Students from schools and universities in Tarragona between 16 and 19 years old had the chance to debate on how petrochemistry and plastics are evolving towards a crucial role in the Digital Age. Over 80 students debated under the framework of the ‘European Youth Debating Competition’, an international event consisting of a series of debates organised by The European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) and PlasticsEurope, the association of plastics manufacturers.
Held in Tarragona, the Spanish National Finals took place in the main hall of Catalonia’s Campus of Universitat Rovira i Virgili, where the young talents debated around the multifaceted theme “People, Planet, Profit in the Digital Age: With or without the petrochemistry and plastics?”. 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.
While the debate was taking place, the jury, comprised of representatives of industry, media, NGO’s, lecturers, experts, EPCA and PlasticsEurope, analysed all the participant’s performances based on their knowledge, ability to express themselves and interact with each other. Taking these criteria into account, the three winners are Ahlam Oulad Alí 18 years old (IES Francesc Vidal i Barraquer), Paula Bermejo Feijoo aged 16 (IES Francesc Vidal i Barraquer) and Pau Altur Pastor also 16 years old (Col-legi Turó) They now have the chance to display their public speaking skills with well informed, logical and persuasive arguments during the European Finals that will gather all awarded winners from the seven National Finals, on Sunday 1st of October in Berlin, during EPCA’s 51st Annual Meeting, the largest gathering of the global chemical business community in Europe.
The Spanish competition gathered senior representatives from both industry and academia, with the opening welcome speech given by Mrs. Arantxa Capdevila Gómez, Vice-rector of Teaching, Students and University Community of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, expressing “the satisfaction of Universitat Rovira and Virgili in hosting such events that bring together young talents, as they allow the URV to strengthen its commitment to the construction of scientific vocations ".
At the start of the competition, two experts introduced the theme from pro and con perspectives, supported by examples and statistics, providing food for thought for the debate to come.
Regarding the rapid evolution of industries in the Digital Age, Ignacio Marco, PlasticsEurope General Manager of the Iberian Region stated that “Industries, especially those that are related to science and sustainability, are evolving very quickly as society moves forward. That is why promoting scientific education to apply this knowledge to industries that are constantly changing is an investment for the future, a key element in which all the industries should invest. Furthermore, it allows us to give future leaders the chance to express themselves with an experience that will enrich and prepare them for a bright future’’.
Aurora Ferri, Commercial Integration Manager at REPSOL and a member of the jury 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.”
Nathalie Debuyst, Communication & Education Manager of EPCA, and a member of the jury was delighted with her experience: “I am delighted to see that the standard of debates is once more, extremely high with passionate exchanges between the debaters, and to witness enthusiastic discussions around our society’s needs in the digital age and the innovative solutions that science and industry provide in our daily lives.” The next EYDC National Finals takes place in Milan, Italy on the 16th of May 2017.
EPCA and PlasticsEurope have joined forces to support STEM Education in Europe. In 2016, this programme was rejuvenated by EPCA and PlasticsEurope with a series of youth debates having taken place in several EU countries, culminating in Budapest with the European Finals in October 2016. These events offer students a platform to express themselves, improve their soft skills and boost their potential future careers as leaders of tomorrow on an international level.
The European Petrochemical Association (EPCA)
Based in Brussels, EPCA is the quality network in Europe for the global chemical business community consisting of chemical producers, their suppliers, customers and service providers. It operates for and through more than 700 member companies from 54 different countries. EPCA provides a platform to meet, exchange information and transfer learning, and serves as a think tank for its members and stakeholders. EPCA promotes STEM education, with a clear focus on gender and diversity inclusion. EPCA also highlight the multidisciplinary approach and the variety of challenging career paths that the chemical industry offers.
PlasticsEurope is one of the leading European trade associations with centres in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris. The association is networking with European and national plastics associations and has more than 100 member companies, producing over 90% of all polymers across the EU28 member states plus Norway, Switzerland and Turkey