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Italian talent abroad

Rome, 21/09/2014 - 22/09/2014, National Interest
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This National Interest event of the Italian Talent Abroad group focused on work, training and innovation as the key launching pads for the country’s future. It was noted that while the issue of employment is one that impacts on the whole of Europe, it has an even greater bearing in Italy. In particular, there is a risk of losing an entire generation of talent, thereby fueling a vicious circle, since the destruction of skills and expertise in many sectors constitutes an irreversible process. Nor should it be forgotten that job creation depends especially on growth and investment, with the latter being attracted when various conditions are in place, such as social stability, which is increasingly undermined by rising inequalities, including between generations.

The participants characterized the challenges facing the Italian workplace as complex in nature, highlighting the need for: reconciling flexibility with rights protection; promoting inclusiveness and social cohesion; and ensuring good conditions throughout people’s working life. Nevertheless, it was felt the starting point for addressing such challenges is easy to discern: in developed countries, the lack of employment can only be resolved with targeted projects in specific fields of excellence, which enable skills levels and productivity to be raised. In short, Italy, like other European economies, must identify “core” sectors in which to focus efforts and invest.

It was suggested that, in this regard, the attraction and fostering of talent remains one of the best strategies: high standards can only be maintained in employment created today in the industrialized world through the attraction of first-rate human capital, necessarily requiring investment in quality training. In a post-industrial economy, the responsibility for creating a more educated, creative and productive workforce does not – it was stressed – fall solely to schools, universities and training centers, but also to private enterprise and public institutions. To that end, there was a perceived need to set in motion virtuous cycles of collaboration between all the various players, obliging even the most traditional educational institutions to embrace change and focusing on continuous training, as facilitated by the spread of new technologies.

Innovation, on the other hand, deemed important for all economies, was viewed as crucial for a country such as Italy, which is experiencing more pronounced population aging than others and is still grappling with several unresolved issues, ranging from the absence of a culture that rewards merit and supports risk-taking to the scarcity of economic resources. Even so, the country’s many strengths were also highlighted, starting from the fact that the very existence of a brain drain from the country points to an inescapable presumption that Italy is producing quality human capital.

The problem was, if anything, seen as lying in the failure to apply the fruits of the high standard of Italian research – which has improved even further in recent years – to the fullest. It was accordingly argued that the first steps to be taken should involve a review how the academic and scientific communities operate, opening them up to global funding and competition.

In summing up, the participants underlined that the changes proposed in the fields of innovation, training and employment are therefore necessarily interrelated, and now more than ever imperative and urgently called for. It was acknowledged that there is undoubtedly room for debate over the role public institutions should play in this process, with the aim of determining whether they should be tasked with steering innovation processes, or serve merely as facilitators and providers of infrastructure, without interfering in market-driven initiatives. There was, however, consensus on the need to eliminate the excessive bureaucratic constraints which continue to dampen and hem in fresh energies capable of turning the situation in Italy around. It was remarked, in conclusion, that only the pursuit of such a strategy will enable a future to be contemplated where an unobstructed interplay between innovation, training and employment creates wealth and wellbeing.

During the conference the following research, conducted by the Italian talent abroad working groups, was presented: