Empowering Education: The Inspiring Strategy Of Mikhail Shelkov

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Mikhail Shelkov is a Russian businessman and the majority shareholder of the VSMPO-AVISMA Corporation, the world leader in titanium production. A member of the Top-30 Forbes rating, he also owns the Samara Metallurgical Plant (SMZ), one of the major players in aluminum production worldwide. The Empathy Foundation, established by Shelkov, focuses on fixing top-priority problems of Russian education across various regions. The businessman supports many critical community-oriented projects aimed at restoring the prestige of the teaching profession and working with talented youth.

Mikhail Shelkov was born in 1968 and earned his degree at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). He began his career in the banking sector and quickly moved up the corporate ladder, holding senior positions at Eurosib Bank and later at RBRD Bank.

In 2001, the entrepreneur headed Prominvest Investment Holdings. Under his leadership, his team developed a new investment strategy for the VSMPO-AVISMA titanium corporation, which has great strategic value for the national economy. Shelkov was at the forefront of the company’s ambitious efforts to ensure that the majority of future revenue would come from higher value-added products.

In 2014, Mikhail Shelkov became the owner of the titanium holding by acquiring 65.27% of the corporation’s shares. Today, VSMPO-AVISMA is the undisputed leader in the global market.

Shelkov’s business partners have the highest regard for his professional and personal qualities: “Mikhail is a straight shooter, he’s talented, cautious and thoughtful in business, but not without an aptitude for risk-taking.”

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Empathy Foundation

Mikhail Shelkov believes that human resources are of critical importance for every economy. For this reason, the Empathy Foundation was created to support school teachers and gifted children. One of the foundation’s key projects is a program aimed at supporting teachers in the towns of Verkhnyaya Salda and Nizhnyaya Salda. Since October 2020, all teachers (more than 550 people) receive monthly financial support from the foundation. Such commitment made it possible to ensure that teachers have decent working conditions, reduce the risk of professional burnout, and tackle the employee turnover issue. The number of vacant job positions in Verkhnyaya and Nizhnyaya Salda decreased three-fold. Over the course of two years, the foundation allocated 140 million rubles to make the program a reality.

The Empathy Foundation also organizes advanced training courses for teachers. The number of specialists who attend the classes is constantly growing. In 2019, 199 teachers underwent advanced training facilitated by the Empathy program, while in 2021 the number of participants grew to 332, and in the subsequent year the program covered over 520.

Empathy’s commitment to education extends beyond the classroom. The foundation understands the significance of holistic development and offers various extracurricular programs. One such example is the annual online course of the Summer Space School, which invites teenagers from Verkhnyaya Salda to explore the wonders of space science and engage with experts in the field.

The Empathy Foundation, in collaboration with the Foundation for the Development of Phystech Schools, organized an exclusive educational project in Moscow for pupils from Sverdlovsk and Perm. This initiative aims to elevate students’ knowledge in physics, mathematics and computer science. The participants were able to engage with esteemed teachers from MIPT, visit the university museum, get access to otherwise closed laboratories, and prepare for Olympiads and scientific conferences.

The foundation also provides targeted support. In 2020, 3 million rubles was allocated to a school for children with special needs, located in Verkhnyaya Salda, in the Sverdlovsk Region. The funds were allocated to the school in order to improve the school territory and build a playground. In January 2022, Empathy provided assistance to a children’s rehabilitation center in Nizhnyaya Salda. At the foundation’s expense, the facilities were equipped to accommodate a new group of students.

Oktava cluster

Mikhail Shelkov’s ambition goes beyond fostering education and supporting the youth. He became a key private investor in the Oktava creative industrial cluster in the city of Tula, which brings together proactive and creative components. The project was fueled by his desire to create a center that would attract all active residents of Tula. Today, the creative cluster has become a top spot for recreation, learning and creativity. While the project had been taking shape, Shelkov sought to preserve the industrial atmosphere by incorporating elements of factory structures and old machines into the design. Not surprisingly, the Oktava cluster is featured in TimeOut and Forbes Russia’s guides for creative places.

The Oktava creative cluster has become the most popular holiday destination for residents and guests of Tula. The cluster regularly hosts concerts, performances, lectures, seminars, master classes and other events. Creative workshops take place in an engineering laboratory for prototyping, a large technical library, a recording studio, and other locations for adults and children. Numerous clubs work for the younger generation, while adults can have a shot and launch their startups.

The multimedia interactive Machine Tool Museum is dedicated to the history and development of Russian industry and Tula as a city of craftsmen. The exhibits speak to the visitors’ imaginations via augmented reality, accompanying the story with sound and visual effects, as well as infographics.

Since its inception, the Oktava project has continued to expand and open new locations. At the end of May 2022, they opened a co-working facility to give access to creativity. It is the only public location built specifically for freelancers, students, individual entrepreneurs and anyone who needs an inexpensive and convenient place to work and give their best. The new co-working space has workplaces equipped with electrical outlets, Internet access, high-quality lighting and ergonomic chairs.

On April 22, the Oktava creative industrial cluster celebrated its 5th anniversary, having spent five years showcasing creativity and hosting interesting events that bring together culture, art and new technologies.