UAE employers ‘should work closely with schools to help youngsters prepare for future careers’

In the UAE, the transient nature of the expatriate community – with large numbers of people coming and going – and a local population less inclined to vocational education, are two significant disadvantages faced by companies when it comes to finding suitable staff.

"Every advanced country has a schools strategy and a skills strategy," said Ralph Tabberer, chairman of education consultancy BBD Solutions in Dubai.

"The trick is to avoid them running on two separate tracks: a high status academic approach to schools and a ‘second best’ vocational track for skills."

Countries that have enjoyed high success rates balancing the two give vocational routes high status, he said.

He suggested that the police and the armed forces could co-run a school, while another option would be to have so-called flight schools training students on flight simulators to prepare for a role in aviation.

"There’s a big job to do in every school, public and private," Mr Tabberer said.

One area where every school can improve is in outdoor education, he said. "Outdoor education generates self-confidence and individual strengths. Schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh International Award are brilliant for creating healthy, independent and resilient young people.

"I’d like every school to have a compulsory outdoor education programme from age 12."

Increasingly employers choose staff on the basis of attitude as much as achievement and because of this young people should learn about teamwork, leadership, hard work and taking responsibility. Parents should also ensure that the behaviours they embody encourage their children in this direction, Mr Tabberer said.

"It’s as important a part of our social infrastructure as are areas such as child safeguarding and special needs. One thing to watch out for, however, is not to put in place lots of rules about health and safety that make outdoor education tougher for schools to organise.

"We need schools to do a risk assessment, but if we wrap our children in cotton wool, they won’t be able to tough it out in the wider world."

Neil Bunting, head of secondary at Greenfield Community School at Dubai Investment Park, said schools were faced with significant challenges in preparing students for the world of work.

"We have to prepare our students for rapid change and working collaboratively with people they have never met before from the four corners of the world," he said.

The groundwork for this is in place through work projects with virtual colleagues using social networks.

Mr Bunting envisions that a job for life will be a thing of the past, so students have to learn how to successfully move from one career to another.

A pilot programme is run at the school with a "flexible vocationally focused learning system that offers our students opportunity, real-life learning experiences, and prepares them well for university and for the workplace", Mr Bunting said. "We believe the programme encourages them to think flexibly about where they work and how they engage with others in problem solving."

Students are encouraged to think globally and engage with the world of work within Dubai through placements.

"One of the many benefits of leading schools in Dubai is the diversity and tolerance inherent in our school community," he said. "For the learners in our classrooms it is very normal for them to be collaborating in class with peers from different parts of the world with multiple perspectives. This encourages them to think flexibly, to be balanced and open-minded, and interculturally aware."

Technology is giving the UAE a head start in adapting to the changing requirements of the world of work, he said.

"What is needed by employers are not so much the skills, although these still serve a use, more important are attributes and attitudes: flexibility, fast thinking, forward thinking, intercultural awareness and relationship building."

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Souce: The National, dated 26th December 2016