Preparing young people in the UAE for employment involves several levels

The acquisition of professional skills is only part of it. Working on a strategy is what young people in the UAE will need to get started.
Image Credit: SGG

Young people are living a period of accelerated change driven by an increased focus on diversity, sustainability and technology. The rapid arrival of Industry 4.0 (advanced and connected manufacturing) will further change the nature of work and require new skills.

People between the ages of 15 and 35 make up almost 50% of the population of the United Arab Emirates, the largest demographic cohort. Investing in them to help everyone realize their full potential is an essential step in ensuring a secure economic future.

To understand the way forward, Strategy & Middle East Ideation Center worked with the Emirates Youth Council (EYC). We took a look at the top 10 youth-related trends that the pandemic has intensified, trends that will shape the next decade for young people in the UAE. Five themes are behind these trends: education and human capital, employment and productivity, health and safety, society and sustainability, and citizenship.

In terms of education and human capital, young people should focus on digital, personalized and lifelong education. As educational models become more flexible, students will personalize their learning experiences. Likewise, the focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) based education and learning in all disciplines will intensify, with an emphasis on developing technological skills and not techniques.

In turn, employers need an agile, entrepreneurial and resilient workforce. Remote and digital working will become the norm, made possible by the adoption of emerging technologies. The odd-job economy and fluid workforce are increasingly prevalent, with people holding many jobs or employees shared by multiple employers.

This means that young people will be inclined to find a job that meets their desire for enterprise, personal freedom, innovation, individuality and ownership. Likewise, they will put more emphasis on their physical well-being. Fitness will be more holistic and more digitally enhanced.

Young people are already benefiting from innovations that offer personalized diets. Medical technologies will provide data-driven preventative care and improve longevity. The pandemic has made mental health problems worse, but mental illnesses will lose their stigma and treatments will use new technologies.

A change in consumption

The pandemic has also encouraged young people to focus on sustainable consumption. There is more stress on saving for the future than on instant gratification. The sharing economy, hard hit by health problems, will have to be reinvented. The entertainment industry is moving towards immersive digital experiences. Disruptions in supply chains mean more support for local products. Young people will become more active in adopting resource-efficient lifestyles and promoting policies to combat climate change, and will encourage businesses to be more environmentally friendly. Likewise, young people will have more opportunities for “green” education and jobs in renewable energies. At the community level, social cohesion is strengthening in the UAE.

This trend is part of broader changes in the structure of the family, with an increase in the number of working women, a decline in birth rates and an increase in the number of dependent elderly people. Technology will narrow the intergenerational divide, while global citizenship education will prepare students for the future global job market.

Social protection, inclusion and empowerment programs will promote gender equality and determined people will benefit from inclusive opportunities through assistive technology. Social entrepreneurship is more popular, as is virtual volunteering.

Deploy technology creatively

Innovative channels like technology platforms strengthen civic participation. These platforms will also allow a wider participation of young people in politics and decision-making. Young people should treat these trends as priorities, prepare for Industry 4.0, seek internships and entrepreneurship programs while testing entrepreneurial ideas through startup challenges.

They need to take initiative and prioritize their physical and mental health, using technology to set physical activity prompts and embracing telemedicine and personalized health care. They need to be financially responsible and develop money management skills. They should develop environmentally friendly habits and “reduce, reuse, recycle” lifestyles.

In response, the entities concerned should have the appropriate policy for each trend. These entities should remain involved with young people so that young people are more involved in the co-design of solutions.

Organizations can create alliances with technology companies to provide young people with internships and apprenticeships. They should foster an ecosystem for young entrepreneurs and improve the availability of finance for young entrepreneurs.

Together, youth initiatives and official policies can have a huge impact, preparing young people and the UAE for the future.


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Norma A. Roth