On the first weekend of March there was a rare sight outside the Athens Concert Hall. A youthful crowd in professional attire and full of vibrant energy was participating in engaging discussions while holding brochures, notes and briefcases.
They were the young participants of this year’s Panorama of Entrepreneurship and Career Development – a three-day conference conceived by veteran professor Iordanis Ladopoulos that aims to bridge the year-long void between academia and entrepreneurship and forge Greece’s next generation of innovators.
As was the case in previous years, the ninth Panorama was bigger and bolder than ever. More than 6,000 students or recent graduates attended this year’s event, participating in 110 panels, workshops and round-table discussions that covered the spectrum of the economy – from energy to agriculture and from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence.
They were greeted by over 280 distinguished speakers and professional pioneers, who shared their professional knowledge and insights with them both in the form of formal discussions from the Concert Hall’s stages, as well as spontaneous open debates in the corridors and lobbies.
“It was my second year attending the Panorama – I have since promised myself I will never miss another,” said Konstantinos Pitharoulios, a 20-year-old university student, with brimming enthusiasm. “For Greek university students, it offers a rare glimpse into the opportunities of the modern economy and a chance to interact with companies and entrepreneurs that are usually barred from our higher education institutions,” he added.
Remaining true to its vision of a Greece characterized by extraversion and innovative thinking, this year’s Panorama placed particular emphasis on informatics and new technologies. Participants could join discussions on data analytics, robotics and computer science, and interact with some of Greece’s most cutting-edge entrepreneurs, including Intrasoft CEO Alexandros Manos and Mike Konstantinides, the founder of Metis Cyberspace Technology.
The conference also included workshops aimed at equipping young Greeks with professional skills that aren’t industry-specific, such as job interview performance, creative thinking and soft skills development.
One of Greece’s most chronic challenges is the great divide between universities and the labor market – a problem that is exacerbated in the era of the fourth industrial revolution and its disruptive transformation of economies worldwide.
Ladopoulos has dedicated more than four decades of his life to trying to bridge this gap, and the Panorama is the culmination of his persistent efforts. “I have taught thousands of students but this generation is the best of them all,” he said in his closing remarks, which sent the sense of optimism in the Athens Concert Hall soaring.
“They’re equipped with foreign languages, a European identity and modern skills, but most importantly an understanding of the mistakes made in the past. They will usher Greece into an exciting future,” he concluded, amid a standing ovation from the young participants.