x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

More Emirati women signing up for technical courses

A training centre for Emiratis in Al Gharbia has taken on people in their 30s, including women with several children.

Hamda al Hameli is studying technical maintenance at Al Gharbia Vocational Education and Training Institute.
Hamda al Hameli is studying technical maintenance at Al Gharbia Vocational Education and Training Institute.

MADINAT ZAYED // As a mother of five - two girls and three boys - Hamda al Hameli has more than enough happening at home to keep her busy. Yet rather than remain a housewife, the 32-year-old Emirati has enrolled in a diploma programme in her home city of Madinat Zayed. But not just any diploma programme. Mrs al Hameli is training at the Vocational Education and Training Institute (Veti) Al Gharbia in a field with few female practitioners: technical maintenance, whose daunting definition includes the phrase "the replacement of unserviceable major parts, assemblies, or subassemblies, and the precision adjustment, testing, and alignment of internal components".

She is one of a growing band of Emirati women defying stereotypes by training for technical jobs. "Before, I just sat in my house. For 12 years, I cared for my children. But I know in Madinat Zayed they will have a big building for solar power, and I wish to work there," she said, referring to a solar power plant to be built in the city by Masdar, the renewable energy initiative of the Abu Dhabi Government.

Mrs al Hameli is one of about 180 Emiratis studying at Veti Al Gharbia, one of three branches of the institute in the emirate. The Madinat Zayed facility is run by a company called GTZ, based near Frankfurt, and all 23 teachers are German. Courses run in the morning and evening so students can take a three-year diploma course while also working full time. Marzia al Hamadi, 26, who has a four-year-old daughter, hopes to set up a fashion business in Madinat Zayed once she finishes her diploma in design.

Dressed in a black abaya with intricate patterns on the sleeves, she said she would like to create new designs for the traditional garment. "This is a chance for me," she said. "Because I like to make anything with my hands. I will make for myself a small business. "I want to be famous. We need more fashion designers here because we don't have any now." When it launched in October, Veti Al Gharbia became only the second place in Madinat Zayed where people could study after they finished secondary school.

The other, the male and female branches of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), a federal university, is aimed at students with academic ambitions. Veti Al Gharbia also offers a second chance to mature students not eligible for enrolment at HCT and who may have believed it was too late for them to better their lives through study. Later this year a further 200 students are set to join the centre, based in a refurbished school, and enrolment could eventually reach 800. Courses are taught in English and range from medical laboratory analysis to technical drawing, IT systems, travel and tourism and event management.

"Most of the women here, they cannot move to Abu Dhabi (to study), so for them our institute is a big chance," said Carmen Muntel, head of the department of design and personal services. According to Uwe Munzert, the centre's director, Al Gharbia, formerly known as the Western Region, needs people with practical skills to aid the area's planned economic development. More than Dh98 billion (US$26.7bn) has been earmarked by the Government to develop Al Gharbia over the next five years, with the hope that improved employment opportunities will reduce the number of talented workers moving to Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

dbardsley@thenational.ae