Arab nations are at the forefront of the skills revolution, recognizing the importance of skills development for economic growth and competitiveness.
The World Economic Forum predicts that the advancement of automation and artificial intelligence will transform around 1 billion jobs globally by 2030.
Therefore, it is imperative for Arab nations to develop their human capital through education and training.
Furthermore, as Arab nations lead the skills revolution, they will also be better positioned to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by a digital economy.
What is a skills revolution?
The skills revolution refers to the rapid transformation and evolving demands in the job market due to technological advancements, globalization, and changing industry trends.
This is particularly pertinent to the Middle East and North Africa, where the job market is at a juncture. About 46 percent of work activities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and 52 percent in Qatar are susceptible to automation.
Accordingly, to remain competitive in the global economy, Arab nations must equip their citizens with the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly digital economy.
Otherwise, the region is at a critical stage where it can either lead the skills revolution or fall behind it.
Leading the skills revolution
Develop and invest in a vision
For instance, in the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 highlights the government’s immediate priorities for economic growth. These include building an open and globally integrated business environment, improving labor market efficiency, and developing a highly skilled workforce.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia has introduced its Vision 2030, focusing on enhancing education and preparing citizens for future jobs. This vision diversifies the economy through $6.4 bn investments in the technology and startup sectors in 2022.
Initiatives like NEOM, a zero-carbon smart city project, further emphasize the need for digital proficiency and innovation.
To support these initiatives, the Saudi government is actively training its workforce. It has partnered with IBM to upskill 100,000 young Saudis and is adopting emerging technologies in government agencies.
Similarly, Bahrain trains its citizens in IT skills, with 20,000 individuals undergoing cybersecurity training through the Economic Recovery Plan.
These examples demonstrate how Arab nations invest in reskilling and training programs to develop a highly skilled workforce. This approach helps drive economic growth and future-proof the workforce.
Activate the skills of the future today
The skills revolution is also evident in the efforts of the UAE to prepare its young workers for the future of work.
Dubai has partnered with industry giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Cisco to train 100,000 coders and create 1,000 digital companies in five years. Notably, the National Program for Coders is open to people from both within and outside the Emirates. This aims to double the digital economy’s value to $54.5 bn.
In 2019, Tamkeen, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Bahrain Polytechnic launched Bahrain’s Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) program, which accelerates digital transformation in the public sector.
Additionally, the CIC program involves public agencies, private sector entities, and academic institutions in solving pressing challenges.
One project developed through the CIC program is an interactive chatbot that issues address certificates online. This approach saves time and increases productivity while also generating interest in tomorrow’s jobs.
Teach attitude as well as aptitude
Arab nations recognize the value of teaching attitude along with technical aptitude. This cultivates a positive mindset towards learning and problem-solving in addition to technical skill acquisition.
By 2025, the Middle East is expected to have 160 million digital users, which will create rapid economic growth.
As an example, IBM launched the IBM Digital-Nation platform in 2020 in collaboration with GEMS Education. This partnership provides courses on emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain, IoT, and cybersecurity to over 2,000 students and 70 teachers in the UAE. Its aim is to bridge the digital skills gap and prepare individuals with a digital-ready mindset.
Moreover, Dubai Future Academy also offers free online courses for upskilling older individuals and career switchers. These courses are available on demand, enabling learners from the UAE and beyond to learn at their own pace.
The academy’s curriculum focuses on emerging technologies, foresight, and future communication skills. Its approach extends beyond industry-specific competencies, fostering a mindset of lifelong learning that is essential for the future.
Benefits of the skills revolution in Arab nations
The skills revolution in Arab nations brings several benefits to individuals and the economy:
- Enhanced employability: Developing skills in emerging technologies makes individuals desirable to employers and gives them a competitive edge in the job market.
- Economic growth: Upskilling the workforce drives economic growth and transforms national economies on a global scale.
- Innovative environment: Collaboration between institutions and companies triggers innovation, contributing to economic growth.
As they continue to prioritize skill development, Arab nations will play an important role in shaping the future of work and making significant contributions to the global economy.
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