Opinion and Editorial

Forecasting the future of work: How to future-proof employability

Muna Al Seeni
Filed on August 2, 2021

Today, the region contends with high rates of unemployment and under-employment among the young and relatively well-educated.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) only captures 62 per cent of its full human capital potential. This throws the skills gap between education and career into sharp relief. Today, the region contends with high rates of unemployment and under-employment among the young and relatively well-educated — nearly 40 per cent of MENA employers pinpointing the skills mismatch between the traditional lecture hall and modern workplace as an impediment to their success.

While no amount of experience, foresight or expertise will enable us to cast our eyes to the future and forecast the new jobs, industries and sectors that will be created in the years to come, we can still be proactive in our efforts to support students as they transition from the classroom to the office.

More so than ever, it is important that we — as educators — take a responsive approach to tackling this problem head-on. As the global business landscape continues to evolve, much time and effort must be invested in developing a new form of education — one that offers ambitious learners an applicable sense of direction. An innovative take on schooling that maps out the future of work and helps students find their place in the world.

This new way of learning should be designed to equip students with relevant, long-lasting skills crucial to the future and success of organisations today. With business leaders across the world forthcoming about the difficulties of recruiting qualified graduates to fill job openings, universities, academies and colleges would go a long way to bridging the MENA region’s widening skills gap by working as closely as possible with employers.

This alignment would enable educators to identify the most important and relevant skills organisations look for in candidates.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to take shape, more and more light is being shed on the tools students must acquire to thrive in the professional world. A great deal of research has been published on the modern worker’s skillset. According to platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed, the most sought after 21st century employability skills include: problem-solving, communication, and teamwork. Educators are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of these capabilities, and are actively curating programmes that develop these strengths.

That is precisely what we have done at Zayed University X Minerva. We have built an educational experience that is wholly geared towards helping students hone applicable skills and insights that can be transferred to the workplace. Our methodology is founded on the belief that taking an interdisciplinary, active learning approach endows students with the knowledge and experience to succeed.

On our programmes, students are pushed to engage, collaborate and debate with one another, learning from their fellow classmates as well as through participation in experiential activities. We believe that curating such an immersive educational experience sharpens students’ critical thinking, increases their propensity for teamwork and whets their appetite for creativity and innovation — all of which are vital to preparing students for the world of work.

Simply put: it is imperative that we train students to practice future skills. Globally, educators are becoming more attuned to benefits of placing an onus on on-the-job learning. This is certainly true of us at Zayed University X Minerva, where each and every single one of our students spend 25 per cent of their academic experience working in groups on challenging projects for leading companies. All of our enrollees are given access to exclusive internship and part-time employment opportunities. Once more, this helps them to hone the employability skills they need to adapt to professional life with ease.

Of course, as technology becomes nigh on omnipresent in all areas of life, it is paramount that students are well-primed for the realities of employment in a modern, digitally-driven ecosystem of work. Education must mirror the digital transformation of other sectors, taking advantage of the latest technology to boost outcomes and develop digitally-savvy graduates with the nous and tech-literacy to excel in the modern office.

Zayed University X Minerva, for example, blends the best of advanced technology and campus amenities. All of our classes are conducted on Forum™ — the most sophisticated virtual learning platform available. As a virtual learning environment, Forum is designed to deliver transformative learning experiences utilising the most recent advances in interactive technology. It facilitates Fully Active Learning with live, multi-stream video classes, integrated course development, and analysis features. In doing so, it boosts students’ learning, familiarising them with tools that will prove instrumental in their long-term futures.

Platforms such as Forum, along with all-important soft and people skills, point the way to next-generation success for the next generation of leaders. As educators, we must play our role in ensuring these avenues for growth and achievement remain open. This can only be accomplished through a broad-sighted approach to reform.

By Muna Al Seeni is director of strategy and future department, office of the vice-president, Zayed University

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