Private sector vocational training key element of UAE knowledge-based economy
Written by Abhijeet Mukherjee, Monster.com, Chief Executive Officer – APAC and Middle East
At the heart of the UAE Vision 2021 to become the economic, tourist and commercial capital of the region, is the transformation to a knowledge-based economy. A key element of a knowledge-based economy is a skilled workforce, and the UAE is making great progress in building a robust education system to make sure future leaders have access to world-class education and are armed with the knowledge needed to succeed. However, employers are looking for more than knowledge and academic skills in the workplace. To add value to businesses, employees must be ready to hit the ground running when placed in new positions which requires vocational training. While there are many institutes that offer vocational training, the best place to build practical skills is in the professional environment. Therefore, to build a workforce capable of driving the economy forward, private organizations must play a role in shaping the UAE’s talent to ensure they are able to meet the market demands of tomorrow.
In efforts to advance the UAE academic landscape, the public and higher education sector has been allocated the largest portion of the UAE Federal Budget for 2017 at AED 10.2Bn or just over 20 percent. The distribution of this budget has been evident through large investments in the education sector during recent years with many new academic institutions being built, both UAE-based and internationally renowned names. The government is simultaneously making rapid progress in encouraging UAE citizens to enrol in further education resulting in an improved public perception of further education and higher enrolment rates, especially among women, than ever before. The UAE also recognizes the importance of vocational training for Emirati youth who aspire to succeed but face challenges in the academic environment. As such, the Vocational Education and Training Awards Council (VETAC) was established to offer young citizens an opportunity to continue education upon completion of vocational training. However, more needs to be done by the private sector to build skills that can only be taught in the professional environment.
Vocational training provides job-specific technical training for work in the trades generally focusing on providing hands-on instruction. Many professions are often romanticized through inaccurate representations in the media and through education and lend themselves to visions of exciting lifestyles, however, there is no profession that is free from drawbacks and it is important for workers to understand these before committing to a line of work and carving a lifelong career path. By undertaking vocational training within private organizations, trainees will have more realistic expectations of working in the industry. Hands-on experience will also offer opportunities to practice knowledge which will build confidence and experience for trainees. Furthermore, training within private organizations can increase employment prospects and will help to build soft skills which are essential in the workplace. These skills cannot be taught in an academic environment and can only be built through experience and practice.
On-the-job vocational training will also prove to be beneficial for the private sector in the long-term. Firstly, employers will benefit from well-trained professionals as they will be better prepared to handle job requirements and will have the soft skills needed to manage internal and external relationships. Offering vocational training can also allow employers to utilize talent more efficiently compared to hiring new graduates and allowing them to learn through experience. The training can also shape new recruits to fulfil certain business objectives and create a uniform corporate culture. Finally, with nationalization objectives quickly coming into effect, the UAE government will appreciate private companies that offer vocational training to UAE nationals.