Greece’s biggest asset is its human capital
Public and private education organizations are making sure tomorrow’s workforce is as skilled as today’s
Greece’s biggest strength is probably its highly skilled workforce. Unfortunately for the country, if not employers, that workforce is currently underutilized. In 2015, the IMD ranked Greece second for readily available skilled labor.
Greece has Europe’s second highest percentage of Masters and PhD students as a share of its population, with science, technology and engineering being specialisms.
Government and private sector want to further strengthen education and the ‘triangle of knowledge’: the connections between entrepreneurship, education, and research and development.
“Private institutions can be complementary to the public system in contributing to Greece’s
Dr. David G. Horner, President, The American College of Greece
“We’ve increased student numbers by 1,000 and created 250 post-doctoral posts,” says Kostas Gavroglu, Minister of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. The American College of Greece, a leading in dependent, non-profit educational organization, also has a plan for education: ‘ACG 150…Advancing the Legacy, Growing Greece’.
The $75-million plan includes setting up an institute for eight applied research centers of excellence, in areas of strategic importance for Greece, as well as a center for technology-based economic development and employment, with links to 170 US research universities. “Private institutions can be complementary to the public system in contributing to Greece’s revitalization,” explains Dr. David G. Horner, the college’s President.
Tackling the Achilles heel: unemployment and ‘brain drain’
Initiatives are in place to help young people build a longterm future for themselves and their country
Jobs have been hard to come by in Greece. 22.5% of the population is out of work and there is 48% youth unemployment. But beyond their skillset and talent, Greece’s young people aren’t willing to sit idly by and thanks to a ‘make it happen’ attitude, many have been moving abroad to seize opportunities where they are readily available.
A major challenge the country faces is turning this ‘brain drain’ into a ‘brain gain’. To limit the loss of young scientists, the government is prioritizing research and innovation-based sectors. While some companies are playing a key role, not only by creating employment opportunities, but most importantly, by empowering young people and incentivizing entrepreneurship. Market-leading gaming company OPAP is a shining example. It already employs around 1,000 people directly and 17,000 indirectly, via 4,500 franchised shops. After its recent successful €200-million bond issue, it has a new investment program that should create thousands more jobs, says CEO Damian Cope.
As part of its corporate social responsibility program, it’s ‘Business Growth by OPAP’ scheme is providing mentoring and financing to twenty fast-growing SMEs. OPAP wants to enable them to reach their full potential and generate employment. “What we are trying to do is prove that it is possible for young people to stay in Greece and have a genuine longterm career,” Cope explains. The startups involved cover a diverse mix of sectors, “we’ve got everything from a beer manufacturer, to online doctor services, to scuba diving businesses,” Cope enthuses, “and we want them to become strong businesses that can promote and sell their products both in Greece and abroad.”
The Coca-Cola Company chose Athens as a regional hub due to its location and talent, notes Melina Androutsopoulou, Public Affairs and Communications Director, Central and Eastern Europe. “Greece has always been a market that has been very successful and very keen to innovate, whether it’s for a product or other areas of the business,” she adds. For each of their employees, it supports another 11 jobs in, for example supply and distribution, making it responsible for 21,300 Greek jobs. It supports numerous initiatives to help young people in Greece. It has an ‘Enterpreneurships Schools in Greece’ scheme, to inspire new startups, as well as programs focused on skills, development, employment and internships. And 300 graduates have found jobs through its internship program, which has an 80% success rate. As far as Coca-Cola is concerned, says Androutsopoulou, “you can’t take advantage of the opportunities in Greece without investing in its young people.”