According to Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, “It is necessary to have an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and provides financial resources to support young innovators.” We had the chance to talk to Mr. Bettel and get his views regarding the state of education in digital, the lack of young entrepreneurs and developers, and potential ways to reduce would-be entrepreneurs’ fears. (Xavier Bettel during the interview in his office. Photograph: Olivier Minaire)
Your Minister of National Education announced the launch of Digital (4) Education last spring. What do you expect from this program?
One of the biggest challenges is to prepare young people for an increasingly complex world, marked by the omnipresence of digital. However, to develop our economy and strengthen our country’s status as a “smart nation,” our citizens must be well aware of the new digital world and we must have a workforce with strong computer skills.
Digital (4) Education aims to prepare young people for a work environment that’s constantly changing and evolving from a technological standpoint, and for their role as citizens in the private and public domains. The program introduces digital resources into school curricula and extracurricular activities, thereby promoting new learning strategies and innovative educational projects. The availability of these technological tools make young people more autonomous in their access to knowledge and help guarantee equal access for all students, regardless of their social background, to information and quality educational resources.
Training is one of the keystones of other European ecosystems’ success. What do you think of the idea of creating a dedicated school for developers in Luxembourg in order to meet the needs of startups, and business in general?
In Europe, Luxembourg is one of the countries that has the most difficulty recruiting ICT professionals. It is therefore necessary to match the supply and demand in order to meet the needs of businesses. Although Luxembourg will always need to use specialists beyond its borders, it is important that we are also developing a pool of local developers that will particularly benefit startups, which are in great need of this talent.
In addition to the skills that are gained in our university and our research centers, highly specific training programs that are short and pragmatic, which could be based on the programs currently being developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Adem, would quickly fix the deficit of developers.
A shared observation regularly reported in Luxembourg is the lack of young entrepreneurs. What is the government’s strategy to address this problem?
It is necessary to have an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and provides financial resources to support young innovators. It is also important to have talent, of course. We have all of these in Luxembourg. But we must continue to build momentum in this direction. It is important to focus on developing talent in the digital field, in particular by working in collaboration with universities. We also need to present the opportunity for young entrepreneurs to be able to launch their businesses from Luxembourg. It is unfortunate that young entrepreneurs, if they want to be successful, feel compelled to move to Asia or the United States to develop their businesses. We want to change that.
At the European level, in particular during the Luxembourg presidency, we are working with Commissioner Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, to educate people so that they understand that this is a European priority.
It is also necessary to continue to attract talent and entrepreneurs to Luxembourg. With the Digital Lëtzebuerg initiative, decisions have also been made to facilitate the granting of residence permits to people coming from abroad with specialized skills in digital. We want to match Luxembourg’s startups with the skills they need from abroad. That perspective is shared across the European Union. Wedged between Asia and the U.S., Europe is changing. However, there is a country that is leading the change, and that is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.