Tech skills will see a lot of upskilling opportunities, and help bring down the diversity gaps too. Image Credit: Reuters

After 20 months of pandemic-induced economic upheaval, we are seeing recovery. Nearly 248,000 jobs were created in the Emirate this May — across retail, e-commerce and IT. Global research shows at the end of last year, 73 per cent of UAE businesses were already offering compensation packages equal to or better than pre-pandemic.

Indeed, we’ve seen public and private organizations rallying, innovating - and thriving. As the Covid dust settles around us, regional employers must continue to transform their organizations, digitize processes, and upskill employees. Here are five signs that things are set to get better.

Globalizing labor markets

If local talent can look further afield for employment, this has implications for employers, and how they attract and retain talent. Geography is a factor of the past in determining where employees work and from where employers hire. On balance, this is good news for workers and employers, as it allows for more sustainable, equitable and flexible working, and can avoid concentrating top talent in a few thriving hubs.

Abundance of digital jobs

Thirty-seven per cent of UAE workers believe automation is a greater threat now than pre-pandemic. Technology is accelerating change and transformation, deleting jobs and creating new demands for knowledge and skills. This is especially concerning to lower-skilled workers, who are traditionally among the first victims of displacement.

Reskilling through online learning — given its flexibility of scheduling and of curriculum — presents an opportunity. This is especially true in a region of high internet penetration and robust telecommunications infrastructure, as can be found in the GCC.

The UAE’s National Program for Coders is not leaving the outcome of automation to chance. The initiative is the latest in a series of such schemes in the country. It aims not only to create coders for jobs, but to create jobs for coders.

The government is confident that the programme will inspire a new generation of tech entrepreneurs and professionals to fuel the industry and create more employment opportunities.

Diversity issues

Underrepresented groups in the workforce will see more professional opportunities ahead in the new remote-working world, especially if prepared to reskill and upskill. Untapped parts of the labor pool are of interest to employers in recovery mode as they look to shore up their internal capabilities. Flexible, online entry-level jobs pathways, particularly for digital skills, will enable individuals to regain a foothold in the job market.

The Google IT Support Certificate, for example — which doesn’t require experience or a college degree — is helping prepare people for entry-level jobs in IT support in as little as three to six months.

By understanding what employers are seeking, learners can hone in on key skills, and become relevant in weeks or months, rather than years.

More STEM-skilled women

The UAE has taken impressive strides in gender parity, having closed 71.6 per cent of its gender gaps, according to the 2021 WEF Global Gender Gap report, and leaping 48 places in the Gender Gap Index in a single year, from 120 to 72.

Coursera’s latest Women and Skills Report shows women in the UAE are pursuing online learning at higher rates than pre-pandemic, with STEM course enrollments among women increasing from 32 per cent in 2019 to 37 per cent in 2021. Women are investing in STEM skills like probability and statistics (70,000 enrollments from women in the UAE), data analysis (60,000), and machine learning (50,000).

Access to flexible, job-relevant education will help women learn new skills and increase their representation in technology, especially in the face of reports regarding a worldwide disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s jobs.

Institutional collaboration

Businesses, governments and educators collaborating in new and unprecedented ways will help create accessible pathways to high-growth, entry-level jobs and increase economic growth. Players including Google, Microsoft and Facebook are collaborating with the UAE Government in such a way, through initiatives such as the National Program for Coders. Businesses are engaging a diverse and global talent pool to drive success on the ground in new markets.

While for governments, upskilling communities and connecting learners to jobs is beneficial to the wider society and supports economic growth.

Not a dream

The world of work is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to make real changes to help employees thrive. Creating flexible pathways to skilling and well-paying remote jobs is an important piece of the puzzle. This is an area where I’m personally focused, and I invite corporate leaders across the UAE to play a foundational role in reshaping an inclusive future.