How will the GCC close the skills gap?
Preparing the GCC workforce of the future
GCC governments have begun to tackle the skills challenge and invest in education for the growing numbers of young nationals. The skills gap, however, is getting bigger – not just in the GCC – as knowledge economies demand more competences.
There is now an urgent need to focus spending on initiatives that can realign the expectations of young people with the rapidly evolving needs of employers, and ensure that the workforce of the future has the necessary skills for employment.
We suggest four collaborative approaches to creating an ecosystem of progress from education into employment, and we outline the steps that companies, educators and governments can take to define and then meet their common needs.
Aligning curricula with employers’ needs
Unless local educational content is directly in line with what GCC employers need, young nationals cannot be adequately prepared for private sector employment. Only 29% of employers currently feel that the education system in their country prepares students with the right technical skills for the job. In order to change that, companies need to have more input in shaping and driving course content toward their specific requirements and to developing a workforce supply that aligns with what the market demands.
Our survey of students and employers across the GCC was designed to identify the major challenges that employers face in hiring and retaining nationals, as well as the attitudes of young people toward employment. Juxtaposing the two sets of responses, it’s clear that there is a fundamental misalignment between the expectations of both sides.
More than a quarter of students in the GCC are not confident that they are receiving the right training for their preferred industry. Employers need to play a bigger role in educational content and delivery, working side by side with educators to make curricula directly relevant to their current and future needs. Structured collaboration and partnerships between industry and education providers is needed to close this gap.
Developing the workforce through experience and training
Work experience, such as internships, vocational training and apprenticeships, is vital to ensure students receive practical training that is employer-led. In particular, it provides the GCC youth with the opportunity to understand the behavioral skills and attitudes that are required for the private sector workplace, in addition to developing technical and core skills.
Providing information about careers
Our survey shows that 72% of young nationals rely heavily on friends and family for advice about careers and information about specific jobs. Capitalizing on this generation’s digital agility is a good way to launch the job-seeking process before students leave education and join the ranks of the unemployed. As useful as online information can be, it remains important to provide young people with direct human interaction when providing career guidance.
Collaborative platforms that offer careers information can close this information gap, helping students to plan their course selection and boost interest in certain jobs among students.
Encouraging a culture of employment, innovation and entrepreneurship
If governments are to create dynamic private sectors that support their local populations, they need to find ways to boost appetite for taking on challenging work. They also need to raise the profile of alternative – but increasingly important – employment options, inspiring entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.
We found that entrepreneurial spirt among young people in the region is low. Crucially, they have limited access to funding networks, to practical start-up information and to support.
What are the next steps?
- For the private sector: engagement
- Get involved in schools, colleges and universities, talking to students, providing advice and forming partnerships to help develop curricula and work experience schemes
- Collaborate within sectors to develop a clear, consistent set of needs to discuss with schools and the government, defining the technical and soft skills, as well as the behaviors and attitudes, that a graduate needs to have for you to hire them
- Invest and sign up to job training, work placements and internships. Support or create apprenticeships, creating fast-track schemes for participating students
- For the education sector: execution
- Invest in a clear picture of the future business landscape to ensure that the national educational infrastructure is designed to fit the national job profile of the future
- Focus on raising teacher training quality and introducing new approaches and techniques to teaching
- Adapt the curricula, developing a balance of practical skills and academic understanding that is relevant to the current and future job market, and integrating work experience
- Enhance curricular and extra-curricular opportunities to develop enterprise skills and mindset
- Engage with parents and guardians to support young people’s career decisions
- For the government: enablement
- Mandate and push through educational initiatives with a clear strategy and focus
- Provide incentives to the private sector to get more involved; for example, through apprenticeships and graduate training schemes
- Ensure that incentives are not distorted further by considering equalizing public sector pay with that of private sector benchmarks
- Get the message out to young people that employment in the private sector is rewarding
- Invest in promoting the merits of entrepreneurship and establishing a business