In an initiative aimed at meeting the needs of private companies, the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Education has launched an internships portal to enhance the skills of outstanding university students.
According to its website, the initiative will give high-performing students access to internships at more than 30 employers affiliated with the Higher Education and Private Sector Council. The council, created in 2017, is part of the Emirates’ strategy to better align higher education with labour market needs.
The internships portal will also help employers find students and invite them for training or jobs.
Hisham Abbas, dean of the College of Communication at Al Qasimia University, in Sharjah, told Al-Fanar Media that the initiative would help prepare students for the labour market.
“The initiative aims to provide generations with extensive, in-depth experiences, since universities are no longer walled spaces for students, but a space to serve the community.”Hisham Abbas, Dean of the College of Communication at Al Qasimia University
“The initiative is important as it provides students with skills that support the philosophy and theories taught at university,” Abbas said. “It is a reflection of how the labour market views different disciplines. It aims to bring students closer to the jobs they want.”
He added: “The initiative aims to provide generations with extensive, in-depth experiences, since universities are no longer walled spaces for students, but a space to serve the community.”
Abbas said international accreditations were based on several criteria, including a university’s role in serving the local community, and how it served its students.
He added that today’s students could not be like yesterday’s. “They have to interact positively with such initiatives and internships opportunities, in a practical, face-to-face, or distanced way. An employee, in our current era, must be multi-tasking. This is what this initiative supports.”
Skills for the Future
Mohammed Khalifa, director general of the United Arab Emirates University’s Human Resources Department, said that the internships portal would provide students with practical skills related to the digital, knowledge economy.
“This platform will include companies from various sectors and will provide options for students to learn about the success of these companies and the secrets of their market growth,” he told Al-Fanar Media. “The initiative will instil in the students a love of entrepreneurship and facing challenges. The selection of companies will allow students to learn how to deal with employees of diverse cultural backgrounds.”
Khalifa believes an internships portal would work well in other Arab countries, where several of the companies involved operate. “The initiative will provide outstanding students with information about leading companies so they can make the right decision and have the best incentive to build and acquire skills for the future,” he said.
“Students must have the skills that will help them secure appropriate job opportunities, as the global job market now is quite different from how it was in the past.”Ahmed Alomosh, Professor of sociology at the University of Sharjah
Ahmed Alomosh, a professor of sociology at the University of Sharjah, said the initiative would provide university students with the knowledge and experience to keep pace with global change.
He believes the initiative fits with what the U.A.E. has achieved in sustainable development. “Emirati society relies on education as a basic path of development,” he said, “so students’ skills must be refined to contribute to local and international development.”
While he thinks that the initiative will allow students to keep up with technological development, Alomosh emphasised that today’s job opportunities required soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, as well as technical, job-specific ones.
Alomosh said students needed soft skills because the global job market was now quite different from how it was in the past.
A Successful, Repeatable Model
Hazem El-Gendy, a professor at Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering, wants an initiative like the Emirati portal to be implemented in Egypt and other Arab countries, so students do not discover a different reality when they apply for jobs after graduating.
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El-Gendy said that Egypt has proposed similar initiatives before. “I hope the Emiratis will set the standard for such initiatives so students can secure suitable jobs that ultimately serve their communities, and local and national economies,” he said.