The cornerstone of any country is a healthy economy, which can produce the financial resources to support the development and execution of government services and allow citizens to purchase goods and services. However, both the United States (US) and European Union (EU) are suffering from two phenomenon that are impeding growth: a shortage of qualified engineers who are the backbone of the technology economy and an influx of refugees and immigrants who are being used by politicians to divert attention away from economic reform.
The growing rise of nationalist, isolationist leaders in the European Union (Marine Le Pen in France, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom) and the United States (Donald Trump) have blamed the souring economy on immigration and other foreign forces. This rhetoric has prompted many people to vote based on immigration policy, rather than focusing on specific economic policies. Brexit serves as the perfect example, with the majority of the leave vote supporting the referendum due to immigration and the economy. However, many economists believe the exit of Britain from the EU will have negative effects on the wealth and resources of the country.
Therefore, I believe the dialogue needs to change from blaming immigrants for the financial downturn, to focusing on parts of the economy that need strengthening and figuring out ways to incorporate these large populations of people, so they can contribute to their local economies. This not only benefits the EU and US financially, but also increases social harmony as citizens see the benefits of immigration in their country. I believe the technology industry is the perfect place to bring together both of these issues and contribute to the shared economic growth of the US and EU.
I believe greater use of technology in education will be at the forefront of each country’s competitive advantage in business and civil society. The technology industry contributes over 7% of US GPD as well as 8% of GDP in major G-20 countries, and the numbers continue to grow. The growth prospects of the technology economy are promising for job creation, as new business services facilitate the entry of small and medium sized businesses, which are the number one new job creators. Technology not only enables digital innovation, but also spurs change in business models, the transfer of knowledge, and access to international markets. However, both the United States and EU (especially Germany) are experiencing a decrease in engineers graduating from their top universities.
Therefore, as the EU and United States move forward they will need to consider their human capital investments and what skills the next generation of youth need to acquire in order to be able to access these jobs and remain competitive in the market. I believe an area of growth and distinct advantage is enhanced education in technology. Countries such as India have seen increased demand for its workers due to government backed initiatives to prompt technology in the classroom, either in higher education or technical colleges focused on vocational training. As emerging markets build their manufacturing and human capital capabilities, it is essential that the EU and United States stay up-to-date on research and development in order to remain competitive.
There is huge potential for partnership in this area for both the EU and United States. As two of the world’s largest economies and historical trading partners, both the United States and EU have a vested interest to collaborate with one another. Additionally, both countries need to increase their human capital investments and boost the number of graduates with technical expertise. By bringing their skills together and creating an effective and competitive learning program, each country can ensure middle-income jobs in their home countries and continue to build their economies.
Specifically, the United States can provide their educational tools focused on creativity and go-to-market strategies that allow for products to be fast to market and determine success/failure quickly. Germany, on the other hand, brings a strong grounding in human-centered product design, which is essential for creating personalized approaches to IT-based education as well as a history of extensive training programs, which are accustomed to equipping young people with necessary skills at an early age.
Building relations in technology and digital education, will not only boost the economy, but also provide a way in which to incorporate migrant populations across the EU and the United States. Across Europe, citizens have expressed concern of the growing number of refugees and their strain on the economy. By focusing training programs on these groups of individuals, these new members of society can find a means to gain a well-paying job, contribute to the national economy, and provide themselves with a set of skills welcome in multiple countries. Additionally, The Economist reports that one in three computer engineers in the United Kingdom are foreign born with the numbers growing across Europe. This makes the technology sector an excellent industry for newly arrived immigrants, as employers are familiar with employees of different nationalities and ethnic origins.
I believe by focusing trans-Atlantic relations on the technology sector, the EU and United States can build their economies, facilitate international trade, prepare the next generation of youth, and create innovative models solutions that effectively solve their present day challenges.