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“Passion is often a key influence”

VISS university fairs help students choose the right academic streams

Image Credit:
Sajid Hussain, Head of Careers Education at VISS.Courtesy: Joanna Robertson – Four Communications, Dubai
Gulf News

At the Victoria International School of Sharjah (VISS) career guidance to students is taken up very seriously and the school not only begins counsellign students on the choice of subjects to be taken according to their aptitude, it also holds an annual unviersity fair for senior students. Such fairs are treated as important stepping stones for students to steer them towards the right path based on their interest, aptitude and keep them on firm footing as far as their careers are concerned.

Sajid Hussain - Head of Business, Enterprise and Careers Education VISS gives Education a glimpse into how the school makes sure that students are prepared well for their future careers.

How should a student determine the best university for what they want to achieve?

The chances of finding a perfect match can be a challenge despite the choice of thousands of universities across the world as each student wants different things, and every course and every university is different. The student will almost certainly need to decide what is most important to him and his future aspirations.

If a student already knows what career to pursue e.g. Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, then he can tailor his education to that goal. For medicine and law, for example, a student is best advised to study in the country he wishes to practice, or where his qualifications will be recognized. One the other had, if he is looking at military-based qualification, he will almost certainly need to study in his home country. If the student is unsure of his future career, as most students are he needs to first decide where to pursue his university education - in the UAE or his home country. Having decided that, I would advise a student to study something that he likes and is good at! Passion is often a key influence in taking such decisions.

Academic choices in the UAE are increasing every year and standards are getting better, so the UAE is a good option for many students as they can remain close to their families.

Are university fairs effective? What can students take from it?

University fairs are specifically designed for institutions to connect with students to:

- Give them direction and advice on possible future pathways

- Familiarize students with admission requirements

- Give students information about campus and facilities

- Inform students on extracurricular activities that are offered at each university

At VISS we hold one annual fair for students in Grades 10-13. Our students are very keen to join institutions in the UAE which offer the most up-to-date qualifications in a wide range of disciplines. More importantly, they have been encouraged and taught to take on challenging roles, thanks to VISS’s unique curriculum encompassing key attributes such as entrepreneurship, communication and values.

How can students optimize on the information offered at such fairs when considering their future career?

The key is asking the right questions when interacting with all universities. Listening skills, research skills and fact finding are paramount. Good questions include:

- Is your course accredited with the appropriate authority in that country (eg the Ministry of Higher education here in the UAE? If not then what are the drawbacks?

- Can I use my degree to get a career (work permit) anywhere in the world?

- Can credits be transferred to and from another University?

- Can I use my degree to study for a Master Degree or PhD anywhere in the world? Or in UAE even?

- Does your University operate an Internship in Industry option?

- Does your University run a Career Office and Career Fair?

- Does your University offer a ‘sandwich course’ or combined scheme with another country?

- Does the coruse allow me to do a semester or more in another country?

- How many of last year’s graduates got a job or a place on a Master/PhD program?

- What are the scholarship options?

- What type of extra-curricular activities does your university offer?

- Do your courses in Science, Engineering, Business (Accountancy) and Architecture enable me to achieve membership of a the internationally recognized professional body eg Science Institute, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Accountant or Chartered Architect.

Students at VISS started receiving careers advice and guidance from very early on to guide them to make the right choices of subjects that would support their careers. What are these areas? What are the suggestions that the career counsel cell makes to students

VISS approaches this crucial area of advice and guidance through a concise careers program consisting of regular in-depth interview with students and parents. This is not a one-off event. Students can access my assistance, or that of other staff, at any time. In a nutshell we offer the following suggestions and help:

- Interviewing people one to one or in small groups to discuss career or education options

- Identifying a student’s skills gaps and how to deal with them

- Advising people on how to source relevant training courses or qualifications and what funding might be available

- Providing advice on CV, applications and interview techniques

- Running small group sessions or larger presentations on all aspects of careers work and topics related to personal development

- Liaising and negotiating with other organisations on behalf of students

- Using IT for research workshops regarding university applications on many universities systems across the world (UK, US, Indian etc)

- Displaying careers literature and advice in a dedicated careers office

- Planning and organising careers fairs and conventions

We also intend to become an accredited SAT/TOFEL centre and introduce computer-aided guidance packages, skills assessment tools, career planners, psychometric tests and personal inventories. After all, school is just the prologue in the story of one’s life, and it is our hope that there will be many more chapters to come for all our students. That means our responsibility to our students isn’t only simply teaching them in class. Just as importantly, it also means helping them use that education to start the next chapter in their life in the best possible way.