Push to train 100,000 young workers as World Economic Forum highlights regional skills gap

DEAD SEA, JORDAN // Some of the Middle East’s biggest corporations are coming together in a plan to train up to 100,000 young people in essential employment skills by 2017.

The initiative, announced at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the Dead Sea in Jordan, aims to tackle the region’s big unemployment problem. The Middle East has among the highest rates of youth joblessness in the world.

Nine founding corporations – including the UAE’s Jumeirah Group and Crescent Group – have pledged to initially train 49,000 young people as part of the programme. The WEF’s regional business council for the Middle East has invited other business leaders and companies to join the initiative.


“Creating new jobs alone cannot address our regional crisis of youth unemployment and underemployment,” said Badr Jafar, the chief executive of Crescent Enterprises. “Equally important is the need to enhance the employability of our youth by equipping them with relevant skills to fill that vital gap, as well as empower them with a spirit of entrepreneurship.”

The WEF’s annual Human Capital Index shows that, despite significant investment in education by many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, young people are still not being adequately equipped with skills for modern employment.

“The gap between education systems and labour markets creates shortfalls in human capital development and deployment across the entire population,” the WEF’s report said. “Overall, the region has optimised only 60 per cent of its human capital potential, ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa but behind all other regions.”

WEF data puts youth joblessness in the Mena region at 27.2 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.

“Massive unemployment coupled with talent gaps is a pattern that is particularly acute in this region. And labour-market disruptions will only get worse as technology changes business models and skills requirements. The pilot initiative tackles today’s challenges while anticipating future trends and solutions, and aims to be a model to be used across the region,” said Saadia Zahidi, the head of the WEF’s employment initiative.

Alghanim Industries, Consolidated Contractors, Olayan Financing, VPS Healthcare and Zain will also join the jobs scheme.

According to the WEF’s index, the UAE is the highest rated Arab country in the Middle East in terms of “developing people’s talents and helping them reach their full potential.” The country is placed at 54 out of 124 countries.

“The index takes a life-course approach to human capital, evaluating the levels of education, skills and employment available to people in five distinct age groups, starting from under 15 years to over 65 years,” WEF said.

Overall, Finland, Norway and Switzerland filled the top three slots in the index ratings.

fkane@thenational.ae

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