Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility addressed the audience. Commissioner Navracsics stated that:
"Our work must therefore start in the classroom and cover all levels of education. And we need to involve all the relevant players, from businesses to schools, from universities to informal education centres. Above all else, we must involve teachers."
Commissioner Thyssen then noted that:
"Continuing with education, skills and training policies that sometimes run in isolation from business needs is no longer feasible. We must acknowledge that there is no one-size fits all – this is why local and regional partnership is key".
The conference started off with an address from Michel van der Bel, President of Microsoft EMEA, who outlined the opportunities that exist when industry, government and society come together with a mutual goal to drive digital skills. The STEM Alliance initiative was then introduced through a video detailing the achievements of the project in the 8 months since its launch.
Following the plenary session, two parallel events took place: the first one being the STEM Alliance session in which business involvement for increased innovation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education was explored, both through working with teachers and students.
"A partnership between schools and industry increases students' interest in science subjects and introduces innovative practices to teachers. Such collaboration makes teachers more aware of current role models in the field of science, as well as study paths and careers. The industry can also offer teachers options for in-service training and teaching resources. The STEM Alliance encourages this sort of cooperation", says Marc Durando, Executive Director of European Schoolnet.
The second Leaders meeting of the European Pact for Youth also took place during the event and was co-chaired by Viscount Étienne Davignon, Minister of State and President of CSR Europe and Marianne Thyssen. The meeting was attended by numerous CEOs of companies and civil society organisations and a policy proposal was delivered to the EU on how to make business-education partnerships the new norm across Europe. More details of the proposal can be found here.
The event also included an award ceremony for the finalists of the STEM4YOU competition, organised by STEM Alliance as part of the STEM Discovery campaign in April 2016. 13 teachers received recognition for their efforts in promoting STEM subjects and careers in their schools through innovative practices and methods. STEM Alliance also released its first publication, "Setting the Scene: ICT in STEM Education – Impacts and Challenges", which presents and analyses the ways STEM education can improve students' learning outcomes and skills development with the help of ICT, and how businesses can support education in these developments.
On the topic of business-education partnerships, youth employability and how European Businesses could contribute, Michel van der Bel commented:
"With the pace of innovation, we have reached a real tipping point where we need to accelerate the digital skills agenda here in Europe. Boldly I would say that learning is the ‘oxygen' that will fuel this acceleration."
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