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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

A glimpse of what the country will look like in the post-oil era 

An event in Abu Dhabi imagines the workplace of the future and the skills we will need to succeed in it

The WorldSkills closing ceremony in 2015.
The WorldSkills closing ceremony in 2015.

WorldSkills, the international vocational skills competition, has arrived. The event, which is held every two years, is being staged in the Middle East and North Africa for the first time since its inception, in Madrid, in the post-Second World War years. From relatively humble beginnings, it is now a truly global event. But more than that, it is a worldwide forum for the future of the workplace and employment. The event, which runs until October 18, gathers together educators, policy makers and industry leaders to define and discuss the attractiveness of skills.

As Abu Dhabi and the country at large continues its transition towards a post-oil economy, the workplace and the UAE are changing more rapidly than we could previously have imagined. Two and a half years ago, at a Government Summit, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy ­Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, set out what he envisaged that post-oil world would look like a few decades from now. He was both optimistic about the future and honest about the road ahead. “In 50 years, when we might have the last barrel of oil, the question is: when it is shipped abroad, will we be sad?” he asked. “If we are investing today in the right sectors, I can tell you we will celebrate at that moment.”

Education and skills are, inevitably, key components of that future vision. The event finds more than 1,200 participants celebrating the importance of vocational skills. Our reporting over the past few days has found that the traditional “good jobs” of the past - engineers and doctors - are being supplemented by jobs that didn’t even exist 30 years ago, such as web design and social media influencers. The new industrial revolution will require upskilled young people to power it and that’s why an event such as this is so important.

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