Governments urged to provide more information on occupational opportunities and create awareness about realities of the job market
One of the biggest inhibiting factors that continues to derail the development of the MENA region's local job market has been the failure to adopt education programs that cater to the current needs of the society, revealed a report by TalentRepublic.net, an emerging leader in the regional employment service market. While the region has spent more per capita on education compared with others, allocating 5 per cent of GDP and up to 20 per cent of government expenditure, the majority of students and graduates remain inadequately equipped to be competitive in the job market, prompting countries, particularly those in the Gulf region, to rely heavily on expatriate workers.
The massive education expenditure, which has helped increase primary education enrolment by threefold and higher education enrolment by up to fivefold between 1970 and 2003, has not made a major impact on the economy, particularly in terms of creating gainful employment opportunities in an increasingly globalised landscape. As a result, a significant percentage of university graduates from several Arab and Middle East academic institutions suffer from high unemployment. In this context, a college degree is no longer a sure ticket to employment as it was in the past. Furthermore, TalentRepublic.net cited a World Bank study revealing that MENA countries have extremely young populations with a larger percentage of people under 18. This underlines the critical role of the education sector to ensure that such an overwhelming number of people can be successfully integrated into the job market, preventing more widespread unemployment in the future.
In this regard, TalentRepublic.net emphasised the critical importance for academic institutions to offer more flexible undergraduate and postgraduate programs that satisfy the evolving needs of the job market. TalentRepublic.net also urged industry stakeholders to invest in research to be able to identify specific professions that are in demand, which will subsequently help them develop more suitable academic programs that are in tune with the changing economic situation.
The report urged governments to provide information on occupational opportunities and create awareness about the job market. For instance, several business establishments that are facing an uncertain economic future are now starting to ease on back-office support services as well as marketing and advertising. On the other hand, the financial sector, particularly banks and investment funds, are heavily experiencing redundancies.
TalentRepublic.net also pointed out that “essential” professions such as teachers, nurses and doctors remain in great demand and have been recognised to be recession proof. Nonetheless, careful study will also show that related professions such as dentists and podiatrists are not in strong demand as their services can be deferred and are even categorised under discretionary spending.
According to the report, reforms in the educational sector have actually been implemented long ago by various governments, indicating that it has not been a lack of concern that has resulted in the under-performance of the local workforce. However, educational reforms were focused more on engineering aspects such as physical infrastructures and the process of recruiting teachers, while substance – what the schools teach and their teaching methodologies – were largely taken for granted. As a result, conventional strategies prevail in educational systems across the region, which often tend to focus on rote memorisation.
To reverse the trend, TalentRepublic.net called for a greater focus on the development of technical skills and the introduction of entrepreneurship and innovation in academic programs, which are all critically important in both boom times and downturns. Essential soft skills must also be developed, including curiosity, creative and critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, as well as social skills such as risk-taking, allowance of failure, and acceptance of the unknown.
Critical thinking, problem solving as well as communication skills are particularly important in the pursuit of a knowledge-based economy and in the context of a globalised society. Unfortunately, TalentRepublic.net noted that graduates from the region have been ranked relatively low in these areas, despite aggressive efforts by countries in the region to establish a knowledge economy.
As such, governments will greatly play an important role in boosting the performance of the region's graduates and subsequently the local workforce in these critical areas. Governments may start by initiating programs that promote public-private partnerships to enhance research and development. In addition, appropriate policies can be enacted to motivate educational institutions to offer a wider range of educational programs that match the new and evolving requirements of the regional job market.
TalentRepublic.NET is a regional recruitment service provider that empowers both professionals and potential employers with its fast, efficient and easy-to-use portal. It uses a state-of-the-art search engine to help jobseekers and employers find exactly what they are looking for. TalentRepublic.net was created to connect the increasing number of young professionals in the Middle East with the right employers who will hone their skills and knowledge while helping them build a successful career. The portal is also geared for seasoned expatriate professionals who wish to effectively tap the opportunities in the region.