SKILL SETS

Abu Dhabi 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mubarak Saeed Al Shamsi, Director General of ACTVET, on aligning with Vision 2030, developing a knowledge-based society, and creating transferable skills for Emiratis.

Mubarak Saeed Al Shamsi
BIOGRAPHY
Born in Al Ain in 1970, Mubarak Saeed Al Shamsi graduated from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. In 1995, he began his career with the Higher Colleges of Technology-Al Ain as Supervisor of Student Affairs and Community Relations, subsequently becoming Dean of Students’ Services & Community Relations. In 2005, he further pursued his education, earning his master’s degree in education administration from Queensland University of Technology. In 2008, he joined the Institute of Applied Technology (IAT). Simultaneously, in 2009, he was assigned as Project Director with a mandate to establish the National Qualifications Authority (NQA). He was appointed as Deputy Director General of Abu Dhabi Center for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET) by Amiri Decree No. (2) in 2011. In 2014 he was assigned as Director General by Amiri Decree number (81), the position he is currently holding.

What is the significance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) within the broader socio-economic development of the Emirate?

TVET provides individuals with transferrable skills for the job market and is thus crucial for economic development, particularly in developing and emerging countries. The availability of a skilled workforce contributes to economic diversification and increases efficiency and competitiveness. After all, human development is undoubtedly a prerequisite for sustainable economic growth that needs the attention of government policy. To achieve this, our TVET Strategy was established to set out a number of key areas and actions to help TVET providers enhance the relevance, quality, and governance of their systems. The focus is on equipping learners with the skills required not only to find a good job and develop entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets, but also to become active citizens in an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable society. This will contribute to the achievements of Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, which seeks to create a sustainable knowledge-based economy and ensure the availability of a stable supply of high quality labor to staff the economy.

How can Abu Dhabi strike a balance between developing a knowledge-based society and implementing modular, competency-based programs?

Knowledge-based economies are driven by innovation and require a highly educated, flexible, and adaptive workforce, which can be realized through competency-based learning that focuses on the skills needed for success in the job market by providing the knowledge, skills, and attitude needed in a given discipline; standards for measuring performance and capability; and a framework for identifying qualifications to meet job market requirements.

What is the best strategy to ensure Emiratis are equipped with transferable skills?

These both raise the demand for skilled labor. Thus, a well-organized TVET system is capable of producing a skilled labor force that can attract globalized financial capital. However, a lack of human capital may deter foreign investment, since physical capital tends to go to areas where skilled human capital is available. This prompts employers to look for individuals who possess transferrable skills that include problem solving, self-confidence, communication skills, flexibility, teamwork, self-motivation, and self-management. We believe that the best strategy to equip Emiratis with these skills is to promote TVET as the education system that can equip learners with these skills and a mindset that enables them to encounter the challenges and demands of the workplace. These enable both workers to obtain decent work, manage change, and spur enterprises to adopt new technologies and enter new markets.

How do you expect labor market demand to evolve in the short and long-term, and how can TVET adjust to this evolution?

Labor market demand will continue to evolve and have significant implications on TVET. Understanding and anticipating such changes is key to building a responsive TVET system that adapts quickly to new emerging technologies. That is why TVET qualifications should be developed to respond to the diverse needs of learners and their workplace and address occupational changes in the job market. We should prepare the workforce for industrial sectors that are expected to grow. These include information technology, healthcare, utilities, engineering, and AI.

What is the future of public and private sector involvement in TVET?

Private sector involvement, whether at the regulatory or delivery level, can greatly enhance what is offered by the public sector, but this needs to be done through a partnership with clearly defined responsibilities, which recognize each other's tasks, rather than the two sides working independently. As such, strengthening private sector involvement in TVET programs' design and delivery is a necessary precondition for a successful VET system. Its involvement in developing occupational standards is important both to increase the relevance and quality of TVET and the acceptance of its graduates in the private sector.