The demand for vocational courses and job-oriented education is steadily gaining traction in the UAE as students look for programmes that boost their employability and spur their career growth immediately after completing their studies. Though programmes in engineering, hospitality management and computer application have traditionally been popular in the UAE, courses in aviation, fashion, creative arts and health care are catching up fast owing to increasing employment opportunities in these sectors and better salary packages.
To highlight the importance of vocational and occupational studies in the UAE, Gulf Education and Training Exhibition (Getex), the region’s leading education event, has decided to take a comprehensive look at them this year. Anselm Godinho, Managing Director of International Conferences and Exhibitions, the organisers of Getex, says, “The demand for vocational courses has increased tremendously owing to efforts of various public sector agencies, which are introducing and running training programmes for UAE nationals and expatriates. The private sector is also aligning itself to satisfy the demand for industry-ready courses such as hospitality, media and technical studies.”
Emirates Aviation College has been running vocational courses in Dubai since 1991. Abdul Nasser Chakra, the Dean of Vocational Studies at the institute, says that the growing demand for vocational education is evident in the rise of skill-oriented courses now available in UAE’s educational institutions. Students and parents have become aware of the advantages of such education over mainstream programmes. The public education system in the UAE is actively encouraging student intake into vocational programmes without compromising on the academic focus of such courses.
Godinho says it is imperative that industries support employment of qualified manpower by offering internship programmes and better wages. “This entire cycle of churning out qualified tradespeople and feeding the employment market with a trained workforce will undoubtedly raise the cost of living for a period of time, but this will ultimately benefit the economy over a longer period and also increase the student intake into occupational programmes,” he says.
Though there is considerable demand for skilled manpower in the Middle East, specially in high growth sectors such as aviation, hospitality, technology, education and automobiles, students pursuing courses in regular streams are often found to be not suitably groomed for the job market. So when students choose skill-oriented courses after finishing schools, they not only become job ready but are also able to chart their career at an early age. Godinho says that vocational courses should be introduced as part of the curriculum in high schools. “This will be an enriching experience for students as they will be exposed to technology and practices in the workplace and also get a better perspective of life beyond school. Many of these skills can also lead to rewarding hobbies for them,” he says.
Chakra agrees, while adding that some critical factors such as skills, abilities, future plans and personal goals should be considered by students and parents before choosing between a formal mainstream education and vocational programmes. “At Emirates Aviation College, we accept students from grade ten. They could progress on to higher education or go straight into employment after completing their diploma,” says Chakra.
The occupational education system in the UAE is being promoted through several channels. The establishment of entities such as Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and National Institute of Vocational Education in Dubai were created to help students gain job competencies by running programmes that focus on the nation’s priority sectors. Other factors include building international partnerships with key universities around the globe with areas relevant to the UAE and subsequently linking them with local universities; and working with universities to align their programme offerings with market demand.
The response to the UAE’s growing vocational education sector has been overwhelming: students not only from Gulf states and other Middle East countries but even Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Eastern Europe have come down to the UAE to access its world-class education programmes.