MBZMFG and its laboratories challenge young participants to set objectives and plans for the next 50 years, inspired by the UAE’s track record of success. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A number of ‘Future Makers’ — the UAE’s brightest and most promising young students — were given the opportunity to interact with four UAE Cabinet Ministers when the Mohamed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations (MBZMFG) conducted a laboratory to develop the second edition of the ‘Future Map’.

Held on October 23, 2021, the laboratory followed the success of the MBZMFG Jubilee Lab, which saw 106 ‘Future Makers’ comprising outstanding university students from around the UAE meet for the first time in February 2021, with their efforts resulting in the first edition of the Future Map. As a follow up, 100 Future Makers took part in a Future Lab on September 25-26, 2021.

MBZMFG and its laboratories challenge young participants to set objectives and plans for the next 50 years, inspired by the UAE’s track record of success.

The ministers taking part in the latest session included Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education; Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy; Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs; and Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and The Future. Mohamed Khalifa Al Nuaimi, Director of Education Affairs Office at the Crown Prince’s Court of Abu Dhabi, also joined the panel.

Future Map 2.0

The Future Map 2.0 set six key themes to be explored: Bridging the skills gap between university and the workplace; careers in STEM and concerns for sustainability; promoting entrepreneurial mindsets in UAE youth; acquiring the collaboration skills necessary to unlock radical innovation; future careers at the intersection of digital technology and culture; and the impact of social media on mental health.

The Future Map 2.0 set six key themes to be explored. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Each of the four Ministers discussed with the Future Makers one or more of the themes, expounding on the areas that fell into their respective spheres of responsibility, answering their questions and advising them on the skills they should focus on and the specific areas of knowledge they should enhance to pursue their chosen career path.

A rapidly evolving world

Al Hammadi had been involved since the first generation of the Future Map, and joined the Lab on 23rd October to discuss ways to bridge the skills gap between university and the workplace. He outlined two types of skills young people need to focus on: Hard skills and computer skills. Hard skills, such as literacy in Arabic and English, enable youth to efficiently communicate and analyse. Along with that, he urged the young participants to develop their computer skills, be more agile and innovative and always be learning in a rapidly evolving world.

“In addition to basic skills and competencies, our youth need to learn how to continue developing and adapting to their changing environment,” Al Hammadi noted. “This calls for a set of personal qualities, foremost among which is flexibility and adaptability. These skills are critical for future leaders to ensure sustainability and prosperity in a rapidly evolving world, along with critical thinking and creative problem solving.”

Optimising operations

For his part, Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri explained how youth can use collaboration skills to ensure radical innovation, noting that leaders must navigate two mindsets: The founder’s and the CEO’s. The founder has a big-picture mindset, always looking towards the future, whereas the CEO looks at strategy, production lines and optimising operations. “Flexibility and adaptability are essential features to ensure access to new horizons of knowledge, innovation, and sustainable economic growth. One of the most important lessons learned from the pandemic is that economies whose institutions, policies and markets reflected resilience and versatility were the most successful in tackling the challenges brought about by the pandemic to hasten recovery and restore growth.”

‘Supporting UAE’s aspirations’

Meanwhile, Dr Al Falasi addressed entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, highlighting the UAE’s approach to developing them. The entrepreneurship mindset must be instilled at a very young age, said, adding that while most school curricula focus on business skills, the entrepreneurship mindset is an out-of-class activity. He said: “Entrepreneurship education plays a vital role in supporting the UAE’s aspirations to become an innovation hub and we strive to foster a strong academic culture in the UAE, where creative thinking is inspired and nurtured.”

Enhancing collaborations

Al Roumi, who had previously contributed to the Future Map, elaborated on ways to use communication skills to enhance collaboration. She outlined five transformational trends that will disrupt our lives, starting with digital transformation, which will make it necessary for regulations and policies to be digital-ready and, in turn, make digital skills indispensable. Second is automation, which will create demand for skills like empathy, resilience, complex problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Third is the on-demand workforce, which is growing in popularity with future generations and will require tailored policies like a global nomad visa or easier procurement and banking procedures. The fourth trend is workplace transformation and remote working, followed by upskilling and reskilling, which calls for a shake-up of the education and training systems. She added that these trends are the key components of the new roadmap for the future and support the UAE’s ‘Principles of the 50’.

Relying primarily on youth

Al Roumi reaffirmed the UAE leadership’s vision towards the future. The UAE Government work model, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, relies primarily on youth, innovators and creative thinkers who will actively participate in designing and shaping the future, she added.

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Al Roumi applauded the MBZMFG’s initiatives that strive to fulfil the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to empower younger generations and engage them to determine trends and build a better future.

‘Addressing the challenges of tomorrow’

Al Nuaimi said: “The only constant is change, as the saying goes, and this has perhaps never been as true as it is in this age of rapid technological advancements and the Fourth Industrial Revolution — especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “With that in mind, we know for certain that the old ways will simply not work. An entirely new approach is needed if we want to generate innovative solutions that are capable of addressing the challenges of tomorrow. New skills and capabilities must be imparted onto the youth in the UAE to empower them to take the lead in an uncertain and increasingly complicated world.”