May. 27, 2020

Solveig Andres Nicklos

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Solveig Andres Nicklos

Dean, Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG)

ADSG actively engages with government departments and educational institutions to recognize the major trends shaping the global economy and prepare a workforce that can take on future challenges.


Solveig Andres Nicklos was appointed Dean of the Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG) in 2018. She joined ADSG after working for Columbia University in New York, where she worked on creating, developing, and launching several new post-graduate education programs. Previously, Nicklos gained significant experience working for major international institutions, including as director/CEO of the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF). Prior to that, she was the Asia regional director for the Richard Ivey School of Business in Hong Kong, the director of program management at Columbia Business School, and associate director for Wharton Executive Education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

What is the ADSG's mandate?
ADSG is focused on up-skilling government employees across many different sectors. Abu Dhabi's government recognizes the need for consistency in skills, competencies, and frameworks. ADSG provides a platform for cross-entity communication and collaboration; this allows for that consistency while also recognizing the importance of engaging the learner. By focusing on the needs of both the government and the individual, we aim to ensure that future challenges are appropriately met. The shelf life of a skill set in the past used to be around eight years, while today it is just 18 months. What's more, the government is disproportionately impacted by the rapid rate of change in technology in all sectors as it must monitor, regulate, incubate, and encourage economic diversivication of the private sector. We attempt to improve the skills of government employees to understand, analyze, implement, and evaluate information related to their respective industries.

What criteria do you use to identify common skills gaps across the diverse spectrum of government services?
ADSG actively engages with government departments. We talk to managers and students to establish what the expectations are across the varied disciplines. We find many commonalities and can create consistent models. Part of what we are building is future skills. This involves monitoring global trends and seeing where industries are going. Recently, we partnered with Coursera, which provides online education and 3,400 different courses that we can link to our competency model. Additionally, we are also building communities of practice. For example, we are launching our HR communities of practice. This allows workers in a sub-specialty to be certified within a particular skill set, as well as having a forum to exchange information. These specialists recognize the major trends across their respected industries. In turn, this gives us access to identify the silos and learning gaps based on experiences.

What are some of the fundamental and transferable skills that are being taught at ADSG?
Career resilience is vital for all employees. For example, in the US, people expect to have a lifelong career path. This may not be the best for the individual, the economy, or the government they serve. As the economy shifts, demand evolves into new areas. The best way for people to serve their country is personal development. No one knows where they will be needed in five years; however, if they have a basic set of transferable skills, they will be prepared. The most important thing anyone can do right now is to develop a culture within the government, and an ethos for themselves that fosters continuous learning and knowledge seeking.

What are some of the ways that you have engaged with international stakeholders to build the learning infrastructure of ADSG?
Part of our mandate is to engage with and support the existing market infrastructure. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, nor are we a commercial enterprise. Our approach is based on the concept of dynamic learning. By remaining close to the learning industry we are able to engage with the most current, relevant, interesting, and impactful developments while remaining outside the rigidity of traditional academic infrastructure. We can focus on application and impact of learning, research, and skills.

What is your outlook for the next five years?
For us to consider ourselves successful, we want the government to create a curious and knowledge-seeking group of employees. People in the education system often lose their curiosity and innovation. When they enter the workforce, they are told to think outside the box but their entire paradigm and mental models contradict that. Given the rapid rate of change we do not even know what we need to be teaching five years from now. Our aim is to equip employees with the means to think how to best serve their country, families, and themselves. Data is important, but data is much easier to get than ever before. Interpretation and analysis of that data is the currency of the future.