Speakers at the virtual forum on upskilling. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Upskilling, reskilling and future-proofing careers were the main topics on the final day of the first-ever online Gulf News EduFair on Friday. Speakers from top universities shared their insights on future careers, how to best respond to the evolving needs of society, bridging skills gaps and securing a role in emerging industries.

Dr. Kavita Shukla, vice-president for Student Recruitment at Amity University, kicked off the discussion by commenting “upskilling has now become the norm. We have seen the way how COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of people across the world. Today, we have intensely focused our energies towards digitalisation while students and employees right redefine themselves and upskill their profiles to being more technology-driven.”

Prof. Thomas P. Corbin Jr., associate professor of Business Administration — General Business and Management at American University in Dubai, added: “We live in extraordinary times with extraordinary opportunities ... Every individual needs to understand that they have to redevelop their skills to remain in a position where they can continue to be relevant in the marketplace.”

Refocus and reskill

With an abundance of talented workforce, there is a need to differentiate oneself from the pack and you think out of the box. This means one has to refocus and reskill, noted Dr. Arindam Banerjee, associate professor, deputy director — GMBA & MGB and Director — Student Recruitment (UG programs) at S P Jain School of Global Management.

But what are upskilling and reskilling? Both imply learning new skills. Upskilling is learning new skills to become more skilled and relevant at the current job while reskilling is the process of learning new skills to do a different job.

Anil Ahluwalia, Academic Director at Westford University College, underlined upskilling and reskilling are needed to fill the gap in the job market. “The pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes and these changes require us to also adapt to them very quickly,” he added.

Dr. Paul Hopkinson, associate head of Edinburgh Business School for Heriot-Watt University Dubai and Academic Lead for Heriot-Watt Online, also said: “It is absolutely imperative for people to focus on reskilling. I think going forward we’re going to be focusing more on developing resilience. COVID-19 has become a great accelerant of digital connection.”

Future-proofing careers

Hopkinson added there is an urgent need to focus on future-proofing careers. “Students should develop a portfolio of skills and have the mindset to scale up while in the university and it is our (professors’) our job to provide those opportunities,” he added. “The only way to future proof yourself is to upskill and develop soft skills. Companies are going to spend four trillion dollars on technology and schools have to redefine their course outline and bring them up to speed to the current and future requirements to include courses like analytics and data mining,” Dr Shukla pointed out.

Prof. Corbin added there is a need “to train students for jobs that aren’t even created yet. We have to create curriculums and teach the students to fill these jobs when they come about.”

Accessible and affordable

“It’s all about creating an adaptable mindset or how people can adapt themselves to an ambiguous situation critically. This also means one has to be proactive. I advice students to do their own kind of personality development plan. Discover and develop their strengths and learn their weaknesses. Start that upskilling and reskilling,” explained Ahluwalia. He added technology and education should be made accessible and affordable to all. “Upskilling and reskilling are not meant only for a few. They should be made available to everyone across the world. That is why they have to be made affordable for everyone.”

Why take IELTS test

Sayira Banu, account relationship officer at British Council, speaks about IELTS. Image Credit: Supplied

The free-to-attend three-day Gulf News EduFair concluded with tips on taking the popular IELTS test for English. Sayira Banu, account relationship officer at British Council, explained the different formats of the test and how to best prepare for the test that is required by thousands of universities, employers and governments in English-speaking countries.

Day 1 recap

Gulf News EduFair kicked off on Wednesday. Experts from top UAE higher education institutions talked about the challenges and solutions for transitioning from school to university as smoothly as possible, apart from various other relevant topics related to higher education.

They also shared insights on how to overcome freshmen jitters and explained career placement. Registered students and parents in the virtual audience got valuable lessons on how to go about the emotional and psychological changes that teens and young adults are likely to encounter during their collegiate life.

In another session, senior representatives from leading universities in the UAE highlighted out-of-class learning through innovation labs, internships and research projects, among other strengths of higher education institutions in the UAE.

Day 2 recap

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 on Thursday.

They said soft skills — or the personality traits and behaviour in dealing with other people — are highly transferable and should be learnt and developed at an early age. They added soft skills represent interpersonal abilities can’t be replicated by technology or any artificial intelligence. Also discussed was how to get ahead in the job market. One speaker said writing and speaking skills are very important and employers look for soft skills.

Meanwhile, a fashion stylist gave tips on how students can stay stylish on a budget. And while college students might dress casually in the classroom, they should always dress professionally when interviewing for a job or an internship.

There was also a discussion 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.

Thank you

Gulf News would to thank the parents and students who joined in the inaugural EduFair. Gulf News also would like thank the sponsors and exhibitors for their support in making Gulf News EduFair a grand success. Sponsors

Strategic Partner: United Arab Emirates University (UAEU)

Knowledge Partner: British Council

Styling Partner: SHEIN

Consulting Partner: Y-Axis


Abu Dhabi University

American University in Dubai

Amity University Dubai

BITS Pilani Dubai

Canadian University Dubai

Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Middlesex University Dubai

Murdoch University Dubai

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Dubai

SP Jain School of Global Management

University of Sharjah

University of West London

Westford University College