ABU DHABI // Rowdha al Mehairbi really had no idea that her fidgeting with a pen could distract other people while giving a presentation. The 18-year-old college student said she thought that simply plodding through her material would be more than enough to make a good impression.
"There is so much more to giving an effective presentation and presenting myself than just knowing the material," she sighed. Ms al Mehairbi was one of the almost 90 Emirati students from vocational colleges in Dubai and Abu Dhabi taking part in a free job skills workshop on Tuesday organised by the British Council, Barclays Bank and Injaz-UAE, a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide. Through role-playing scenarios and other activities, the students were taught some of the things they will need to join the workforce.
"We were taught things we didn't even realise we needed, and just through the knowledge of it, we immediately feel more confident," said Ms al Mehairbi. Melanie Relton, the regional vocational education manager at the British Council, said most students were similar to Ms al Mehairbi. "Students may have the technical knowledge once they graduate, but there is still a skills gap," Ms Relton said. Employers say many graduates lack the practical skills, such as how to communicate, lead groups and solve problems creatively, that they need them to have.
Lara Khouri, a regional marketing manager for Edexcel, an international company that provides educational training, said employers were looking for people who are open to instruction, are willing to be trained and who want to keep learning. Nora al Ali, 18, from the Abu Dhabi Women's College, loved the training. "It's not that we're being taught what we're doing right and wrong in our presentations, but we're also being shown how to interact, and that we should be interacting in the first place," said Ms al Ali, a foundation-year student.
Ms al Ali said female students tended to be shy in a mixed environments and lacked confidence. She said the training could help women candidates overcome their shyness and any lack of confidence. "It is such a benefit to be given the opportunity to develop something new in ourselves, that we don't learn about in college," she said. Rebecca Taylor, an English teacher at Abu Dhabi Women's College, said her students were eager to take part in the training.
"It was not compulsory for students, and yet they jumped at the opportunity to try something new that could benefit them. "They get the chance to exercise newly acquired skills through practical exercises, and it fosters their creativity." This type of learning, added Ms Taylor, provides students with the chance to mix with other like-minded students from other colleges, which is good practice for the real world.
Louise King, a business teacher at Abu Dhabi's Vocational Education and Training Institute (Adveti), also received positive feedback from her students. "We build up their skills over two years in the classroom, but here, they apply these skills and new ones as well; it is applicable to students in all disciplines, regardless of what they are studying." A similar programme will be offered as an optional course to 10th and 11th graders, as well as first-, second- and third-year college students at the Abu Dhabi Men's and Women's Colleges, Adveti and the Dubai National Institute for Vocational Education.
"By working together with partners, future employers and business mentors, we can help students both professionally and through their own personal development," Ms Relton said. email@example.com