Planting the Seeds of Tomorrow’s Innovations

How Nurturing Talent Will Fully Support the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Future of Jobs report released by the World Economic Forum in 2016 estimates that over the next three years, 2 million new jobs will appear in the fields of computing, mathematics, architecture, and engineering. Given this forecast, it’s evident that our rapidly evolving landscape requires us to redefine approaches to education to fully embrace technology as a fixture of the future.

In a world set to witness 100 billion connections by 2025, it’s a race against time to prepare for the changes that lie ahead. At Huawei, we are implementing skills development and training initiatives to lay a broader foundation for inclusive technological development that contributes to human wellbeing at the global scale.

When Huawei launched its inaugural Seeds for the Future engagement in 2008 in Thailand, the program had a singular focus on capacity building for tech students. Our work with educational institutions led to a combination of on-site training and donations of technology equipment. It didn’t take long to realize there was much more that we needed to do if we wanted to bring about critical systems level change. We realized there was still a gap between what was learned at school and the emerging needs of our fast moving industry. We looked to the future, at geopolitical dynamics and other socio-economic drivers of change and realized we also had a role in helping top students develop leadership skills that are required to compete at the global level. When we proposed to universities the idea of inviting students to China to experience its culture and discover the technologies of the future, we received very enthusiastic feedback. The positive responses encouraged us to pilot Seeds of the Future with British and French students.

The first cohort of students arrived in China in 2011 and their agenda was rather simple. They spent one week in Beijing learning basic Chinese at the Beijing Language and Culture University while also getting acquainted with Chinese culture and history. More than 95 percent of participating students acknowledged that learning about China and Chinese culture from the inside helped them to bridge the cultural divide to move beyond stereotypes and clichés and formulate a better understanding of China’s success factors. For many, it was their first visit to China – even their first time abroad – and the initial culture shock was soon replaced by amazement and inspiration. For most of the students, seeing the Great Wall was a lifetime experience – some even received lessons in Kung Fu.

Nordic Seeds for the Future Students at the Great Wall outside Beijing.

The second week was spent in Shenzhen – the location of our headquarters – to receive training on the latest of Huawei’s technology, visit the Huawei exhibition centers, and interact with top industry experts. With students predominantly focused on STEM studies (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the interest around cutting-edge technologies was palpable. The students were thrilled to build a base station and learn how to connect a network, allowing them to call, send messages, or browse on the Internet. They particularly delighted in the exchanges with our colleagues from Research and Development, who shared their stories and their vision for our industry in the next ten to twenty years. The visit to our exhibition centers appealed to everyone without exception: seeing how the future might appear when the Internet of Things lies at the heart of our homes and lives, and marveling at the endless technological ideas that they might implement back in their home countries. They were also impressed with the two-km2 campus and its 40,000 employees!

Lab practices at Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen.

Ten years after welcoming the first program participants, Seeds for the Future has now reached 102 countries, fostering partnerships with more than 300 universities worldwide. The success of the program strongly relies on the balance between cultural and technical program components. The opportunity to converse with Huawei experts and participants from other countries further enhances the participant experience. As the Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility who led the revamp of the program back in 2011, I once had the pleasure of meeting with a group of students representing 14 separate nationalities. At such times, one realizes that there are no frontiers in our physical world and that knowledge sharing is truly global. Witnessing the interactions and exchanges within such multicultural groups is always rewarding and serves as a continual reminder that we are at the forefront of building a diverse, safe, and better-connected world.

Students from Japan, Romania and New Zealand at the opening ceremony in Beijing.

Diversity indeed matters greatly. In an industry with a very low percentage of women, it was a priority for us to encourage more women to join the program. I was quite pleased to break industry clichés by welcoming a group of bright women students from the United Arab Emirates. Since then, more have joined the program, and earlier this year I attended the Mohammed Bin Zayed – Majlis For the Future Generation in Abu Dhabi where our female Seeds for the Future students from the UAE presented their innovations that address local challenges. Women are heavily involved in their communities and ready to make a difference using technology as a force for good.

More recently, I met Marcus, an undergraduate Computer Science student from Estonia. When he was asked to share his insights on the program at the end of the two weeks, he focused his presentation on the future outlook, the challenges that we will face, and how we need to rethink our approach towards technology. He also talked about his ambition to innovate for Estonia, introducing new applications such as WeChat and ushering his country into the digital age. He emphasized how inspired he was by everything he saw at our headquarters in China, and how much he learned from other international Seeds students. Listening to him speak about his willingness to fail so that he could start over again and again until he succeeded, I was amazed by his maturity, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his motivation for shaping the world he desired to live in. What was even more rewarding was to hear that the Estonian Seeds students all planned to work together to establish these new technologies and adapt them to their local needs. I felt proud to be part of their journey of discovery and achievement.

Marcus, Seeds for the Future student representative from Estonia.

Seeds for the Future is more than just a two-week experience. It is meant to nurture those smart young people from all around the world to make significant contributions in our industry. Some have joined Huawei’s workforce, some now work for our customers, and others, like Marcus, will be the entrepreneurs and future change-makers in their country and beyond.

To learn more about Seeds for the Future, please visit our website.

 

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