GCC education system ‘not perfect’
The Arabian Gulf education system does not prepare young people for the regional job market, say majority of employers.
The latest Ernst & Young study ‘Perspectives on GCC youth employment’ says employers in the region do not believe that the local education system prepares young people with the requisite skills, training and attitudes for the workplace.
Only 29 per cent of employers feel that the current local education prepares students with the necessary technical skills. The study also revealed that less than one-fifth agree that it prepares young people with the right attitude for work.
Gerard Gallagher, MENA Advisory Leader, EY, who presented the study at the Jeddah Economic Forum, said: “Curricula need to be designed with input from employer bodies to reform national skills and education models. This is the only way to address the concerns of employers, and even young nationals, who are still not very confident about the ability of the existing education model, in providing work place-relevant skills, training and experience.”
LIMITED ACCESS TO WORK EXPERIENCE PROGRAMS
The study indicated that GCC youth have limited access to work experience programs. Although work placements are a positive means of building relevant skills in young people, there is a very low availability of work experience programs across all six GCC countries.
Saudi Arabia has the lowest participation in work experience programs, with only seven per cent of students having undertaken work experience placements versus a GCC average of 30 per cent. The UAE fared better with 42 per cent.
PERSPECTIVES ON WORK AND CAREERS
In terms of preferred industries, the information communications and technology industry is the most desirable across the region, closely followed by financial services. The majority of young people in Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE would prefer to work for the government. In Saudi Arabia, there is a 50:50 split in preference between the public and private sector, and in Bahrain, a much greater preference to work in the private sector. For young females, the most desirable industries are tourism and hospitality, public relations, and healthcare.
PERSPECTIVES ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Across the GCC, with the significant exception of Bahrain, young people are not inclined to set up their own businesses. This is perhaps the greatest challenge that the region faces as it seeks to diversify and grow the private sector.
“Despite the initiatives created by local Governments, the majority of GCC youth are finding it difficult to be entrepreneurial. Challenges in the sphere of entrepreneurship are significantly more pronounced for women, with females perceiving that their families are less likely to be supportive of their entrepreneurial ambitions compared to males,” says Gerard.
ACTION PLAN FOR POLICY MAKERS
According to the study, policy makers should consider adopting a six-point action plan to collaborate with educational institutions and the private sector.
1) Prioritize the development of an entrepreneurship culture, ecosystem and underpinning national support capability to help entrepreneurs to navigate the system
2) Establish national campaigns to inspire young people and change their attitudes towards the importance of starting their own business or finding a job in the private sector
3) Reform national skills and education models
4) Encourage more work placement schemes for young people still in education, to broaden their experience and develop their work attitudes and ethics
5) Establish national apprenticeship schemes to deliver large numbers of practically skilled young people for vocational careers
6) Improve career support functions in high schools and universities and working with the private sector can help students secure jobs
“Our study highlights a number of barriers to sustainable economic growth for GCC countries, which is contingent upon a stronger and more diverse private sector. For GCC countries to compete in the global market of knowledge-based economies, steps must be taken to leverage the potential of the next generation of professionals.
“A number of challenges surround tackling regional youth unemployment; however, these are exciting times for developing the key human resource on which the future of the region’s economic and social growth depends – the ‘youth’ of the GCC,” says Gerard.