We live in a world where change is the only constant. The education industry is evolving, increasing its emphasis on professional skills, which are now in greater demand than some academic degrees. Leading international organizations, including Google, Apple, and IBM, are placing greater importance on employing people with professional skills and outstanding talents, sometimes without even looking at their degrees.
This approach is consistent with the nature of today’s ‘Generation Z’, those who were born alongside the growth in digital technology, excel in the use of it, and have access to a range of opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skillsets. This was evident by their quick adaption to remote learning and their ability to complete the current academic year on time despite unprecedented circumstances.
Changing realities across the globe, combined with the digital prowess of today’s generation, compelled us to devise a new plan to prepare students for the future. What I refer to as the ‘Future Persona’ is a list of attributes that people of the future will need to succeed. Its three basic components are the ‘Digital Persona’, the ‘Professional Persona’, and the ‘Entrepreneurial Persona’. In previous columns discussing the ‘Future Persona’, I devoted space to the ‘Digital Persona’, outlining how building students’ digital capabilities will enable them to become more competitive globally. The question is when and how do we create this persona.
The ‘Professional Persona’ equips students with skillsets that are integrated into the education system, especially at the university level. This is achieved in three ways: (1) Including international professional certifications within curriculums, enabling students to grasp the basic principles of these qualifications during their university studies and allowing them to complete work experience requirements while studying or after graduation, (2) Developing practical training programs that allow students, to gain experience at real businesses, especially within the private sector, enhancing their vocational skills and allowing them to experience the realities of the labor market, and (3) Linking the educational and career ladders, connecting the gradual acquisition of academic degrees (from diploma to masters) to practical experience of no less than two years between each degree.
Ensuring that students develop a Professional Persona will result in higher quality graduates who are better prepared to deal with the rigorous demands of different jobs. It will also enable them to keep pace with the rapidly changing types of skills required globally. Today, as we face the daunting global social and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including widespread redundancy, it is clear that we need to prepare our students for the future. Although the job market looks set to become increasingly competitive, those with professional skills and talents will have better opportunities than others.
Equipping our students will professional skills will contribute to the development of the national economy, increase the efficiency of our workforce, and ensure that graduates are prepared for jobs that do not yet exist and the unexpected challenges ahead.
Dr. Abdullatif Al Shamsi
President & CEO, Higher Colleges of Technology