On the spot
By Maurice Campagna
(From "Horizons" no. 114 September 2017)
Back in the days when Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) was still called Brown, Boveri & Cie., the company was already sending its employees from north to south, east to west, and vice versa in both cases. By 1988 at the latest, after its merger and change of name, ABB began to attach increasing priority to 'best practices' on the ground and 'peer education' in different cultural environments. Many large, globally active companies in the financial and pharmaceutical sectors did the same in order to break down prejudices against local cultures and at the same time to build trust in organisations that had been newly created through international mergers. In the past 30 years, the mobility of employees has become increasingly important across all industries and sectors.
It has often happened that the new experiences gained by such 'wandering' employees have enabled them to undergo an attractive change in their career path, whether in academia or in different social spheres. At a younger age, it can be especially appealing to experience change within a new organisation – and it's also easier to cope with it if you haven't yet started a family. Later, the hurdles to change become higher. This is also why early internships can be beneficial – and not just for students.
At present, however, I am observing a contrary tendency. Despite swift, free, borderless communication and a global market, the underlying conditions have worsened for the upcoming generation of students and those young people who are in training. For example, since 2014 Switzerland has only been able to participate indirectly in the European educational programme Erasmus Plus. But student exchange programmes and similar measures are in fact highly relevant for young Swiss citizens whose environment is in any case already multicultural. We have to meet these challenges together with our neighbours, and find common solutions.
It is important that we can progress to full association quickly, by 2021 at the latest. This would open up the doors not just to our European neighbours and the USA, but also to the East and to Asia.
Maurice Campagna is the President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.