NAT GN EDUFAIR Develop soft skills-1605191994984
Speakers at the webinar on the importance of developing soft skills as a pathway to employability. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Professors and members of the academe from top universities in the UAE shared their insights on how students can enhance their proficiencies and boost their chances of landing suitable jobs.

During the discussion on ‘Closing the skill gap: A pathway to employability’ on Day 2 of the first-ever online Gulf News EduFair on Thursday, the resource persons said developing soft skills are crucial in finding good employment.

Soft skills or the personality traits and behaviour in dealing with other people define how one can work effectively and harmoniously with others. Soft skills are highly transferable and should be learnt and developed at an early age, academic experts said.

Group work and collaboration

Dr Mini Suresh, assistant professor and head of Department of Interior Design at Canadian University Dubai, said: “You have to work with a whole lot of other people. Make sure that you understand what you are doing and also know how the industry is changing. This means, you have to able to work with others and understand what the other person is doing. It’s important to get out there and meet people.”

Experts said soft skills represent interpersonal abilities — which can make or break a company — can’t be replicated by technology or any artificial intelligence. Employers are looking for people who can empathise or encourage a team member who might be struggling and work collaboratively to meet any organisational goals.

Be multi-dimensional

Dr. Hussein El Mehdi, dean of Academic Support Services at University of Sharjah, emphasised students nowadays have to be multidimensional. “This means they have to be tied to traditional programmes, where they know physics-only or chemistry-only. The mindset of the student has to expand to other programmes and include more people skills,” he explained. He noted that at their university, the College of Computing and Informatics, for example, is tied with other colleges. The university also puts premium on Arts and Humanities to allow the students to develop their soft skills.

Starting in high school

Orsi Urban, manager — Career Services and Cooperative Education at Rochester Institute of Technology — Dubai, added: “I couldn’t agree more about the soft skills and also about preparing students. It actually starts in high school. I highly encourage high school students to get into internships as soon as possible because this is going to make you employable very early on.”

“Soft skills are so important but also exposing yourself early on to the job market is how you also close that skills and the company experience is obviously vital as well,” she added.

Michael Kloep, senior lecturer and head of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Business Excellence, MBA Campus Programme Coordinator at Middlesex University Dubai, noted close coordination with top global companies has given advantage with regards to internship of their students. “There is already a big alignment between the industry and our colleges,” said Kloep.

How to properly present oneself

Dr. Philip Purnell, Ranking Projects Manager at UAE University in Al Ain, underlined the need for students to learn how to properly present themselves. “If they want to get ahead of the industry, writing and speaking skills are very important. If you can write well, people are going to read what you’ve written then enjoy it. Learn, for example, how do to article writing or making a grant proposal — there is a completely different style of writing about it. Even writing a CV, it’s also really useful for young people to improve their CV.”

Purnell said, like learning soft skills, a good employee who can write and speak well can “convince somebody to invest in their ideas.”

Being stylish on a student budget

NAT GN EDUFAIR SHEIN’s webinar-1605191996803
Sherry Fikry, Fashion stylist, speaks on staying stylish on a student's budget. Image Credit: Supplied

Fashion stylist Sherry Fikry, meanwhile, gave tips on how students can stay stylish on a budget. “Looking and feeling your best on campus is important as it’s a great boost for your confidence. It also makes you show respect for both your professors and colleagues,” Fikry said during the session sponsored by SHEIN, Gulf News EduFair styling partner. Fikry said to keep it simple and know the golden rules: one’s body shape, skin tone and colours that match it, and one’s style personality. She added: “While college students might dress casually in the classroom, they should always dress professionally when interviewing for a job or an internship.”

Taking the Aptis test

Meanwhile, at the end of the virtual session, Karen Rangel, account relationship manager at British Council Abu Dhabi talked about the advantages of taking the Aptis test, an innovative multilevel English language test from the British Council for anyone who needs to showcase their proficiency in the English language.

Rangel said the certification provides an accurate assessment of the level of English of adults, teenagers and teachers, according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). “Aptis provides insight on the test structure, results and mapping with CEFR. It is accurate, flexible and reliable English test designed and delivered by the British Council, the world leaders in English language testing,” Rangel noted.

Aptis is an assessment of English language skills of employees, teachers and students, identify language training needs, and ensure readiness of students to stay in English-taught curriculum

World of opportunities

For full access to the comprehensive Gulf News EduFair, students and parents can register for free at Those who register will also be able to avail of an exclusive discount on fashion offerings from SHEIN, the event’s styling partner. The strategic partner for the event is United Arab Emirates University; knowledge partner is British Council and consulting partner is Y-Axis.

Every step of university application process, especially for the January 2021 intake, as well as all information on courses, scholarships, fees, student life, career placement, and much more, are only a click away through one-to-one sessions by admissions counsellors and other key university representatives, as well as expert-led webinars held daily.

For the inaugural edition of the online-only Gulf News EduFair, prestigious higher education institutions Heriot-Watt University, University of Sharjah, Amity University Dubai, Westford University College, American University in Dubai, Middlesex University Dubai, SP Jain School of Global Management, University of West London, Canadian University Dubai, Abu Dhabi University, BITS Pilani Dubai, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Dubai, and Murdoch University Dubai are participating.

Agenda for Day 3 (November 13)

10am Registration and networking with representatives from universities

12:30pm-1:30pm Webinar

MBA, PhD and executive courses: Why there is no better time to upskill than this Covid-19 crisis

4:30 — 5pm Webinar

IELTS information session: An overview on IELTS tests, formats and the preparation support available for test takers with the British Council