Mena corporates 'must invest in education'
Dubai, August 30, 2010
The leading businesses in the Mena region should take a wider responsibility for supporting skills-related issues within their industry and invest in education and professional development, said an expert.
While majority of them are showing strong commitment to long-term training and professional development of employees, more needs to be done, remarked Mark Andrews, Mena regional director of Edexcel, a leading UK-based awarding body, which is part of Pearson, the world's largest education services providers.
He said although some corporations in the Middle East are setting up their own institutes to deliver training programs, the training and qualifications they offer may not meet international industry quality standards.
“Businesses should take a wider responsibility for supporting skills-related issues within their industry. They should be encouraged and provided with incentives to invest in education and professional development – not just their company but the sector as a whole on a global scale,” Andrews observed.
According to him, the efforts of business and industry to take responsibility for training the workforce should be applauded.
'Even if the focus for many companies is restricted to ‘educating their own’, the net impact on the skills pool is undoubtedly positive,' Andrews said.
'However, it's not a good sign that many businesses operate in isolation and educational content, teaching methods and resources are not shared with market peers,' he opined.
Education, he said, should facilitate the flow and sharing of knowledge across boundaries, not restrict it.
Edexcel offers academic and professional qualifications and testing to thousands of schools, colleges, employers and other places of learning globally, and has over 4 million learners enrolled on its highly regarded courses in more than 85 countries.
In the UAE, Edexcel works with many private institutions as well as government-funded training providers responsible for educating the local population, which include the National Institute for Vocational Education, the Institute for Vocational Development and the Sharjah Institute of Technology.
Andrews said there must be an open debate on how effectively the employment and training needs of employers, individuals and governments are being met by education and training systems in the Middle East.
'This balance between the supply and demand sides of education is becoming more and more intense as countries across the world struggle to cope with difficulties triggered by the current economic downturn. It makes what we call ‘effective education for employment’ an even more fundamental issue,' he stated.
'We live in an environment which is constantly influenced by global factors and education must be no exception – while it should be local in flavour, it must be global in scope,' he noted.
“It is obvious there is a significant disconnect between education systems and the needs of 21st century employers, both public and private. The match between what employers, individuals and governments seek and what respective education and training systems provide appears ill-fitting in many countries,” he added.
Andrews called upon company managers to become better educators of their own staff.
'Mentoring is an extremely effective mechanism for employees to develop functional understanding and business socialization. Engaging managers and leaders in the ongoing education of their own staff is a high-impact, low-cost approach that can be easily adopted in an organization of any size,' he explained.
'The chances of building a job-ready workforce will increase significantly if we can embed this learning into primary and secondary education, with fine-tuning during higher or further education,' Andrews said.
'Apprenticeships and internships should be revived and incentivized as they represent a highly successful model for involving business and industry in education, and results are almost universally positive.'
'Many countries are beginning to see the value in this approach, but more can be done – in particular, incentivizing business involvement and supporting investment,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service