aca­demic part­ner­ships we have es­tab­lished around the world. In France with the CNRS and top engi­neer­ing schools, in the US with the MIT, in China with sev­eral univer­si­ties in Bei­jing and Hong Kong, in In­dia with the In­sti­tutes of Tech­nol­ogy in Bom­bay and Delhi, as well as in many other coun­tries.

Sci­ence has the power to make peo­ple spec­u­late

A third way is for tech com­pa­nies to com­mit to help­ing chil­dren and teenagers dis­cover the in­fi­nite reser­voir for amaze­ment and in­tel­li­gence that we now call STEM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics).

When it was launched 20 years ago, I was im­pressed by the 1992 Physics No­bel prize win­ner, Ge­orges Charpak’s ini­tia­tive (“La Main à la Pâte”) to ren­o­vate and pro­mote the teach­ing of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy in France’s pri­mary and sec­ondary schools. The ini­tial idea was ab­so­lutely lu­mi­nous: to teach chil­dren how to ob­serve and ex­per­i­ment, so that they could de­velop their un­der­stand­ing of the world, their abil­ity to work to­gether, and ul­ti­mately be­come smarter, more con­fi­dent, and more cre­ative adults.

It is an ever-in­spir­ing suc­cess, and I was very happy to see the Thales Foun­da­tion re­ward an ini­tia­tive launched by this struc­ture to help stu­dents from 12 pri­mary school classes in Châte­nay-Mal­abry build and pro­gramme small ro­bots.

“Stim­u­late the cu­rios­ity of young stu­dents who may be­come to­mor­row’s re­searchers and en­gi­neers”.

This same so­ci­etal and ed­u­ca­tional gen­eros­ity has led to dozens ofThales tech­ni­cians and en­gi­neers to get in­volved in projects world­wide. In Eng­land, in Craw­ley, with the Saint Wil­frids school, as part of the Ar­duino Chal­lenge; in Ger­many, in Arn­stadt and Ditzin­gen, to in­tro­duce chil­dren to sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal ca­reers and in the US, in Ar­ling­ton, to help mid­dle and high school stu­dents build mini rock­ets for the Team Amer­ica Rock­etry Chal­lenge.

Be­cause our em­ploy­ees know the eman­ci­pat­ing power of sci­enc­tific ed­u­ca­tion, en­gi­neers and tech­ni­cians give their time to pri­mary and sec­ondary schools by or­gan­is­ing work­shops and com­pe­ti­tions that stim­u­late the cu­rios­ity of young stu­dents, who may be­come to­mor­row’s re­searchers and en­gi­neers.

For a new Age of En­light­en­ment

In his fa­mous 1784 es­say What is En­light­en­ment? philoso­pher Em­manuel Kant urged his con­tem­po­raries to have “the courage to use their own un­der­stand­ing and rea­son” to mas­ter their des­tinies. At ex­actly the same time, math­e­ma­ti­cian Jean d’Alem­bert and philoso­pher De­nis Diderot pro­posed with their En­cy­clopae­dia a prodi­gious dis­play of the sci­ence and tech­nolo­gies of their time, with the same gen­er­ous am­bi­tion of ed­u­cat­ing and eman­ci­pat­ing mankind.

The on­go­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion will re­quire up­com­ing gen­er­a­tions to pos­sess more ex­ten­sive sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal skills than ever be­fore. As tech com­pa­nies are full of gen­er­ous, cu­ri­ous, in­ven­tive and very well­trained tal­ents, they must be ever more in­volved in cre­at­ing a new Age of En­light­en­ment, through ed­u­ca­tion and col­lec­tive re­search, for the ben­e­fit of all.

Pa­trice Caine

is the chair­per­son, and CEO of Thales Group


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