The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) Commences 10th Annual Education Conference titled ‘Education and Jobs of the Future: Developing Qualified Human Capital to Secure the UAE’s Progress’

His Excellency Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) opened, on Tuesday November 12, the 10th Annual Education Conference titled ‘Education and Jobs of the Future: Developing Qualified Human Capital to Secure the UAE’s Progress’. The two-day conference continued on Wednesday, November 13, in Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Hall at the ECSSR complex in Abu Dhabi. The first day was attended by many educational and academic leaders in the UAE, as well as decision-makers, diplomats, national and international education experts, educational professionals and a host of researchers, academics, writers and journalists.


The conference began with welcoming remarks from H.E. Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi. He stressed that the annual education conference comes as a result of the Center’s understanding of the critical importance of education, which is the key driver of development and the cornerstone of the advancement of any community.


His Excellency pointed out that the United Arab Emirates has made education its central priority, and that our wise leadership, represented by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE (may God protect him), realizes the great significance of continually improving education in order to respond to accelerating international developments. As the ECSSR firmly believes in the importance of education, the conference aimed to discuss vital and dynamic educational issues over four sessions. The first session examined the role of education in preparing Emirati generations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, while the second considered ambitions and challenges connected to jobs of the future. The third session addressed the role of higher education in future foresight, while finally, the fourth session examined successful international experiences in education, in places such as Singapore, Canada and Finland.


Following the welcoming remarks, His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Al Mualla, Ministry of Education Undersecretary for Higher Education Academic Affairs, delivered the keynote speech on behalf of His Excellency Hussain bin Ibrahim Al-Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education. His Excellency expressed his thanks to the ECSSR for organizing the important conference, which highlights the relationship between education and future jobs, in the hope of offering recommendations and perspectives to help develop the education system in the UAE. His Excellency also underscored the need to make changes in the education sector, in order to respond to international developments and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, because the job market is witnessing dramatic changes. These changes will likely lead to a division in the job market into two main categories; individuals with low skills and low salaries; and, individuals with high skills and high salaries. It is also expected that the required skills in most sectors will change. His Excellency stressed that the Ministry of Education has approved international criteria in various educational sectors, with a special focus on the educational environment, modern teaching methodologies and teachers’ skills.


Her Excellency Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, former French Minister of Education, Higher Education and Research, also delivered a keynote speech to the conference, highlighting the need to improving the skills of students so that they can cope with the growing developments in the job market, especially those related to the technological revolution and automation. H.E. Vallaud-Belkacem also stressed that in order to improve the skills of students to address job market challenges, governments and educational institutions should invest in students’ skills improvement programs, such as those focused on programming and teamwork, in addition to improving the student-teacher relationship.


His Excellency Dr. Abdulrahman bin Mohamed Alasmi, Vice Minister of Education, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, delivered the final keynote speech, in which he pointed out that we are at the threshold of a new phase of technological development; one that urges us to understand developments in Artificial Intelligence, nano technology and supercomputers. His Excellency said there is a pressing need for preparing human capital to cope with the changes the international job market is seeing, adding that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a digital transformation project based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Alasmi also explained that Saudi Arabia has an advanced program for sending students to the most prestigious international universities and is currently working on improving teachers’ skills.


The first session of the conference then got underway, titled ‘Education and Preparing UAE Generations for 4IR’. It was chaired by His Excellency Abdullah Ali bin Zayed Al Falasi, Director General of Dubai Government Human Resources Department. Mr. Essa Al Mulla, Chief of the National Workforce Development Program at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, discussed the educational system and the aspirations of the UAE’s leaders, noting that unemployment rates have drastically decreased, with more than 60 percent of job seekers now holding university certificates. This, he explained, urges us to look for solutions within the education system to prepare graduates for the job market. He also suggested that we should encourage high-school students to engage in the job market, in addition to improving their life skills, creating environments that stimulate these skills and promoting a culture of lifelong learning.


In his presentation, ‘Educational Strategies and Challenges for 4IR and Beyond’, Prof. Bryan E. Penprase, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Science, Undergraduate Program at Soka University of America, described how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is increasingly changing educational curricula, instruction methods and the skills that students need. He gave an overview of some of the sciences that might witness huge developments in the context of 4IR, adding that learning about rapid scientific change should be included in curricula and updated periodically to keep pace with these changes, especially within higher education. Moreover, he stressed that curricula should be improved to facilitate the acquisition of modern sciences and technologies, and avoid outdated methods.


Dr. Najla Al Naqbi, Education Technology Expert at the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), discussed ‘Artificial Intelligence and Modern Education Technology: Between Theory and Practice’. Her presentation introduced a number of educational objectives that are needed for K-12 phases. These include modern knowledge that takes into account the most recent scientific developments; life skills, such as business management; communication skills and creativity; and, refining students’ characters. She emphasized that students also need to understand how to implement the knowledge they acquire.


The second panel followed, titled ‘Jobs of the Future: Ambitions and Challenges’, was chaired by Ms. Souad Al-Suwaidi, Deputy Secretary-General of the Khalifa Award for Education, United Arab Emirates. Ms. Asma Al Katheeri, General Manager of Sundus Recruitment Services, discussed ‘Educational Outcomes and Satisfying the Demands of the UAE Labor Market’, delving into her personal experience of choosing a specialization at university. She explained that H.E. Prof. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the ECSSR, played a role in helping her make the choice, indicating during a scholarship meeting that she should opt for health science, not necessarily medicine. As a result, Ms. Katheeri went on to study genetics in the US. She pointed out that educational outcomes in the UAE, at public universities in particular, can compete with worldwide educational outcomes. She also emphasized the importance of practical training to enhance employee competence, as this incentivizes them to adapt to different jobs and roles.


In his presentation, ‘The Role of Vocational and Technical Education in Preparing for Jobs of the Future’, H.E. Dr. Abdulrahman Jassim Al Hammadi, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute in the United Arab Emirates, said that continuous training disperses fears over the fact that many students might not be recruited for future jobs. The constant development of individual skills has become imperative, and he added that vocational and technical education and training have become the ideal solution to addressing unemployment. He gave several examples of vocational education and training, from Germany, Singapore and Japan, stressing that this type of education adapts to labor market requirements. He also underlined the fact that adapted instruction methods are not traditional, therefore require highly competent teachers.


Dr. Ahmed Al Omran Al Shamsi, Chairman of the Advisory Council for People of Determination in the United Arab Emirates, referred in his presentation, titled ‘Opportunities for People of Determination as Partners in Future Development’, to expected changes in future jobs and the labor market. He emphasized the importance of taking into account the situation of people of determination in the workplace, and of giving them opportunities to integrate into certain jobs where they can prove their creative talents. Dr. Al Shamsi also highlighted the importance of overcoming obstacles, starting from the recruitment and selection of employees, without excluding people of determination.


At the end of the second panel, Mr. Fahad Al-Mahri, Acting Head of Opinion Polls Department, ECSSR, presented the results of an opinion poll conducted by the Center, titled ‘Graduates’ Skills Compatibility to UAE Labor Market Requirements’. It surveyed a number of UAE university students, teaching staff and employers. Among its findings were that 52 percent of the students who participated in the poll think the skills they acquired through their university study match labor market requirements.