A PARADIGM SHIFT

Dubai 2016 | EDUCATION | FOCUS: HUMAN CAPITAL

Dubai is working hard to train its labor force in order to meet 2016 market demands, while fostering innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the UAEs' National Innovation Strategy.

In what has been regarded as the foundation for the Emirate's knowledge economy, the 1996-2000 Strategic Development Plan primarily highlighted human capital development as the main precondition for long-term economic growth. It should therefore come as no surprise that Dubai's higher education sector has attracted leading international universities and private schools from across the globe to open campus subsidiaries in the Emirate. By now, Manchester Business School, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Atlanta, and many more have all established a branch in Dubai. With a student population nearly as nationally diverse as the UN, Dubai has not only turned into the archetypal “global village,” but also epitomizes the GCC's overall strategic innovative and service-oriented turn away from a solely energy-focused industry. This shift is notably exemplified by Dubai's 2014 National Innovation Strategy, launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed to innovate the Emirate's extractive and service industries until 2021. With investments in technology and education being among the strategy's cornerstones, current market demands for human capital in 2016 have been particularly emphasized by the government's policy. Specifically addressing challenges in the fields of competitiveness, education, and national identity that will arise until the UAEs' golden jubilee in 2021, HH Sheikh Mohammed re-emphasized the need for urgent reforms in the technology and education sectors. For instance, to grant the best learning experience to university students and tech-workers, the strategy envisages to fully equip universities and tech-centers with Smart systems. With the early childhood years constituting the most crucial “innovative hotbed,” the National Innovation Strategy further entails a cornucopia of investments into pre-schools to train the country's next generation of innovative and creative entrepreneurs.

According to the February 2016 Middle East Job Index Survey conducted by online recruitment website bayt.com, the Dubai labor market has not been significantly affected by the recent dwindling oil prices, corporate layoffs, and declining incomes. At the same time, approximately 40% of Dubai-based employers stated that they were mainly recruiting executive assistants and HR professionals with mid-level experience. Despite the fact that the beginning of 2016 saw recessive economic tendencies, the ongoing recruitment of human resource managers particularly reflects the Emirate's continuous demand for qualified international employees. Most notably, however, Dubai's successful bid to host the World Expo 2020 provides myriad business opportunities for the construction and real estate industries. In line with governmental estimates, the World Expo 2020 will expectedly bring more than 270,000 jobs to the UAE and an inflow of more than 25 million visitors, as well as approximately $40 billion into the country's economy.

Be it the Desert Rose Housing Project, the Dubai mGovernment Initiative, the World Expo 2020, or the recent launch of the Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Center (DTEC) in the Dubai Silicon Oasis, fostering technological innovation and creative entrepreneurship has been the driving force behind Dubai's defiance of the GCC's overall economic slowdown. With regard to the Emirate's labor market, however, the 2016 slowdown has brought skill-intensive human capital management and recruitment back to the top of the agenda. As the Middle East Job Index Survey indicated, employment demand for universities' graduates of the arts, education, or the media has been rather dire in 2016, in spite of continuous investment into the disciplines. Although the demand for human resource professionals, executive assistants, or managers does not significantly differ in comparison to 2015, the number of entry-level job seekers in the media or education sectors has also increased. With the wealth of aforementioned megaprojects under construction right now, Dubai is most certainly on the right track to provide a complete infrastructure for “creative collaboration” until 2021. However, business school and IT graduates still have the biggest chances of being hired in this economic cycle. Since a number of megaprojects will already be completed in 2016, a steady increase in entry-level employment for graduates across the breadth of study programs can be ascertained—the sky is their limit.