Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Why employers must embrace apprenticeship programmes

Training future employees in specific skills will help to prepare them for a digitised future

Artificial intelligence is already playing a key part in everyday life in the Emirates, with its influence only set to grow. AFP  
Artificial intelligence is already playing a key part in everyday life in the Emirates, with its influence only set to grow. AFP  

When I asked my cousin what he wanted to study in college when he grows up, he looked up from his iPad screen and said he does not plan to go. Instead he wants to be a mobile app developer, a skill he believes he can learn from YouTube without “wasting his time in college".

My cousin is among many in Generation Z (those aged between 18 to 24) who are rethinking big life investments such as education. Thanks to platforms such as the travel accommodation site Airbnb, they can rent country mansions or downtown city apartments for competitive prices. With Uber, anyone can be chauffeured around town in the latest model with a touch of a button. With the sharing economy in full swing, it's no wonder my cousin is interested in on-demand education.

Though I’m all for pursuing higher education, my cousin's words make sense especially when it comes to digital skills. Most of the skills I've acquired when it came to digital design and web development, I learnt on my own with the help of YouTube tutorials and online forums.

Across the globe, millions of people now work as mobile app developers for the growing app consumer market. This year, India topped the world in new app installations with 4.8 billion downloads in the first quarter of the year, according to data by American marketing intelligence firm Sensor Tower. The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) is also expected to create 58 million new jobs in the coming years, according to a 2018 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

While it's great this technological development is creating new jobs, WEF found that only 29 per cent of large companies and 27 per cent of small companies believe their employees have the digital skills their jobs required for digital transformation. This is alarming as we stand on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will affect our lives, work, and interactions. Youth unemployment in the Mena region is currently the highest in the world, according to a 2019 report by Unicef, highlighting that educational facilities are not adequately preparing youth for the job market of the future.

The UAE is tackling this issue through a number of different programmes. Dubai Cares, for example, in partnership with WEF, allocated Dh5.5 million this year to two programmes set to be completed in 2021 aimed at closing the skills gap in 15 developing countries.

The Emirates Youth Council 100 Mentors programme, launched in 2016, aims to connect 100 leaders from the UAE’s public and private sectors to mentor young people, share their experience and cater to their concerns and questions.

Another way to tackle the region’s high unemployment rates is through more apprenticeship programmes, where employers prepare future employees with paid work experience and hands-on learning sessions. This not only helps in minimising unemployment rates but also helps to close the skills gap.

Some might argue that internships already serve the same purpose, but this is different. With apprenticeships you are purposely training an individual for a certain skill, while also paying them to work, thus empowering them to start building their lives.

You are also training them in the specific skills your organisation or the industry needs. This is particularly beneficial in the information sector. By the end of the apprenticeship programme, employers can then hire the apprentices as full-time employees equipped with the exact skills they need.

For the employee, even if they don't secure a full-time role, at least they would have received genuine work experience and earned an income too. By completing an apprenticeship, participants receive accreditations, which helps them when applying for future jobs. It also provides them with hands-on experience and valuable skills they wouldn’t learn in college or through virtual learning.

Unlike internships where interns rotate through different departments in a company, or work for short periods of time, apprenticeships are highly-focused, with a significant amount of time dedicated to classroom or instructor-based training and shadowing specialists and expert in their field.

This is a very effective way to close the skills gap. Governments in the region could provide incentives or tax-breaks to organisations that incorporate apprenticeship programmes and recognise their effort, which could be in the form of a national recognition or award.

The companies that survive the digital transformation are those with properly-skilled employees. An apprenticeship programme could be the way to make this happen.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi

Updated: October 12, 2019 02:38 PM

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