Estonia’s Search for a Happy Industrialist
Estonia is starting to run out of people who have the skills to build something essential with their own two hands, like a stove, a well or a shed. Just think about your own life, remember your school days and ask yourself: which part of the school curriculum have you needed in real life, and what have you desperately wished you had learned?
I agree with Heldur Meerits, one of the authors published in this issue, who thinks that the curricula of general education schools has got catastrophically out of control. I also agree that every further school year improves the skills of the students to make connections between things – but does it increase their practical skills to the same extent? A person must be able to apply their theoretical skills to solving practical problems in everyday life.
We are starting to run out of people who know how to solve practical problems, and I am not talking only of manual tasks. We are starting to run out of people, period.
Jüri Riives, who is writing in this issue of RiTo about the future of mechatronics in Estonia and around the world, explained at a science and innovation conference on 8 May why Estonia would never attract an industrial giant. He quoted a foreign producer of large aeroturbines who had presented the following arguments:
- Estonia has a disadvantageous geographical location (far from the centres);
- Estonia has no experience in large industrial plants;
- Estonia does not have enough competent people who are familiar with massive production systems; Estonia has too few people, in general;
- Estonia is located too close to a certain other country which increases the political risk of investments.
Estonia needs a well thought out industrial policy. One of the components of such a policy is the training of intelligent and qualifid people whose work offers the greatest possible added value.
Thirty two per cent of the alumni of Estonian universities do not use the learned skills or knowledge in their everyday work. And as if this was not enough, the 2011–2012 Gallup study results, taken from the essay of Heldur Meerits, say that 20 per cent of the Estonian labour force hates their work and only 14 per cent is happy with their work.
Of course, the state cannot magically make anyone happy, even by handing its citizens large lumps of cash. The state must think strategically on the macro level (smart specialisation; see RiTo No. 29), and on the micro level offer opportunities for limitless self-development to the people who are willing and able to take them.