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Businesses in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf combine their digital skills with a hiring and development approach

Governments, businesses and individuals are increasingly aware that we need digital skills, and we need them now. In April, the United Arab Emirates launched a strategy to grow its digital economy over the next decade to 20% of non-oil GDP, while last year it launched the landmark National Program for Coders which aims to train 100,000 software professionals within five years. . The reasoning is clear: digital economies are built by those with digital skills.

Yet digital skills remain undersupplied. In 2018, PwC found that 70% of business leaders in the Middle East were concerned about the availability of key skills. By the end of 2021, this proportion had increased to 81%. This shortfall is also highlighted in the findings of the latest edition of our “Global Skills Report”, which revealed that the UAE’s talent pools for technology and data science skills ranked only at 72nd and 71st, respectively. For companies looking to attract skilled technology professionals, these challenges are further exacerbated by intensifying global competition for talent.

When trying to build a digital talent pool, it’s always tempting to hire professionals who already have the required skills and experience. However, persistent skills gaps in these areas mean that there are currently more positions available than there are qualified professionals to fill them. Additionally, the high demand for people with such skills can make hiring prohibitive for small businesses, encouraging them to prioritize attributes over experience. This means they must embrace the extended payback period of these high-potential hires and make the investment necessary to reap that value.

For this hiring and development approach to be successful, organizations must have a high-level understanding of the range of skills required for particular job functions. Fortunately, discovering these skills and the journey to acquire them has been radically simplified by new professional learning pathways, including online professional certificates and role-based learning solutions.

Online professional certificates

We have seen enrollment in the UAE for online professional certificates soar 188% year-on-year in 2021-22. These courses allow people, including those working full time, to develop and retrain in a flexible way.

At their own pace, workers can learn these high-demand essential skills needed for well-paying entry-level jobs. Industry leaders – Google, Meta, IBM and Salesforce – offer courses in everything from social media marketing to cybersecurity analyst. These are often accompanied by additional professional support, including introductions to potential employers and help with people skills development, including emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, change management and organizational development.

Online professional learning offers courses from anywhere by some of the world’s leading experts in the field. Certificates are also great news for small businesses that hire for potential rather than experience, as interns quickly become job-ready. For example, companies looking to grow an IT support team can benefit from the Google IT Support Professional certificate, which prepares workers for such roles in three to six months.

For those looking to change careers, these certifications can prepare them for entry-level digital jobs without any prior experience or academic qualifications. These flexible – and fast – training options will be extremely important for the UAE in its digitization initiatives.

Role-based learning

There are, however, two main challenges associated with stand-alone professional certificates. First: Until a candidate fully understands the requirements of a position, they may not know what skills they need, especially if their target position requires multiple digital skills not covered by a single certificate. And two: Newly certified learners may not be able to visualize the right career path for them.

This is where curated, role-based learning paths can add tremendous value, especially when it comes to delivering initiatives like the UAE National Coder Curriculum. The USPs of e-learning are all there – hands-on learning, internal mobility, and drastically reduced barriers to entry. All of these factors ensure a larger talent pool.

Role-based learning goes further. Employees can understand the career implications before embarking on a training journey, promising greater skill acquisition for trainees, employees and employers – and the UAE economy.

It is easy to see how online professional certificates and role-based learning can support non-oil economic growth in the UAE. Human ingenuity will be the main driver of any digital economy, and digital skills are the obvious prerequisite.

Organizations that embark on hiring and then upskilling journeys through role-based skills initiatives find themselves able to tap into a much larger pool of talent and foster a workforce that is becoming increasingly more competent and capable. By doing so, they will be better equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing digital revolution.

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