Dubai: The education strategy of Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil, is in line with the innovation agenda, a cause for which the government is spending tens of billions of dollars.
The kingdom has invested about $57 billion in various education initiatives and built over 80 new vocational colleges to enhance the skills of the Saudi workforce, adding to 57 new vocational colleges that were built in last decade, said Prince Saud Bin Khalid Al Faisal, deputy governor of investment affairs, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, and also the President of National Competitiveness Centre.
He was speaking at The Economist Events’ Future of Work ME Summit in Dubai on Wednesday. “We are moving away from using oil wealth to solely drive development. Our oil wealth is being used to stimulate development focused on sustainability in the market through education, innovation, and economic diversification. This shift comes as a result of a concerted effort made by GCC members to change gear and continue our drive towards greater individual and regional competitiveness,” Al Faisal said.
Saudi Arabia, which depends on crude oil for most of its revenues, suffered a deficit in its budget for this year due to a 50 per cent drop in prices globally, and has been trying to diversify the economy.
The government has collectively spent $318 billion for establishing and improving ICT networks and on research and development from 2011 through 2015, he said. “In Saudi Arabia, we have an eye to the future and we want our graduates to be equipped with the tools and skills and mindset to take our nation to the next level, thus attracting and sustaining foreign investment,” Al Faisal said.
“We are steadily changing the nature of the labour market for Saudi citizens. As we constantly re-evaluate our development methods to meet the changes in global business, we are moving towards a model of cyclical sustainability using innovation and education as both the catalyst and fuel fostering innovation and supporting innovative projects will jump-start the this transformation,” he added.
In a survey conducted for global consultancy EY, most of young males in the GCC prefer employment in research and development information security, construction; young females want to work in health care, which also are high multiplier companies.
“There is a high co-relation that the young GCC nationals want to work in high economic multipliers,” Gerard Gallagher, managing director, Middle East and North Africa, advisory services at EY, told Gulf News. The survey was conducted was conducted among 2,000 young graduates in the GCC countries.
Currently 1 in 3 Gulf nationals aged 15 to 29 are unemployed, according to International Labour Organisation.
“They told us to give us more awareness of the job, give them more experience path and then give them a purpose, give them jobs that make a difference to the GCC and their country,” Gallagher said. EY hires 200 graduates per year and second best in the world just next to Google.