The UAE as a working destination is unique. Expats, the vast majority of whom have moved in the pursuit of work opportunities, make up nearly 84% of the population and more than 90% of its workforce. Companies within the country also have a higher turnover than the global average.
All of these factors mean that the challenges it faces when it comes to employee education and training are very different to those of other developed markets.
That said, there are still some things that are universal. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s a major factor in graduates’ choice of company
According to a Gulf Talent survey released towards the end of 2016, a reputation for good training and development was the number two reason for UAE graduates wanting to work for a company.
That put it significantly ahead of factors such as a good salary and benefits, a clear path of progression, and flexible work/life balance.
It could cost the government talent
In the same survey, graduates revealed that good training was among the top reasons for them looking for work in the corporate space, rather than in government.
That said, those mentioning government as their favoured work destination place a comparatively higher value on job security, work-life balance and working in an Islamic environment.
It’s a major factor in employees moving companies
If you think only graduates are interested in further training and development, think again. According to Entrepreneur Middle East, 83% of UAE employees would “seriously consider resigning from their current position to seek better training opportunities with another employer”.
When you consider the fact that salaries in the UAE have plateaued in recent years, it becomes obvious that the companies with the best opportunities for training are the ones most likely to attract the best candidates.
It could ease the skills shortage
According to Gulf News, the UAE faces an oversupply of job seekers. At the same time, it also finds itself in the midst of a serious skills shortage.
The construction sector has been particularly hard hit, with companies also facing a shortage of middle managers. A major contributor to this skills shortage is other countries in the region recruiting top candidates with more competitive packages.
One potential way around this is for companies to reward their most loyal and dedicated employees by paying for them to study and acquire the skills they need.
It works best as a collaborative effort
While there are a number of reasons for companies to put effort it into employee education, life is made much easier for everyone if governments and educational institutions also play their part.
Writing specifically about the skills shortage in the Gulf region, EY notes that there “remains a fundamental misalignment of needs and expectations that makes it hard to improve outcomes”.
As a consequence, it points out, “employers struggle to find the skills they need, especially at entry level”.
Young people in schools, colleges and universities are meanwhile “unclear about how and why they should enter the job market and build a long-term career. Teachers are unsure about labour market demands and why they should care”.
Finally, it says, “governments are not managing to create the skills and attitudes they need to match the ambition of their national visions, based on increasing the role of the private sector, and promoting entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized businesses”.
Ideally, it says, all these parties should be aligned when it comes to education and training.
Corporates, for instance, should get involved in schools, colleges and universities, “talking to students, providing advice and forming partnerships to help develop curricula and work experience schemes”.
Educational institutions meanwhile should adapt their curricula, “developing a balance of practical skills and academic understanding that is relevant to the current and future job market, and integrating work experience”.
Finally, it suggests, governments should provide “incentives to the private sector to get more involved; for example, through apprenticeships and graduate training schemes”.
It’s not just about skills
In the Gulf region in particular, employee education shouldn’t just be about adding new skills. It has the potential to be far more holistic. EY for instance points out that local knowledge is the number one reason companies hire local candidates. Used effectively, those employees can be a valuable educational resource for their ex-pat colleagues.
While its history, economic status, and demographics set the UAE apart from most other countries, it’s far from the only one facing a skills shortage. As is the case in other countries, employee education can play a major role. And on that front, the cosmopolitan nature of the UAE’s biggest cities means that it’s in a better position than most to use and exploit knowledge from around the globe.