What role does Dubai International Academic City play?
We do not just participate for the sake of participation; we want to be there with our partners. It is very important to extend our support to the events that they participate in. It is also important for us to showcase our activities, as well as by our partners. And our partners are not just partners in a landlord/tenant sense; these are ongoing partnerships in which we work together in all areas and even carry out research projects together. Regarding Islamic finance, we represent the commercial arm of the education sector here in Dubai. Once HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum made the announcement with regard to the future developments in the Islamic economy, we organized a roundtable discussion. It was a huge event at which we brought together decision makers from the academic, government, and industry sectors, and we assisted them in order to have this dialogue to establish how we can work together to fulfill the vision set out by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. We played the role of a facilitator, facilitating discussions and reports that would be read not only by us, but also by the community and the country as a whole. We conducted a study with Deloitte in 2013, covering 11 industry sectors in depth. We surveyed students from 17 countries, including from South Korea all the way to North Africa, and we included Nigeria. The majority of these students travel abroad to pursue their studies, including to the US, and so we wanted to gauge their feedback. What we found was that the UAE is the fourth most sought-after destination after the US, UK, and Canada, which is great. We surpassed Australia and Singapore and even emerging education hubs such as Malaysia.
What are the most important findings of the research you have carried out, and where do you see the need for more effort to be put in to achieve HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's vision?
We cover all sectors and have identified many skill gaps. And not only that, we look at the challenges faced by the corporate world when it comes to the skills that are demanded by most enterprises. And of course, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was one of them, along with auditing, management, and consultancy groups. I think that the need for auditing came in the wake of the economic crisis, with all the issues and challenges that were faced, and so with enterprises we started to focus more on audits and risk management. If you had carried out the same survey 10 years ago, the results would have been different.
How can improvements be made in the area of vocational training?
We work closely with governmental authorities, and they have their own agenda when it comes to vocational education. We work with the National Institute of Vocational Education (NIVE), and with different authorities in this regard, and share ideas. We are also interested in culinary arts, as this is an area that is very important for supporting the tourism and hospitality sector, which is growing rapidly. The sector's contribution to GDP is currently around 14% or 15%, and it is growing, especially in Dubai, where we do not rely on oil and gas money. This is where we look at a typical or conventional type of education. We also look at vocational learning, and Emiratization, which is very important. Right now, around 13,000 Emirati graduates join the market each year, with a ratio of 2:1 in favor of females.