Wednesday, May 9, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond

I do not envy the future elected president of Egypt. He will face many challenges, the hardest of which will be reigning in and managing the expectations of the Egyptian people. It will be a thankless job, dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn't. There will always be those who oppose some of his actions, or all of his actions. There will always be those who call him a traitor, felol or puppet to foreign powers. Only someone with a strong convection will be able to  withstand the abuse of our divided nation. Only someone who seeks no glory - for there will be none - can persevere against the tireless forces betting on the country's demise. No, I do not envy this person one bit, nor do I have any advice for him.

There are many issues that need to be addressed and changed in Egypt. I believe that there are two very important and fundamental sectors that have been neglected for the past decade, or five, namely the education and health services. No more needs to be said. I doubt there is any Egyptian who would argue against the dire state of these two sectors. Most presidential candidates have been addressing these issues in their campaigns,  yet, based on what I have heard so far, I feel that what is being promoted is no more than void slogans; been said before but never done.  I am yet to hear a single program that promises progress in either aspect. I believe that education and health services are major pillars in building Egypt 2.0. These services directly impact the caliber of Egyptians who will continue to sustain the country's future development.

I first heard of the term "Human Capital" while studying the Balanced Scorecard management concept. I instantly fell in love with the expression. Ever since my first days of college, I detested labeling employees as "resources". Resources are tangible objects. They are scarce. They depreciate upon usage. Employees , on the other hand, are not materials that can be stored up for a rainy day.The more an employee is utilized, the more valuable he/she become to the organization and the entire national workforce. Employees (Citizens) do not represent bodies (i.e. headcount), they are the accumulated knowledge and competencies that make companies (countries) great. To that extent, they are as important , if not more so, as funding and capital. When money dries up, new investors can easily be found, the same cannot be said about qualified staff. Similarly, the prosperity of nations is contingent on the availability of a resilient economy and strong security, both needed to support great citizens. Without the people, money and power can only take a country so far, case in point are the Arabic Gulf countries.This is why I believe the future president and his government should focus their efforts on education and health services. We need citizens who are physically able to withstand hard labor and mentally competent to carryout smart labor.

I call upon all Egyptian experts, where ever you are, to come up with development programs. I call upon the presidential candidates to embrace these programs and vow to implement them, no matter the cost. I call upon the Egyptian people to be patient. Eradicating corruption and cleansing these two sectors from ailments will take time. We will not see improvements for years to come, but we must adhere to the plan, we have to get the ball running.

The first thing that might come to mind is how can we get immediate results. I do not believe in quick fixes. Shortcuts and Fahlawa is a big part of our problems. However, I believe that in order to achieve sustained progress we must start with younger generations. Educate mothers on the importance of proper nutrition, hygiene, and exercise to the well being of their children. Focusing our attention on curricula and extracurricular activities. These are all important steps towards advancing the quality of the Egyptian workforce, but what are we going to do for the next 20 - 25 years until the new batches of super students are ready. Furthermore, how are we going to guarantee quality education for the next generations when those supervising, administering, and facilitating the learning process do not meet the minimum requirements needed to influence future professionals. These are imperative issues which need to be resolved. I image that all presidential candidates will discuss these topics accordingly, and purpose development programs to enhance educations, while propagating their ideologies and political agenda. Again, I do not envy the next president one bit.

So, until we discover the magic formula to churning out top notch doctors, engineers, lawyer . . . etc., how can the country move forward with the sub par skills and qualifications of current and future crops of workers. Again, there is no silver bullet that will make all our problems magically disappear. Yet, I believe there is a simple solution to most issues. In my opinion, the new government should prompt the study of "Life Skills" across all faculties at university level. These are competencies and skills we all use everyday, such as communication, negotiation, project & time management, accounting, statistics and  decision making , to name a few. These topics might be addressed in business school syllabi, however they are looked upon as course fillers. Anyone exposed to a corporate environment, knows that these soft skills are imperative to the success of any employee. Empowering all graduates with these skills and knowledge will allow them to move across professions. It will prepared them with enough qualifications to work in various industries, regardless of their academic background. I actually advocate starting such studies at a high school level, thus ensuring that fresh graduates being induced into the employment market are equipped with diversified skills enabling them to perform a magnitude of tasks across disciplines.

This is not a silver bullet, it is just the beginning of a long tiresome journey. Most of us will not make it to the finish line, but those who do will be strong enough to keep on going to Infinity and Beyond !

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