One of the pillars on which the Cyprus economy will have to depend on in order to get out of the bankrupt situation we inherited is to re-invent education. And the new administration is tasked with the impossible – trying to reduce unemployment.
We have too many accountants with great expertise but lacking any depth in their interpretation of all things black and white. Everyone wants to become a doctor with no grasp of the realities of Cyprus and what specialisation is needed, while lawyers are in abundance with few treading into the new domains of intellectual property, energy, maritime, international trade or even European social law.
In other words, we have too many chiefs and few Indians.
Thinking “outside the box” is a thing of the past. Nowadays, you have to think, breathe and work outside the box.
Being different is passé. You have to innovate and be several steps ahead of the rest, otherwise small and large enterprises will never have the competitive edge over their rivals.
Education is the key word here. With Cyprus gradually moving to install a natural gas network for home consumption, we have no qualified engineers who have a clue about LNG networking and connections to households or businesses. This is not an issue for MIT-trained wizards or international award wining academics. They are not the ones who will take care of the plumbing and piping of the national gas grid.
Our universities have rightly embarked on introducing novel energy-related courses, but these are aimed at preparing candidates for the handful of positions on offshore platforms or within exploration companies. What we need are the hundreds of people who will handle the nuts and bolts of the operation.
This is where past governments took the stupid decision to abolish the Higher Technical Institute, where, among other vocational courses, Cyprus had the unique school for marine engineers, highly regarded by the shipping industry. The programme has since been orphaned and lingering from one state institution to the other. It would have been easier to keep the HTI open and even keep it going as a separate college. As a result, we are no longer producing engineers who would have secured jobs on board Cyprus-registered ships even before their graduation.
Let’s not do the same with energy-related courses. It’s bad enough that the Human Resources Development Agency (HRDA/ANAD) has run out of funds because grants were handed out by the bucket-load, depriving many other SMEs of valuable aid to hire young graduates, this lack of money also prevents employers from considering to re-train their staff in order to adapt to the new needs of the market and compete on an equal footing with their local or international rivals.
As a leading management expert told several audiences in Cyprus, “take any job you find, even if below your financial expectations. Don’t lounge around the cafés. And try to go back to school and learn more.”
Now, if only the state and the academics put their heads together. They could actually achieve miracles.
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