Abu Dhabi: In order for graduates to keep up with competition in the workforce, learning how to think goes far beyond obtaining a degree. The UAE must limit over-reliance on academic learning and focus on occupational standards, senior academics said yesterday.

With as much as 40 to 50 per cent of the population across the UAE under 21, experts at a forum held yesterday — titled: Developing Effective Employees for the Global Workforce — predicted that unemployment rates will increase further if cooperation between employers and educators is not constant.

"Traditional jobs are eventually going to go. That's why we need to develop the skills of young people across the UAE and ensure that they acquire lifelong learning skills that are vital in a rapidly competitive market, such as leadership and communication skills," said Melanie Relton, regional manager leading on the vocational education for the British Council.

It has been predicted that in the next 20 years, 80 million jobs need to be created across the Gulf, especially given the current unemployment rate of 15 per cent in the region, Relton told Gulf News.

More than 150 participants representing the employment sectors across 70 public and private organisations took part in a panel discussion highlighting the challenges faced by governments, employers, employees and job seekers across a multitude of industries.

Getting a good fit between supply and demand in education and training is not straightforward enough, said Bob Turner, Vocational Education Development Manager at the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

"Are employers able to define the workforce they need? Do educators understand the needs of their industry? Continual dialogues are required, and education is not just input, education is never ending," said Turner during his speech.

Global statistics

Some global statistics regarding effective education for employment from Ross Hall, director of Edexcel's International operations and vice-president of Pearson Learning Solutions

  • There are 700 million people in the workforce in developing countries, reaching beyond their traditional economies
  • 80 per cent of the world's population still live under $10 dollars a day
  • 80 per cent of the world's population lives in an environment of wide income gaps
  • 200 million people are globally unemployed.

Technology has radically changed our lives:

  • 55 billion e-mails are sent daily globally
  • Over four billion people are using mobile phones globally
  • On average, every second 38 mobile phones are being purchased
  • Trade agreements have increased by five times in the recent years.