Sharjah — It is time to learn the art of coding and the skills to operate robots and educational institutions must change their approach to prepare the new generations for future jobs that don’t exist yet, experts opined.

Discussing the ‘skills of the future’ at the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) on Thursday, a panel of academics addressed the expected disappearance of jobs and the changes required by universities to prevent future unemployment caused by technological advancements and AI.

Research predicts that 40 per cent of jobs worldwide will no longer exist in 10 years’ time, meaning close to half the world’s working population will have skills that will be carried out by robots and machines.

Dr Adiy Tweissi, Assistant Professor and Director of E-learning Centre, Princess Sumaya University for Technology in Jordan, emphasised the need for educational systems to become “interdisciplinary”.

He pointed out that while many jobs will disappear, other more technologically savvy jobs will appear requiring new skills that are not widely taught in current education systems. “For example, a surgeon who works at a hospital can also be a coder, acquiring several interdisciplinary skills,” he said.

Research shows that if we consider a current average job with regular working hours from 7am to 5pm- 29 per cent of the work is being done by machines. In 2025, that number is expected to rise to 52 per cent, said Tweissi.

Co-panellist Dr Abdul Latif Al Shamsi, Vice Chancellor at the Higher Colleges of Technology said, “The Higher Colleges of Technology has pledged to not only provide graduates with academic degrees but also vocational degrees that are parallel with the requirements of the market and modern technology.”

The college has also followed in the footsteps of the vision of the UAE leaders who have worked to transfer many universities and knowledge cities to free economic zones.

“There is a gap in the market when it comes to transforming the graduation projects of students to commercial products — something that is very common nowadays with most apps being invented by young adults,” said Al Shamsi. He added that the college has launched a Dh100 million fund for ‘The fourth generation programme,’ which aims to “graduate companies” giving students the opportunity to become young entrepreneurs.

Also commenting on the UAE’s progress, was Hussain Mohammad Al Mahmoudi, CEO of the American University of Sharjah Enterprises (AUSE) and CEO of Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP).

“One clear example of progress can be seen by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who built the University City over 30 years, which now has over 45,000 students,” he said.

Now, Sharjah is known for its free zones, which act as an incubator for knowledge and research and attracts partnerships with the private and public sector as well as academia.

Dr Ali Al Marri, Executive President at the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Governance referred to the changes in required job skills as a result of the fourth industrial revolution.

“This revolution is impacting all fields and in the next 10-15 years even more will change,” he said.

The UAE has been one of the leading countries in making changes to cater to the dynamics of technology, with international research such as the Human Development Competitiveness Report by the UN ranking them 34 internationally and first regionally.

“We still have a long way to develop ourselves and change the mentality of ending our journey of education after university and focusing only on finding jobs. With technology giving us a constant flow of education, we must stop being passive and start actively seeking information,” explained Al Marri.

Ultimately, “education must become a lifestyle,” he added.