First Competitive Education Conference brings together academia, government and business

  • November 27, 2015
AmCham Hungary and the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA), with the professional partnership of the Ministry of Human Capacities, brought together top government decision makers and more than 100 teachers and corporate leaders at an inaugural “Competitive Education Conference”.

The conference's goal was to explore cooperation between the  relevant stakeholders and to encourage dialogue  that leads to Hungary’s enhanced competitiveness.

Keynote speaker Zoltán Balog, Minister of Human Capacities (who runs a “super-ministry” that includes in its remit education, sports, church affairs, culture, youth and family affairs, social affairs and inclusion and health), pointed out that education is a longterm investment and could not be viewed in isolation. “Along with education, sports, health care and social inclusion deserve extra attention and a coherent strategy because only improving all of these together will result in enhanced competitiveness,” he said. He called for improvements in computer literacy, but expressed optimism regarding the dual training system, and remarked that, following recent wage hikes in higher education the overall quality of universities is expected to get better. However, he highlighted that it must go together with learning languages. “There are 40,000 out there who cannot get their degree because they don’t have a language certificate. The ability to communicate in a foreign tongue is a great part of competitiveness,” Balog said. 

The conference was an important milestone in the consultation process AmCham initiated with the government a year ago, and which has already resulted in its “Policy Agenda” document covering the next three-year period. A key element of that agenda concerns Hungary’s human capital, which can be best used only if the demands of the corporate sector and academia are harmonized. 

The aim of the event was to determine current problems and available strengths in the field of education and then to present such findings to the prime minister, the ultimate objective being that the country should be raised ten places in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) rankings within ten years.

As AmCham Hungary’s President Ferenc Pongrácz stressed, the organization contributes to achieving this goal through its talent-related programs that primarily promote entrepreneurship (“Start your Business!”), language learning and labor market orientation (“Language and Career AmbassadorProgram”) and women’s economic engagement. 

Róbert Ésik, the president of HIPA, reminded the conference of why a well educated workforce is so important to the business world. “According toour experience, decisions as to where a particular investment should be carried out are influenced by four main factors: The overall economic climate; the labor market situation and the education system; infrastructure and logistics; and the level of development of the supplier market. Now the human factor is gaining ever more value,” he said. “Our goal is to get a direct, two-way-dialogue going between the government and AmCham’s member companies.”

A panel discussion on the future of education featured secretaries of state for education, Judit Czunyiné Bertalan, László Odrobina and László Palkovics;  director of Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development (OFI), József Kaposi; Emese Kovácsné Nagy, university professor and creator of the "Hejőkeresztúr-model"; Judit Zolnay, CEO of Metlife and Norbert Fogarasi, Managing Director of Morgan Stanley.The discussion was moderated by Róbert Bencze, director at PwC.

Secretary of state for public education Dr. Judit Czunyiné Bertalan said there was a need for educating joyful children, capable of success. Secretary of state for higher education Dr. László Palkovics mentioned the importance of successful cooperation between corporations and education. Other professional participants from various fields of education and from companies highlighted critical and creative thinking, cooperation and self-confidence as important skills that education should focus more on. Language and basic financial knowledge were also important, and AmCham’s Language and Career Ambassador Programs were mentioned as best practices.

For more on the panel discussion please click here, to download the graphic notes, prepared by Remarker

After a short coffee break Andrea Juhos, AmCham Board member, chair of the Talent Policy Task Force and managing director of LHH talked to teachers about the future of jobs, education and the labour market. She gave an inspirational, motivational talk with the goal to prepare teachers for the challenges ahead.

The conference also ensured a platform for teachers to exchange information with invited business executives and HR professionals at the “Interactive Corporate Corners” on financial and digital skills, language learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The idea was to allow teachers to become more familiar with the expectations of the business world, and for companies to better know what support or cooperation schools are looking for from the private sector.

Finally, the event hosted three closed roundtable discussions, working out recommendations together with business, government and academia in the following areas: 

  • Language skills - moderated by Krisztina Varga, Board member at AmCham Hungary and Regional Business Operation Manager, Hewlett Packard Enterprises
  • Competencies - moderated by Zsolt Fehér, Chairman of the AmCham HR Committee and CEO of Assessments International
  • Labour market orientation - moderated by László Szépkúti, Co-chair of the Talent Policy Task Force and HR director of Flex Hungary
The recommendations were reported back to the plenary session and will be forwarded to Prime Minister Orbán, Minister Balog and his State secretaries in the coming weeks.