H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed presides over first meeting of Higher Education and Private Sector Council.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Chairman of the Education and Human Resources Council, has presided over the first meeting of the Higher Education and Private Sector Council, an initiative formed under the ‘Relevance’ pillar of the National Higher Education Strategy, which was approved by the UAE Cabinet in 2017.

Hosted by the Ministry of Education, the Council bought together globally leading private sector companies, to better align labour market needs with higher education outcomes.

Sheikh Abdullah opened the meeting and shared a vision to define a roadmap which enables UAE students to compete internationally, in line with the national priority of Human Development established by the late Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, “The UAE has attained its global position as a result of its unwavering belief in the role of education for the advancement and prosperity of our people. In line with our Founding Father’s legacy, our leaders continue to invest in human capital through education, creating a sustainable model which encompasses all phases of the educational journey, and represents a core element of the Centennial Vision 2071,” he said.

His Highness added, “In this era of accelerated technological advancement and innovation, we must bolster our efforts and sustain them by increasing collaboration between different stakeholders. To achieve the goal of aligning our educational systems with the changing economic landscapes, we cannot work in silos. We share the same ambitions � ensuring that the future generations are prepared and are globally competitive.”

Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, discussed the plans laid out in the education sector, commenting, “To equip our youth with the skills required for the jobs of tomorrow, we are evolving the infrastructure of our educational system to address our people’s needs and reinforce lifelong learning. With the introduction of the National Higher Education Strategy, its key pillars and subsequent initiatives, we continue to build on the Emirati School Model which aims to prepare students with the most advanced skills and encourages them to be highly innovative.”

Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, emphasised the importance of greater collaboration with the private sector to better align higher education outcomes with the changing needs of the labour market.

“There is no denying that we are witnessing an increased movement towards globalisation. It is now apparently more than ever before, that the demand for students and individuals who possess technical skills in advanced sciences is growing at a phenomenal rate,” he noted, adding that this movement further widens the skills gap between graduates’ capabilities and the requirements of the ever-evolving labour market.

“If we are not forward-thinking in developing our processes, we can expect the gap to increase, encouraging additional hurdles on our journey towards progression. Today, we look to partner with leaders in the private sector to develop our educational systems and ensure they arm Emirati talent with the advanced skills required to lead a variety of sectors in our country. Furthermore, these skills will make our students ready to integrate into the current and future job markets,” the Minister continued.

Dr, Al Falasi explained, “We recognise the pivotal role developing skill-sets plays in our graduates’ employability and are committed to improving the quality of higher education across academic institutions in the UAE. We also strive to ensure our graduates are equipped with the capabilities to thrive in the evolving global economy. To achieve our goals, we have established the Higher Education and Private Sector Council, under the National Higher Education Strategy, as a platform to identify the factors affecting the gap in skill-sets and to develop solutions for overcoming these challenges.

“Members of the private sector will influence policies, curriculums and other topics of relevance within the education sector. Within the Council, task forces will facilitate the implementation of targeted plans, which will allow our students to develop the advanced skills needed to drive the next phase of knowledge-based economic growth in the country. Moreover, the mandates of each of the taskforces will continue to evolve in alignment with the various shifts in emerging skills and the job market.”

More than 35 leaders from the UAE business community took part in the meeting. The meeting opened with an overview of the National Higher Education Strategy, which aims to “develop a generation of Emirati youth that will further advance the success of the UAE by equipping them with essential skills, outstanding work ethic, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.”

One of the key outcomes of the first Council meeting included the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with six leading private sector companies such as World, Emirates Group, Etihad Aviation Group, Mubadala Investment Company, Siemens, Schlumberger. The MoUs will include the creation of 50 international internship opportunities for top performing students. Together, attending members also committed to creating 1,000 elite internship opportunities for UAE students locally.

A number of task forces were proposed and agreed by members and will address four key areas; research and innovation, design of academic programmes, professional placement, and advanced skills. Taskforces will use distinct metrics to evaluate the progress of their efforts.

The ‘Research Taskforce’ will galvanise efforts to launch research programs relevant to private sector industries and the UAE’s national vision. Part of the task force’s mandate will also be to initialise research and innovation partnership opportunities for higher education institutions. The ‘Academic Programme Taskforce’ aims to support more tailored student journeys that align curricula with private sector needs. This second taskforce will be responsible for involving educational entities to address the specific needs of select industries and ensure relevant private sector entities play an active role in the program design.

The ‘Professional Placement Taskforce’ will seek to increase opportunities for students within the private sector, encouraging them to gain valuable experience during their studies and equipping them with the necessary skills to prepare for future careers, while the ‘Advanced Skills Taskforce’ was established to identify future skills and ensure that the higher education system equips students for the jobs market of tomorrow, by aligning students’ academic journeys with changing employment landscapes, both regionally and globally, while instilling a lifelong learning mindset.

The Council is a key milestone in the rollout of the ambitious National Higher Education Strategy, which was unveiled in December 2017 following a UAE Cabinet meeting announcing reformatory plans for the higher education sector. The Council will meet twice annually to measure progress, while taskforces will meet regularly to advance the ambitions set out during the inaugural meeting.

Source: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs