Education sector expected to have manpower gap of 200,000 by 2015

04 March 2014

Strong demand for Arabic speaking, western educated professionals

“Skill Gaps and Trends in the Education Sector” takes centre stage at high-level panel discussion

The GCC’s growing education sector is expected to have a manpower gap of 200,000 by 2015, according to the findings of a Workforce Planning Study, which was launched by Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and commissioned to Deloitte. The study revealed that professional lecturers in management, accountancy and vocational trainers are the top three skills in demand, followed by professors in organisational behaviour and economics.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Tertiary enrolment rates for the UAE increased from 41% to 45% between 2008 and 2011, while private higher education witnessed 7% growth during the same period
  • 42% of organisations surveyed carry out executive education programmes in-house, with a strong preference for customised and accredited programmes, as opposed to more generic, open programmes
  • The enrolment rate in technical and vocational training (VET) has been marked at 1 – 3%, way lower than the global average of 10%.
  • Enrolment of nationals in private schools is high in the UAE (55%), which is more than in Saudi Arabia (11%) and Qatar (37%)
  • Private sector enrolment in the UAE is valued at USD 2.8 billion and is growing at 10% making the country one of the largest education sectors in the GCC
  • The total number of students in the GCC Education sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.7% between 2011 and 2016, and reach 11.6 Million in 2016

The findings were presented at a panel session hosted by DIAC on the side-lines of the Gulf Educational Supplies and Solutions Exhibition (GESS) and the Gulf Education Forum (GEF). In addition to discussing the survey, panellists focused on key enrolment trends, as well as growth and manpower projections in the education sector in the session titled, “Skill Gaps and Trends in the Education Sector”.

The panel included high profile figures from the education sector, including: Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village; Professor RK Mittal, Director of BITS PILANI University, Dubai; Randa Bessiso, Director Middle East, Manchester Business School, Dubai; and Kaltham Kenaid, Head of Research at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), who has also been closely involved in developing the UAE Government’s strategies for workforce planning. The discussion was moderated by Khulood Qayed, Communications and Government Relations Manager at Shell.

The Workforce Planning Study surveyed over 2,400 students across 17 markets in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as a cross section of companies. It is the region’s most comprehensive, independent study regarding workforce skills gaps within emerging markets. The study identified industries where Dubai has developed a strong niche, such as hospitality and tourism, Islamic finance, energy, healthcare and education, which are all likely to require a high level of skilled employees going forward.

The Study is aimed to help empower students and graduates by providing a better understanding of the employment prospects in the UAE market. Similarly it should inform employers about where there are potential skills gaps, enabling them to make decisions around recruitment and training programmes.

Dr. Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village said:  

“Education is the foundation of UAE’s long-term economic success. The UAE’s National Agenda, recently announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, clearly highlights the importance of education. It has been identified as one of the core industries the government is focusing on in the lead up to hosting Expo 2020. For our part in supporting this, we are dedicated to bringing together quality education providers and students to further develop the Emirate’s knowledge-based economy.”

Key trends identified in the study state that there are perceived gaps in the region with regards to leadership and executive education. The enrolment rate in technical and vocational training (VET) has been marked at 1 – 3%, way lower than the global average of 10%. Yet, demand has been growing in industries such as aviation, hospitality and tourism, fashion and nursing.

On the higher education front, the Workforce Planning study has reported a well-developed tertiary education system in the UAE, and recommended for partnerships between universities and the corporate sector.

Dr. Ayoub Kazim added: “By opening up accredited branches overseas, universities have provided additional quality degree options for people seeking to stay in the UAE. As the world’s only free zone dedicated to higher education, DIAC provides access to premier international universities and education centres without having to travel abroad. It is home to 21 of the UAE’s 37 International Branch Campuses from 10 countries.

“DIAC’s Workforce Planning Study is a useful tool in enabling us to better support our industry partners and students the information, skills and facilities they need to grow and thrive. By facilitating industry discussions about these survey findings we are able to directly inform the market about skills gaps and trends in the growing education sector so it can confidently prepare for the future. More generally, we see an important role for us in bridging the gap between employers and academia.”

In light of the growing population, a desire for quality education and an increased willingness to spend is expecting to drive the private schools’ share of the total education market to 20% from the current 14%. According to data from the World Bank, public expenditure on education in the Middle East and North Africa stands at 18.6% of total government spending compared to the world average of 14.2%.

Randa Bessiso, Director – Middle East, Manchester Business School, said:

“Education is increasingly recognized as a key enabler in realizing the region’s economic and social ambitions and visions; the UAE’s National Agenda for 2020 puts education firmly at the top of the agenda. In a rapidly evolving and diversifying regional economy, vocational education, executive education and general business education will all play a vital role in ensuring continued access to a highly trained workforce and in maintaining competitive, world-class skills as the region grows and continues to diversify. The expected influx of professionals into the region will also drive demand for post experience education with employers being put under pressure to acquire and retain top talent and skills. As a leading research university, the University of Manchester has recognized the regional opportunities and the need to deliver a broader and deeper range of integrated education programmes, through a regional hub such as DIAC and DKV.”

Matt Thompson, Project Director, F&E Group – the organizers of GESS – said:

“Experts view unemployment as a challenge that will impact on the region’s development efforts over the years to come. The Education Sector review and the Workforce Planning study by DIAC is a significant step towards identifying gaps and determining the important next steps that will provide a yardstick to benchmark UAE’s workforce development efforts. The education sector plays a particularly important role in bridging the gap between academia and the various industries by producing graduates with employable skills. We are delighted that this influential work is being revealed at GESS 2014, providing educators and academic decision-makers invaluable insights that will help them contribute to this ongoing dialogue.”