How will the region prepare for the demands of the industry's future?

Technology is changing the face of industry to an unimaginable level. But are our young people prepared? Government and the private sector are asking this question and looking for answers. “A lot of new job opportunities that our young people have not studied for are appearing on the horizon,” Mandar Apte, project manager at EPC firm TechnipFMC, told Breakbulk. “This is a serious issue and if the workforce isn’t ready, we are in for a rude shock.”

Indeed, UAE government officials voiced similar concerns at the World Government Summit held in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. “We need a new system of education that looks into the future,” said Sheikh Abdullah, who chairs the Education and Human Resource Council. “Educational institutes need to have new models to follow, that are constantly evolving and adaptable to changes around them.”

Sheikh Abdullah discussed plans to overhaul this country’s education system to prepare graduates for the age of artificial intelligence and the next industrial revolution. Children will need to develop skills in technology, finance and engineering. Talent in computing will need to be recognised and fostered. In higher education, the Government plans to develop science and technology degrees.

It will take great foresight to imagine the workforce of the future. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told the summit that 65 percent of primary students today will work in jobs that currently don’t exist, a statistic that Apte also mentioned. “The question is how can we create a workforce for a job that does not exist today?” Apte said. “We need to prepare the workforce for inevitable change. Adaptability and quick learning are going to be the key.”

Future-proof education is only part of the workforce solution. Today, public sector jobs are seen as more attractive than private sector ones, causing a gap between the available employee pool and the work that needs doing.

“The biggest gap we see is in the supply of local Emirati workers in the private sector because locals tend to have a preference for the government and public sector,” Apte said.

The UAE government also acknowledged this pattern. “Currently too few Emiratis aspire towards private sector careers,” Sheikh Abdullah said at the summit. “At the dawn of a new global reality, graduates need to look beyond guaranteed jobs in the public sector.”

But public and private sector partnerships are demonstrating a path forward. Leading the way is ADNOC, an oil conglomerate in Abu Dhabi, which has launched a program called In-Country Value or ICV. Its objectives are to grow and diversify the UAE’s economy and create opportunities for UAE nationals in the private sector. This program offers benefits to private sector companies that contribute to the economy by using local vendors and subcontractors.

“The underlying message in all of this is that human capital, not oil, is this country’s most important resource,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “For many years now, the UAE has recognised this reality and acknowledged that change must take place and that in periods of change there is also opportunity.”

Is it enough? “It never is,” Apte said. “There is always a room for improvement.”



We asked Apte about job prospects for young people in the UAE. Here’s what he had to say.

Is there opportunity in the region for young professionals?

Oh yes! Absolutely. In the past, experience of at least 10 years was one of the criterion for employment in the Gulf. Employers have come to understand the importance of recruiting young professionals, so now we see a lot of them in the UAE.

How would you describe the ideal new hire for a project? In other words, what are the essential characteristics and work ethic needed to be successful?

First and foremost, the recruit must be a team player and should be able to easily integrate into a project team. Quick learning, adaptability and willingness to go that extra mile are other important characteristics in addition to his basic technical knowledge that I would be looking for. Candidates who are multilingual will find that to be a big advantage when looking for a job. And in the UAE and throughout the GCC, a non-local job seeker should know or learn about the various local cultural dos and don’ts.


Tuesday, 12 February in the Conference Theatre, Hall 8, Dubai World Trade Centre

14:35 – 15:15
Our People, Our Future – Engaging the Leaders of Tomorrow
Investing in the local workforce ensures community sustainability while filling the knowledge gap for industry. With the percentage of young people on the rise, many governments are focusing on efforts to recruit and train young workers. How can EPCs, project owners and service providers engage these leaders of tomorrow?

Our panel will discuss:

  • The face of tomorrow’s project cargo workforce
  • Ways to take advantage of local workforce initiatives
  • Planned and existing programs
  • Bridging the skills and diversity gap

Moderator: Mandar Apte, Project Manager, Technip FMC
Nadia Abdul Aziz, President, NAFL
Tina Benjamin-Lea, Logistics Manager, SNC-Lavalin
Suha Abdulla Obaid, Deputy CEO, Folk Group

See the full agenda!