Expo 2020 Dubai was held from October 2021 to March 2022 Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: In 2016, Expo 2020 Dubai had begun contributing to the development of youth in the UAE with the launch of a nine-month apprenticeship programme, open to UAE-based graduates from any nationality under the age of 28.

From 2,700 ambitious applicants, 27 made the final selection, starting an Expo 2020 Dubai journey in August 2016 that would see them developed into young professionals with a diverse range of skills.

Of those 27 apprentices, from 14 different nationalities, around 80 per cent went on to accept full-time jobs with Expo, which for many of them has represented their first job after university.

‘Expo Tribe’

These young ‘Expo Tribe’ members, who witnessed a site the size of 600 football fields grow from a blank canvas of desert sand into an architectural wonder and future city, look back on how they have also grown and developed over their five-year journey.

According to Kavisha Pancholi, former apprentice and now Manager, Ticketing and Digital Platforms, Expo School Programme, the apprenticeship programme has been like a “crash course MBA”.

Pancholi said: “The way the course accelerated was just amazing. From negotiating, to being assertive, how to deal with very difficult situations, how to manage a team, how to delegate. I think it was more like leadership skills, and that’s why I’m saying it’s a crash course MBA. Something that people do over a year-and-a-half or two years, we did it in nine months.”

Kavisha Pancholi
Kavisha Pancholi Image Credit: Supplied

Former apprentice Rahul Binyani, current Project Manager, Overlay, also felt that the programme helped him to gain skills that it usually takes much longer to acquire. Binyani said: “I feel like the nine months of training, as well as the practical application, is more like what people would usually take five or 10 years to develop in their career.”

Rahul Binyani
Rahul Binyani Image Credit: Supplied

For Shahad Al Sharhan, former apprentice and now Assistant Creative Manager, Creative Studio, the diverse programme provided a supportive environment to bridge the gap between theoretical skills learnt at university, and the reality of the workplace.

Notable learnings from the programme included time management, communication, how to deliver projects, how to present ideas and to create reports, She said: “It was very interesting to shift away from the educational format to the real world. I could dive into the workplace a lot easier than if I had just come in and learnt on the job … The transition was a lot smoother going from university to work because it felt like someone is still sort of holding your hand.”

Shahad Al Sharhan
Shahad Al Sharhan Image Credit: Supplied

Varied skills

All of these former apprentices has benefited from access to a broad range of skills and department operations. Binyani’s role in Overlay gave him a valuable overview into the operations of multiple departments and how they function; Pancholi has now delved deeply into skills as diverse as human resources, through to the technology demands of her current role; and Al Sharhan has been able to take opportunities to learn in areas such as social media and voiceovers.

Thanks to the programme, Binyani said, he feels confident and ready for anything: “I come out of this internship apprenticeship programme, fully ready to face the world.”

Pancholi has been inspired to work for other major global events, while Al Sharhan is keen to “continue working on the UAE story. I still have a passion to work for the Government – something where I’m giving back to the country that gave to me.”

It is clear that their time at Expo 2020 Dubai has had a huge impact, and they all expressed a sense of sadness to see the close of a chapter of their lives that has been filled with new friends, skills and experiences.

Binyani said: “I really thoroughly enjoyed my job role so much that I feel like, after this is over, it will be, not just for me, but for every single person that I know who’s been here for a while, a huge cavity – in terms of the good experiences, the cherished memories with good people.”