Since Altair’s earliest days as a small startup in 1985, we have always had our eyes on the future. To many, this is not the most practical approach – many startups have neither the time nor luxury to spend peering into the future. But for Altair, it has always been the right approach, and that is what matters most to us. Paradoxically, keeping the future in our sights has continually led us to success in the present. Our technology, growth, customer, and employee loyalty are proof we are moving in the right direction.
It has not always been easy. In fact, sticking to a long-term vision demands a lot from everyone. It takes discipline, investment, talent, and faith. Above all, realizing a vision means realizing an organization must cultivate the skills and personalities of its people to become the best they can be. A vision without dedicated, fulfilled, and motivated people is just a wish – and wishes aren’t a growth strategy.
I emphasize the concepts of vision and people because there can be no realistic, actionable discussion of our (or any company’s) long-term organizational objectives without talking about the strategies in place to invest in the next generation of talent. When I think of the upcoming generations, my mind turns above all to students. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, the people charged with creating world-changing innovations and solving our toughest challenges. Failing to invest in students, and young people in general, is failing to invest in the future.
Student Investment is a Business Imperative
We all see the dizzying pace of innovation. We see it in our homes, offices, cars, buses, trains, and planes – in our phones and laptops, and in basically every aspect of our work and personal lives. What used to be science fiction speculation is now underpinning our day-to-day routines. And for all the good this technological innovation brings, it also brings challenges. For every problem you solve, several new ones emerge. We need people who are real-world ready – right out of the gate – to tackle these challenges. We cannot simply hope that young people in the workforce (of which there will be roughly 18.5 million in 2024 in the U.S. alone, defined as workers between the ages of 16 and 24) will adapt to the staggering changes taking place around them on their own time. We must teach them the necessary skills. Every day we delay now is a day we set ourselves back in the future.
All around us, we see industry-altering transformations and challenges. Companies know firsthand how imperative it is to have young talent ready to make an impact. I recently wrote about the challenges facing the automotive industry in its quest to slash carbon emissions and create more a more sustainable future. Some of my colleagues have identified challenges in the computer science and semiconductor design industries – two sectors that undergird much of today’s innovation, and have massive roles to play in the future. These are but a few examples of industries facing immediate, complex hurdles.
With greater access to education than ever before, you would think companies would be awash in talent, but this just isn’t the case. Altair has conducted multiple recent studies that identify a lack of talent as a serious, immediate problem for organizations around the world. For example, in a survey of more than 2,000 professionals from 10 different countries, 75% of respondents said they struggle to find enough data science talent. Data science is not a field facing obsolescence anytime soon. If anything, demand for data scientists is due to explode in tandem with the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-powered software, tools, and devices. A talent shortage in an industry set to explode in talent demand could have dire consequences.
As such, business must treat today’s students as a top priority. They are the foundation of tomorrow’s workforce. Young talent is invaluable – and all too finite. Instead of fighting over an inadequate supply of young talent, businesses need to invest heavily to expand and enrich the pool of people coming out of schools, universities, and other institutions worldwide. This is the only sustainable approach as a global business community. A more prepared and more expansive pool of brilliant individuals ready to solve today’s problems is key to future business success. Organizations that don’t invest in cultivating talent will lose out to those that do and place themselves at a grave disadvantage in the long run.
Student Investment is a Global Imperative
But investing in students also has ramifications beyond business. Challenges within industries can be internal; there are new tools, materials, and processes reshaping our current notions. But more and more, our challenges are external – the biggest, most urgent of these challenges is climate change. This is an issue that will not just affect businesses and their profit margins; it will affect how billions of people live. It will affect our environments, ecosystems, supply chains, movement, choices, politics, values – everything.
We must innovate now to reduce carbon emissions and other harmful greenhouse gases, minimize waste, reuse and recycle materials (both industrial and commercial), and rethink our methods of consumption and disposal to ensure future generations live in healthy societies and environments. We must work to create systems and ways of living that operate in harmony with other people and the world around us, rather than in opposition.
The next generation is our best hope. Already we are seeing the impact Generation Z has had on global politics, culture, politics, and more. Investing in students makes financial sense, and it is the right thing to do – it is the way to create a better future.
Altair's Student Investment Initiatives
So, it should not come as a surprise that Altair is throwing its weight behind the current and future generations of students. Guided by our vision and our determination to create a better world – and in line with our motto, “Only Forward” – we have a myriad of programs, initiatives, and investments aimed at cultivating the next generation of transformative minds.
The Altair Academic Program
The Altair Academic Program is our flagship student-focused program, which gives students free and quick access to the most comprehensive student edition package in the industry, ranging from simulation and multiphysics software, to data analytics and AI technology. The program includes access to online courses, eBooks, videos, certifications, product guides, 24/7 support from Altair experts, and more. The program is designed to have a real-world impact that stretches beyond a student’s time in a school or university – like this example of program alumni and Altair employee Kory Soukup.
In addition, the Academic Program supports educators, giving them access to a range of industry-leading technology, comprehensive teaching material, and full 24/7 expert support. With Altair’s solutions and course material, educators can leverage a livelier, more interactive project-based learning environment that provides useful context and complements the theory and first principles that educators are striving to help students understand.
Our student support extends into external institutions. I am thrilled to say that Altair recently developed a $1 million scholarship at Columbia University and a $225,000 scholarship at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. These scholarships will assist students pursuing an undergraduate degree in engineering and applied science, and who have demonstrated an interest in increasing diversity in STEM fields. Above all, the scholarships are designed to provide opportunities to students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, have worked and/or lived in diverse environments, and have demonstrated experience in or commitment to working with historically underserved, underrepresented, or underprivileged populations. The objective is to make STEM accessible to a diverse cohort of great young talent.
The Altair Global Student Contest
The Altair Global Student Contest showcases student talent from around the world and gives students hands-on experiences with Altair products before they enter the workforce. The contest is designed to expand awareness of lightweighting through topology optimization, expose students to the technology’s capabilities, help students build skills that will set them above their peers, and help them land a great job right out of school. As part of the contest, each monthly winner receives a $750 cash prize – and all monthly winners will have a chance to win the $7,500 global grand prize at the contest’s end. You can learn more by checking out Jim Ryan’s recent article on the student contest and its merits.
Altair offers a cutting-edge internship program that fosters innovation, leadership, and a passion for making a difference. Our interns are heavily involved in our most crucial, real-world projects and have delivered outstanding work that has helped Altair succeed while elevating their professional skill set. Within our internship programs, we focus on developing students’ technical, professional, and social skills, and are proud to boast interns from over 75 universities that represent 20 countries around the world – all at a 100% satisfaction rate. You can hear testimonials from recent interns in this four-part YouTube series.
These programs all operate separately, but combine to create an ecosystem designed to grow students’ skills, opportunities, and potential. There is no way Altair can succeed in our long-term vision of a cleaner, better, convergence-powered future without the talented, dedicated people who will bring that vision to life. As such, the time to lay that foundation is now. And we know that there is still so much more we can do to better support more students around the world – we hope that by strengthening and broadening our efforts, Altair can be a role model for other organizations.
When business, government, and individuals unite in their desire to bolster education and make it more accessible, impactful, and interactive, we all benefit. The challenges we face in business and beyond are immediate and urgent. Solving them requires a collective determination to make sure the young people tasked with ushering in a better, healthier, more sustainable future have the tools, skills, and experience they need to succeed. Altair is proud to do our part, and we look forward to doing even more in the coming years.