Gulf Education Conference and Exhibition Examines Importance of Vocational Education
Education expert: Regional workforce development depends on improvements to vocational training.
Delegates at the Gulf Education Conference and Exhibition have heard continued development of the GCC’s workforce depends on improving the quality and accessibility of vocational education in the region.
The Conference, held in Dubai from the 18th – 19th March 2015, has brought together Education Ministers from across the region, along with global experts in education. The focus of this year’s event has been on vocational education and employer engagement with education providers – issues of great relevance to governments and educators throughout the region.
Sue Parker, Principal of Saudi Arabia’s Pearson TQ Colleges of Excellence in Buraidah, Mecca and Madinah, led a panel discussion at the Conference, calling for greater emphasis to be placed on vocational education in the development of the region’s education systems. Ms Parker said:
“For years now, employers have complained that new workforce entrants are ill-prepared for the demands of modern, globally orientated workforces. At the heart of the problem is a mismatch between supply and demand – that is, the type of workers education systems are producing, and the type of workers employers need. For too long, vocational education has been neglected in the region, as our young people follow education paths that fail to align with governments’ economic goals or boost productivity in the labour force. There is a clear need for a greater number of vocationally qualified graduates in the workforce, skilled in key industries, from oil and gas to building and construction. The lack of suitably qualified candidates available is in part to blame for the region’s higher than average rates of youth unemployment and underemployment, and is having a detrimental impact on the ability of Arab governments to achieve their long-term economic visions”.
Ms Parker says lessons learnt in other countries act as a useful guide in helping the GCC overcome educational and employment challenges.
“Singapore has one of the best vocational systems in the world, but this has not always been the case. Singapore invested heavily in linking educational programmes with employer needs, and importantly, on raising the status of vocational education amongst the population. Vocational education suffers from an unfortunate stigma, where it is seen as a lesser alternative to university. However, what we are seeing in the GCC is that those students who undertake recognized vocational qualifications often find meaningful work faster than those who have undertaken a university degree, and achieve quicker career progression and report greater job satisfaction”.