Dubai: Living in the fast-paced world of the 21st century, it is important for students to gain an edge over their peers to ensure a successful career after graduation.

This is a notion not lost on the youth of today who are proactively running student organisations to help groom the leaders of the future.

AIESEC is one such initiative and is the world's largest international non-profit youth organisation founded at the Stockholm Congress in 1949. Originally an acronym for Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciale, it develops leadership capabilities through their internal leadership programmes and engaging students and graduates in international student exchanges and internship programmes.

The UAE chapter of AIESEC has been active in the country for over six years, helping promote leadership opportunities among university students.

"AIESEC is a platform for young people to get strong worldwide learning and development experience to help shape their future," said Hamad Taher, 24, outgoing president of AIESEC UAE. "It is a place to connect with like-minded peers not only in the UAE or the region, but the world over."

AIESEC's primary function is to provide university students with leadership and internship opportunities across the world at each of its country offices.

"Our internship programme connects students to [gain] work experience across our network of countries from a period of six weeks anywhere up to a year and a half," said Taher. "We also receive students from the other countries to work here for a period of time on an internship." The organisation is active in over 110 countries, delivering nearly 500 annual conferences to its 50,000 student members at over 1,600 universities across the world.

AIESEC UAE recently hosted the First Abu Dhabi Youth Congress, which was attended by Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

The UAE's AIESEC office is based in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and is the headquarters for 120 students; spread across local chapters at Zayed University in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the American University of Sharjah and UAE University.

"We provide them with the physical space, licensing and registration free of charge in order to help them provide better services to our student community," said Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of the Education Cluster at Tecom Investments. "Our academic leaders and partners also provide mentoring and guidance to the AIESEC management team as well as year-round support of their initiatives."

The UAE AIESEC management team consists of five students who voluntarily work full-time to ensure the smooth operation of the organisation and its activities. Taher has been involved with AIESEC for nearly five years and initially applied to volunteer his services in the human resources department at his home chapter in Bahrain.

Years later, the now banking and finance graduate, is handing over the one-year presidency position to Yana Makaveeva, 22, who has come from Bulgaria to serve her tenure.

"My involvement with AIESEC has given me experience no ordinary 23-year-old would get at this time in their life," said Taher. "As president I was basically running my own organisation and gaining management experience by dealing with different stake-holders."

He added his involvement with AIESEC gave him the opportunity to learn through practical means, which complemented his studies. "In today's world it is important to have global leadership skills and AIESEC can help students realise that in a practical way from a young age."

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