AJMAN // Ajman's two universities are putting a priority on continuing education so adults in the workplace can have better career opportunities.
From police to dental assistants, those with degrees and without, the emirate is lacking formal training for many of its key workers, which is why the Gulf Medical University (GMU) will launch its continuing education centre in January.
The Ajman University of Science and Technology's continuing education centre has also doubled enrolment over last year after an aggressive recruitment campaign.
Obed Kapikadu, 23, is an office assistant in the insurance billing department of the Gulf Medical College Hospital. He counts photocopying and running errands among his daily tasks, in spite of having obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in India.
If he gains a certificate in insurance billing, he will be on a path to advance in the department, beginning with the role of clerk. "I want a better job for my future," he said. "I want to better myself and improve my salary."
Gita Raj, the provost of GMU, said many of the country's medical assistants could use training.
"We can see many medical centres mushrooming all over the country and usually these people have just been trained on the job. In countries like the US, you have the Medical Assistants' Association, which deals with this professional group.
"Even medical secretaries undergo formal training. Administrative staff need certain terminology for example, when dealing with medical records."
Most of those targeted, she said, would be low-wage earners - many without university degrees who needed a hand working their way up the ladder.
Sherly Ajay, an academic adviser at GMU's forthcoming continuing education centre, said interest was coming from dieticians, fitness trainers and administrative staff as far afield as Dhaid, Sharjah and Dubai.
"A degree is not always enough," she said. "They need experience in the workplace and the professional certification."
One example is Samar El Sayed, 25, who earned her science degree in Egypt. She would like to be a laboratory technician, but until she qualifies she is working as a dental secretary.
"I don't have laboratory experience," she said. "This course will give me much better job prospects."
The Ajman University of Science and Technology's centre has appointed a new director and is in the process of signing some major agreements to train staff in key sectors, as well as providing English instruction to members of the Ajman Police.
"This will be aimed at staff welcoming people at police stations, the initial contact that is really important in upping their skill levels," said Edwin Wyllie, the centre's new director.
"There is a growing expat community in this area and the police need to be able to understand what the legal terminology is for areas they know about in Arabic, but not in English."
The education centres also plan on working with organisations such as Ajman Municipality, the Ajman Chamber of Commerce and Tanmia, which helps place Emiratis into local jobs. Last year saw 100 clients from Tanmia at the centre to boost skills such as communication, IT skills and language.
The concept that workplace skills need constant updating is one that is slowly catching on, said Mr Wyllie. "If you don't involve yourself in reskilling and retraining, you wither and die," he said. "The jobs people are going into now won't even exist in 20 years time. Learning is a lifelong experience."