STOCK Women and sustainability
Middle East economies are still lagging on empowering its young workforces with required digital skills. It's time this changed. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Asset-intensive industries are facing a dual challenge. They must meet the demand for resources from a growing population and address a range of time-sensitive sustainability goals.

To meet that challenge, they need to deliver a culture shift across an inexperienced workforce to ensure employees understand the need to use technology to drive a combination of sustainability and operational excellence. Across the MENA region, the skills gap is getting wider: a report from the World Bank found that 32 per cent of people aged 15-24 are not engaged in employment, education, or training.

Asset-intensive businesses are feeling the effects of this, with more people leaving the sector and a lack of knowledge transfer and skills retention exacerbating the issue. As pressure mounts on industry to become more sustainable and efficient, how can businesses redress the balance and progress towards sustainability targets?

Fortunately, industry and technology providers are coming together to build solutions that drive efficiency and help reduce carbon intensity, energy, and water use across the value chain. This creates an opportunity for workers to be upskilled to leverage these technologies, smoothing the path toward a more sustainable future.

Skills gap closing

The youth unemployment rate in MENA is the highest globally, estimated at 26 per cent in 2019. Furthermore, there is an acute digital skills gap in the MENA region, with digital skills talent accounting for a meagre 1.7 per cent in 2017. These two problems could be linked - as digital transformation continues to be driven by younger generations, having over a quarter of youth excluded from employment in MENA limits opportunities for cultural change around technological innovation.

The skills gap in the asset-intensive industries is being fuelled by people leaving the sector. A survey of 17,000 energy professionals worldwide from energy recruitment firms found 47 per cent of respondents in the ME are considering moving out of the industry, with a further 22 per cent saying that they are unsure.

Among recruiters, the top reason for skills shortages was inadequate succession planning for knowledge transfer and skills retention (42 per cent) and education and training (36 per cent). While the figures can also provide a roadmap for businesses looking to drive cultural change, improve employee retention, and develop sustainability skills.


In light of generational workforce changes and talent shortages, there is a need for upskilling in sustainable practices. Salesforce research uncovered a significant sustainability skills gap, with 7-in-10 global workers wishing they had more sustainability-related qualifications.

Technology can play a critical role in bridging this gap by guiding companies through sustainability pathways, such as improving resource efficiencies, energy transitions, and decarbonisation initiatives. New asset management software solutions are coming to the fore, helping asset-intensive businesses in MENA leverage advanced intelligence and guidance capabilities to improve decision-making, boost efficiency, and accelerate sustainability projects.

An innovative sustainability training program will empower professionals with the skills needed to implement and leverage digital solutions to address the dual challenge. Specifically designed to help the workforce build competencies and expand their expertise in applying digital technologies along sustainability pathways, they combine flexible, eLearning with expert-led training and group coaching sessions to help participants evaluate areas across their operations.

The program is complemented with sustainability sample models, which are adapted to participants’ own initiatives and scaled up across the enterprise. Progress in emissions management, hydrogen economy, carbon capture, materials circularity, bio-based feedstock, and renewable energy will drive cultural change and help close the sustainability skills gap.

Digitalisation accelerates innovation

It is possible for technology to automate CO2 emissions data collection from multiple sources for decarbonisation compliance and reporting, enabling companies to model these emissions in operations.

In this way, digitalisation and automation accelerate green innovation within the sector. They give asset-intensive industries a valuable opportunity to be more resilient and agile during unpredictable times, which could ultimately result in less emissions being released into the atmosphere.

With industries making significant strides in their sustainability programmes, businesses need to continue investing more time, resources, and education into digital solutions. Despite the skills gap, asset-intensive companies across MENA can leverage technology and training to tackle some of their challenges, delivering improved operational efficiency and sustainability into the future.