When people think about the Middle East and its economy, the first thing that comes to mind, usually, is oil. Although oil does play an important role in the economy of the Middle East, human capital is another important factor that I seldom hear people talk about. Human capital can be defined as the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population, viewed in terms of their value or cost to an organization or country. In order to raise human capital countries usually establish and improve upon educational institutions in order to better the capabilities of those that enter the country’s work force. After conducting research, I found that different conferences are held in the Middle East in order to discuss education and career development.
The 5th Gulf Education Conference Abu Dhabi UAE was held last month on March 18th-19th, 2015. The purpose of the event is to provide an atmosphere where people can discuss developments in education and innovations taking place in the world of academia. Also, the conference provides a place where people from across the globe can form partnerships and exchange best practices. The region benefits from these conferences because it gains an opportunity to observe how education is being approached by different institutions across the globe and can adjust its educational methods accordingly. The themes for this year’s conference were vocational education and employer engagement with educational institutions. As a result, much attention was given to workforce development and forming ways to strengthen the region’s talent. One of the highlights of the event is the Gala Awards Dinner which is a networking dinner where awards are given to organizations and institutions that have exhibited exceptional advances in teaching programs, resources, facilities, and academic positioning. Examples of awards include The Most Outstanding Entrepreneurial Project and The Most Effective Scheme in Motivating Academic Staff to Engage with the Employability Agenda. Below is a video sharing the thoughts of different attendees of the Gulf Education Conference that took place in 2012.
Due to the large amount of executives, scholars, and sponsors I can only imagine how much methodology and knowledge is present at the Gulf Education Conference. I thought it was interesting that the themes of this year’s conference focused on the connection between education and the work force. I decided to search for other,upcoming events similar to the Gulf Education Conference and I discovered an event called the Middle East Career Development Conference.
The 3rd Middle East Career Development Conference (MECDC) will be held on April 30th, 2015 at the Canadian University Dubai. During the MECDC, more than 100 career guidance professionals, counsellors, HR leaders and coaches will gather to discuss critical issues concerning education and career development in the Middle East as a whole. Dubai has already offered one topic for discussion seeing as their research shows that only 60% of students across the Dubai region feel prepared for the workplace, and over half of the students would not choose the same subject to study again. These findings are interesting due to the fact that I’ve heard many Georgia Tech students, including myself, testify to the fact that internships and co-ops teach you things that you don’t learn in a classroom. Also many Georgia Tech students change majors or choose a different subject to study if they decide to pursue a second degree.
Officials that will attend the MECDC include representatives from Etihad Airways, Tandeeth, Du and Boyden, The Higher Education Council in Bahrain, European Institute for Business Administration (INSEAD), King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia, the Dubai Knowledge Village, and the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. Rema Menon, Founder and Director of Counseling Point Training and Development states, “With 42% of U.A.E’s youth in the 15-34 years age group, career counseling is of vital importance.” Dr. Ayoub Kazim, the Managing Director of Dubai Knowledge Village comments, “Ensuring that our workforce has the relevant skills to drive our country’s GDP growth is vital.” Although each person attending the conference has different priorities, the end goal of enhancing the youth and labor market of the region is shared by all.
The MECDC even has a website for the 3rd conference that contains helpful information for students seeking to develop their careers. Upon visiting the website, I found a link that led to a list of articles, and the first article title was “Career Development Myths of College Students.” Me, being a college student, decided to click on the link. The article listed 15 Myths, but my all-time favorites were “Good grades and a college degree will get me a good job,” “My family and friends make great career counselors,” and “I posted my resume to the Internet, so I should hear about a job offer soon.” Seeing as we’ve all searched for jobs before we all know the amount of truth held in each of these statements. While exploring the website, I also found a few career development videos. One video in particular was a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk by Larry Smith. The video is called “Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career.” Misleading title, I know, but it was an interesting watch.
What do events such as the Gulf Education Conference and the MECDC say about the Modern Middle East? We’ve learned that in the past, education in the Middle East was mostly focused around religion and the Quran. Over time, however, the Middle East began to experience internal changes. Some wanted to remain faithful to the traditional ways of teaching while other wanted to establish more modern educational institutions by observing the educational methods used by other countries which helped to fuel westernization. Now, centuries later, it can be seen how much the Middle East has progressed in its methods of acquiring academic knowledge and attempting to apply it to the educational structure of the region as well as the work force. Whether the Middle East’s endeavors to improve upon its education and labor force is proving to be effective is open for debate.