The progress and development of a nation or any society is inconceivable without capable and qualified individuals in various fields. Therefore, advanced countries have prioritised the human being, ensuring freedom and providing the means to qualify and empower individuals in all sciences, knowledge and skills to make them a key building block in the country’s progress. In this way the public are an active element in building civilisation and achieving a nation’s aspirations.
An Early Vision of the Role of Individuals in the Development Process
The UAE has, since its establishment, paid great attention to its people. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had a clear vision in this regard when he established the Union. His famous sayings: “men are the ones who build factories” and “the true wealth is that of men” are the best expression of his inspiring vision.
It remains the cornerstone of the country’s efforts to enhance the knowledge, skills and qualifications of the people. Sheikh Zayed’s vision has become an everlasting priority. Investing in people has been the core goal of the development phase under the reign of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. Human progress is not only a target of the development process, but is in fact the key element in creating it.
Therefore, all the UAE’s goals have historically focused on steadily improving the living standards for the individual, providing convenience and welfare for citizens and expatriates alike. At the same time, the country, at all levels, is working towards developing its human capital on sound scientific bases. From the establishment of the UAE, it focused on education and made schools, universities and other education institutions available.
Out of its belief in the role of science in achieving comprehensive development and facilitating progress and advancement at all levels, the UAE has given many citizens the opportunity to continue their studies at some of the best and most prestigious universities and institutes around the world.
The UAE also recruited the best international minds and expertise to develop its domestic academic sector and expanded this field to an unprecedented extent in the region. Therefore, training initiatives and programs have been an essential element in the work of various sectors, governmental and non-governmental alike.
As part of the UAE’s endeavour to benefit from its human capital, it worked through its various strategies to empower all segments of society with no exception. It paid special attention to segments that may not have otherwise been significantly involved in the development process, especially young people who have been nurtured by the UAE’s wise leadership. Therefore, several programs have been put in place to qualify the youth and utilise their creative energy. In addition, the country has established a ministry responsible for youth affairs
The same applies to women who have entered several important sectors, owing to the wise vision and progressive governmental policies. They now hold 50% of the seats in the Federal National Council, something that is unparalleled in the region and rare on the world stage.
Moreover, there has been a greater focus ensuring that people of determination are empowered, as demonstrated by the UAE’s achievements, which have become a role model in this regard.
Importance of Investing in Human Capital
Essential for the country
Investing in and qualifying citizens is not a luxury, it is essential for any country that seeks to be among the most advanced globally, and a role model of development, as is the case in the UAE. There are many considerations in this regard:
First, creating academically qualified and specialised professionals in all fields has become an urgent developmental imperative that compliments the unprecedented renaissance the UAE is witnessing in all areas. It requires competent citizens capable of dealing with the accelerating challenges and developments that today’s world witnesses, especially in the area of technology and the information revolution.
Through this, IT and technology can be utilised for the sustainable development process the country seeks to achieve in the service of society involving all aspects of life.
Second, the UAE’s move towards a knowledge-based economy, which depends on new vital fields such as nuclear and renewable energies, space science, and other sciences and areas of knowledge, requires the existence of a qualified population adept in these fields. This will enable the UAE to stay abreast of progress in the future as it continues the comprehensive and sustainable development process it is experiencing.
As part of the UAE’s endeavour to benefit from its human capital, it worked through its various strategies to empower all segments of society with no exception
In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is the first university of its kind worldwide. This stresses that the UAE is keen to advance education to cope with new technologies such as artificial intelligence.
Third, qualifying citizens by giving them access to different sciences and areas of knowledge and equipping them with modern skills in various fields that serve the goals of Emiratization, the successful implementation of which has become a priority for authorities in the country.
Undoubtedly, equipping Emiratis with in-demand labour-market skills and specialisations would help achieve the objectives of this policy by providing different UAE entities with citizens capable of running them effectively and efficiently. This highly skilled workforce would also spearhead the development of these organisations, improving their services and the tasks they are entrusted with, in order to achieve their goals.
Fourth, there are exceptional human resource challenges globally. Many studies, including one by the World Economic Forum, highlight the challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Half of all the current occupations in the world are expected to be automated by 2030, which intensifies the need for qualified human resources able to keep pace with, and adapt to, these rapid developments in the labour market.
Investment as a Priority
In light of the wise leadership’s awareness of the importance of investment in human resources, the UAE has made it a top priority within the holistic development strategy, in line with the requirements of the time. This underscores the significance of plans and programs pursued by various government and private sectors focusing on the human element as the most important pillar of holistic and sustainable development.
Since investing in people requires a solid and transparent plan that takes into account the scale of needs and expectations, huge draft budgets have been allocated in recent years to meet development needs, focus on human resources, and achieve self-reliance in all areas.
Allocating the largest part of the budget to sectors directly concerned with human welfare and qualification, as well as the provision of all requirements of human life, such as education, health and infrastructure, reflects the UAE’s focus on investing in Emirati human capital. This has been shown in the 2020 budget, which is the largest in the UAE’s history, amounting to 61 billion dirhams, with one third (nearly 31%) being allocated to social development, and the other two thirds to “government affairs, infrastructure, economic resources, and life benefits”.
More effort needed
The UAE’s progress in the field of Emiratisation and the qualification of its people is undoubtedly exceptional, particularly when set against the many challenges that face this task and the rewarding outcomes that have been achieved. There is also a clear commitment from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources and other authorities concerned with Emiratisation in all emirates, to meet Emiratisation targets, whether in the federal government or local governments.
The aim is to ensure they are aligned with the mechanisms and plans in place to achieve the aspirations and directives of the wise leadership that has made Emiratisation a top priority. This is a result of the wise leadership’s goal to create job opportunities for UAE citizens in various sectors, and enable them to contribute to the holistic, sustainable development of the country. There are already positive indicators, as reported by the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources and other concerned entities.
Equipping Emiratis with in-demand labour-market skills and specialisations would help achieve the objectives by providing different UAE entities with citizens capable of running them effectively and efficiently
UAE’s strategic vision
However, more effort is needed on the part of the country, including various entities in government and the private sector. The success of the UAE’s strategic vision, which aims to raise Emiratization rates, with the current target of increasing the number of UAE nationals who work in the private sector ten-fold by 2021, will not be achieved without the engagement and effective involvement of all stakeholders.
It is the responsibility of these entities to make the UAE’s vision for qualifying human personnel a special priority, and proper preparation and qualification of citizens should be one of their main goals. In doing so, entities should not only focus on the quantitative aspect; seeking high Emiratization rates, without solid scientific and practical principles and foundations, as this poses serious threats.
There are multiple challenges on the way to achieving the aspirational vision of the UAE to become the best nation in the world in all areas by its centennial. We cannot effectively respond to these challenges without qualified human personnel who have the necessary expertise and skills to continue the UAE’s holistic development process.
Therefore, we should look at qualifying human personnel, not only from the prevailing perspective of Emiratization, but also from the perspective of real qualification. First and foremost, we should ensure that educational institutions produce competent personnel in all fields and disciplines, and more focus should be placed on practical aspects. Students should only graduate from universities after successfully completing a mandatory six-month practical training course.
In this context, I suggest that the country should cover up to half of the costs of practical training, with the other half borne by the university or company. This would benefit companies and organisations and promote the country’s vision for qualifying human personnel.
Second, it is necessary to provide advanced training programs in various fields to hone the skills of UAE nationals with different educational levels. These organisations should exchange expertise in this field so that everyone plays a part in the advancement of our great nation, which is moving toward a bright future.
Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is a UAE author and director-general of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.