Developing a workforce for sustainable economic growth

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 06 Jan 2016

How the Middle East is gearing up its population for the future

There are five crucial areas that governments in the Middle East must focus on in order to develop the right skills for sustainable economic growth, according to a new report from global learning provider City and Guilds.
 
The 'Sense and Instability' report compares England’s current learning and development needs with those of several regions around the world, including the GCC. It suggests a number of areas governments in the region should prioritise: system churn and constant change; institutional memory; target setting, unified qualifications frameworks; local and national investment priorities.
 
‘System churn and constant change’ is the idea that successive governments will want to bring their own ideas to the table regarding learning and development. They might make big changes to existing policies, for better or worse. The Middle East is “undergoing significant change at present in terms of education and training, with large-scale investment in increasing student numbers and the supporting infrastructure.” To reduce their dependence on expat workers, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states must provide the local population with the same skills that are brought in by foreign workers.
 
This "large-scale investment" in skills means the MENA region as a whole is seeing a raft of new policies, programmes and partnerships dealing with training. It is crucial that the GCC maintains an 'institutional memory' of what works well and what does not in tackling certain skills-related challenges.
 
Saudi Arabia is setting itself a significant target by aiming to increase its technical and vocational education and training (TVET) capacity from 100,000 people in 2012 to 400,000 in 2024, says the report. Targets are often helpful but should always be realistic – big ambitions sound great at the time but can be demoralising if they turn out to be completely unachievable. City and Guilds recommend Saudi Arabia's "targets and progress towards these achievements is monitored and published; it is likely that other countries in the region can obtain valuable lessons from this experience."
 
The GCC is designing the Gulf Qualifications Framework (GQF) and each of the member countries is working on its own National Qualifications Framework (NQF). Such systems allow learners to “move smoothly and easily between different academic levels and qualifications, both academic and vocational,” as well as giving employers clearer guidance on what sort of qualifications they might want to offer their employees.
 
National labour market information (LMI) is cited as an important tool for deciding which skills are investment priorities. In a region heavily dependent on imported labour, using such data effectively is the key to increasing employment opportunities for native workers. Oman’s local employment quotas and the UAE’s plans for emiratisation will only work if a sufficiently skilled local workforce is at hand, says City & Guilds.