Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

UAE students must study relevant degrees, recruiters urge

Experts warn 'general business degrees' are not matching the changing demands of employers

Engineers repair an Airbus A330-200 at the Emirates Engineering Centre in Dubai. Ministers and workplace experts fear too many students are studying generic degrees that teach few technical skills. Paulo Vecina / The National
Engineers repair an Airbus A330-200 at the Emirates Engineering Centre in Dubai. Ministers and workplace experts fear too many students are studying generic degrees that teach few technical skills. Paulo Vecina / The National

UAE students risk wasting their time by studying for degrees not relevant to current job market demands, leading recruiters have said.

Experts stressed undergraduates needed to bear in mind their future employment prospects as they considered what subjects to focus on.

Earlier this week, a senior government minister hit out at a worrying mismatch between student qualifications and actual skills sought by employers.

Dr Ahmad Al Falasi said there was a “dire need” to better align training with labour market demands to ensure students could secure work.

Emirati graduates tend to gravitate towards the oil, gas and banking sectors but quite often have general business degrees

Vijay Gandhi, Korn Ferry

He also warned that “major changes driven by technological and demographic factors” risked further alienating students who failed to adapt.

Vijay Gandhi, a director in HR consultancy firm Korn Ferry, said young people need to look carefully at the subjects they choose.

“The skillset that is required is not being matched by the qualifications being obtained,” he said, adding that a mix of technical qualifications and a well-rounded education is ideal.

“What companies are essentially looking for are graduates able to work in a fast-paced team environment.

“Most of the newly qualified graduates coming through lack the emotional intelligence to have personal interactions in their new surroundings.”

Dr Al Falasi spoke at Dubai’s annual Global Future Councils meeting on Monday.

While at the event, he announced the launch of a new, nationwide programme aimed at closing the skills gap.

Known as ‘The UAE Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator Programme’, the project will give Emiratis the qualifications they need to maintain pace with employers.

It will bring together about 100 government departments and private companies to explore how students can better prepare for their future careers.

“Companies in this region are having to spend millions retraining new employees who don’t have specialised skills,” said Mr Gandhi.

“Emirati graduates tend to gravitate towards the oil, gas and banking sectors but quite often don’t have the required knowledge to give them an advantage in these fields.

“A lot of the time they have general business degrees which are non-specialised. They need to be taught skills specific to the needs of the market.”

Ian Jenkins, head of Mena for recruiters Carter Murray, also argued graduates should consider subjects critical to emerging sectors.

“The UAE leadership is doing a great job of driving technology and innovation,” he said.

“There have been great strides in industries like blockchain but how many qualifications are there in that?

“I would advise studying something relevant to emerging sectors – Stem (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in particular.”

Other experts urged caution, however, suggesting UAE students were already under enough pressure.

Shanthi Ramachandran, managing director of IQ Education Consultants, warned it was important not to lose sight of the importance of well-rounded schooling.

“Children as young as 13 are seeking education and career advice in an increasingly competitive market, influenced by social media,” she said.

“This is a doubled-edged sword. It’s made children more mature, they’ve grown up faster and the length of childhood is reduced.

“Children are beginning to understand that the subjects they take in Grades 11 and 12 actually decide what their futures are about.”

Updated: November 6, 2019 08:48 AM

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