The journey continues: EPCA and PlasticsEurope once again join forces to promote education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by organizing a series of debating competitions for youngsters in Europe. The “European Youth Debating Competition” (EYDC) has been taking place since April and will conclude in October 2017. Students aged 16 to 19 years old are participating in seven National Finals taking place in: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK. The EYDC European Finals 2017 will take place in Berlin on Sunday 1st of October 2017, during the 51st EPCA Annual Meeting.
The aim of this project is to provide secondary schools’ pupils and first year university students a platform for open and inspirational discussion on topical issues related to petrochemistry and plastics. They are invited to research and discover industry linked topics which might be new to them and express themselves in a convincing way. For our industries, it is an opportunity to connect with the new generation, listen and learn about their views.
Beyond the importance of promoting STEM education, we are convinced that empowering students with soft skills can certainly help them in their future careers, no matter their role.
Approximately 50 youngsters in each National Finals of Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland have already participated in the EYDC debates. In each country, 3 winners have been selected and they will debate again, together with other finalists, during the European Finals on Sunday 1st October 2017 in Berlin in the framework of the 51st EPCA Annual Meeting gathering thousands of participants from the global chemical business community.
The theme of the debate is the same for the National and the European Finals: "People, Planet, Profit in the Digital Age: With or without petrochemistry and plastics?”. The debaters in Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland discussed the role of petrochemical products in our daily lives especially through key applications such as computers, sportswear and innovative plastics used in both modern medicine and renewable energy. They also underlined the side-effects of our society’s consumerism, and the need for a change in our behaviour to better re-use and recycle products. Furthermore, they have concentrated on issues that are of high importance to them, the young generation: How interconnected will we live tomorrow? What kind of education is required to be successful in this new digital age?
The points brought up, perfectly reflected the idea of the EYDC initiative – to develop an interest amongst youngsters in STEM topics and stir the exchange between youth and industry. Three more National Finals will follow: in the Netherlands (30/6), in the UK (17/7) and in France (15/9).
The competition rules and the format of the debate are the same in each country. The debates of the National Finals are held in local languages or in English and exclusively in English during the European Finals. During the debate, the participants are divided into fixed speakers with pro and con factions, and free speakers who have the possibility to argue from any position. Moreover, participants and members of the audience are encouraged to show how convinced they are of the speeches and arguments, by displaying green or red ballot cards, thereby ensuring an interactive and enjoyable debate. In the morning of the Finals, all participants receive professional coaching and training in presentation techniques and body language by experienced trainers.
The jury members – comprised of representatives of industry, media, NGO’s, lecturers, experts including the EPCA Board of Directors, YETT (Young EPCA Think Tank) and PlasticsEurope - select the winners based on their knowledge, ability to express themselves and interact with each other. It is not an easy task for the jury, as the youngsters are delivering passionate, well-informed, compelling arguments and counter-arguments between each other.
Dr Oliver Feldmann, Business Manager at BASF, member of the YETT, and member of the jury in Düsseldorf - Neuss (Germany), was deeply impressed by the knowledge and passionate engagement of the youngsters: “Overall, I feel honoured to have the possibility to meet so many talented young people. This competition is a perfect chance for all of us to set up a dialogue and learn from each other and I was very surprised with how well informed the youngsters are and how concentrated they followed their lines of argument.”
Aurora Ferri, Commercial Integration Manager at REPSOL and a member of the jury in Tarragona (Spain) believed that the competition “is a good opportunity to listen directly to youth as well as discuss the benefits and societal issues to be resolved by the petrochemical industry, but also how valuable and important studying for a STEM career is.”
“This competition is a unique opportunity for students of a generation of digital natives, to further explore the links between our society’s development, sciences and the petrochemical industry” highlights Caroline Ciuciu, CEO of EPCA. “In addition, in a fast changing and sometimes divisive environment, this debating competition offers youngsters the chance to interact with each other regardless of gender, nationality and culture. Finally, for us as an industry, the EYDC is an excellent initiative to connect with a new generation, listen and learn about their views as well as their visions of our future. In a nutshell, it is a way to Connect – Listen – Learn – Collaborate, for both the youngsters and our industry.” concludes Caroline Ciuciu.
We look forward to the next National Finals taking place in the Netherlands, the UK and France, as well as the European Finals which will be held in Berlin in the framework of the EPCA 51st Annual meeting, and we invite registered delegates to join us for the EU European Finals on Sunday 1st October 2017 in the afternoon from 14:00 until 15:30.