x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Building up UAE’s human capital takes a whole Dubai village

Dubai Knowledge Village marks its 10-year milestone this year as the world’s first and only free zone dedicated to the development of human capital.

As a relatively new country, the UAE is often celebrating an anniversary or a key milestone in its history – whether it is a celebration of the GCC’s first train system or, indeed, the formation of the UAE itself.

Any opportunity to acknowledge these remarkable achievements is embraced by UAE residents and nationals alike.

This month, Dubai Knowledge Village celebrates 10 years of working with businesses across the Middle East.

It’s hard to believe it has been a decade since the idea of Dubai Knowledge Village was first conceived by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Having been a part of Dubai Knowledge Village’s development since 2003, I have taken great pleasure in watching it become the thriving hub for human capital development that it is today.

I have taken particular pride in observing the dramatic shift in the way human resources (HR) is perceived by internal and external audiences.

Once seen as a peripheral support function, HR is now increasingly involved in businesses’ core strategy and, for the first time, HR executives are included in the boardroom and are being given the power to enhance the productivity and performance of organisations.

In the UAE – in Dubai, specifically – we have seen the HR market grow significantly over the past 10 years.

It has developed from supporting a predominantly corporate and financial industry driven by expatriates, towards an increasingly diversified economy in which locals are developed and empowered to play a much greater role in the UAE economy’s development.

GCC governments’ nationalisation efforts to upgrade the skills of their citizens have played a significant part in this.

For instance, Dubai’s growing education industry has placed the UAE on the world map for higher education, training and development.

In Dubai, the Emiratisation programme has been in place for more than 10 years, and while the results are already evident within the public sector, there is still some way to go for the private sector – a challenge that is regularly debated within the region’s HR industry, and a focal topic of this week’s HR Summit and Expo.

HR professionals need to focus on how best to communicate the benefits of working in the private sector, which include job satisfaction, career development opportunities and the transfer of knowledge. They also have to create a proposition that truly taps into the Emirati psyche.

The launch last year of the government’s Absher Initiative will help with this, as will the continuing efforts of the region’s HR management and training consultancies, many of which are in Dubai Knowledge Village.

What started out with 40 business partners in 2003 has grown to become a home to 500 institutions – in the areas of human resources, consulting, recruitment, training and development – that play an increasingly important role in helping to tackle the Emiratisation challenge.

Just last year, Dubai Knowledge Village experienced a 24 per cent increase in the entry of new human resources and educational institutes – a direct response to industry demand.

The development of Dubai Knowledge Village over the past decade has not been without challenges. In fact, the business park we see today is very different to that which we originally set out to establish. But that was always the point – Dubai Knowledge Village was designed to adapt and evolve according to the demands of local industries.

When I look back at our initial goals in 2003, we wanted to create a local training hub to drive the growth of the region’s workforce, rather than rely on foreign training institutions alone.

But as the UAE’s business landscape has changed over the past decade, so too has Dubai Knowledge Village.

What began as a centre for professional training quickly became a focal point for higher education, before finally separating into two education parks in 2007.

Today, Dubai Knowledge Village is dedicated to HR, executive search and professional training; while Dubai International Academic City is focused exclusively on higher education. Together, they form the Education Cluster.

My vision for the next 10 years is to refine what Dubai Knowledge Village stands for, while making sure we remain attuned to the demands of local industry.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen the role of HR catapult from being a peripheral support function to a fully integrated, primary component of business.

Looking at the next 10 years, I envisage the HR function continuing to gain recognition for its contribution to overall business success.

Our role as the home for HR in the UAE is to help our business partners align with industry, and support them in ensuring that the right people are matched to the right jobs – that they are trained properly and equipped for their work environment, and that their maximum potential is realised.

What has been achieved in the past 10 years has been remarkable, and it is thanks to our business partners that Dubai Knowledge Village remains the world’s first and only free zone dedicated to HR development, executive search and professional training and development.

Ayoub Kazim is the managing director of Dubai Knowledge Village