Opportunities missing in the oil industry and research struggles with underfunding
The oil and gas industry needs to see measures in place that will generate jobs in the sector that contributes 64 per cent of the GDP in Abu Dhabi. This was reported by a senior official in education at a recent conference on the labour market.
The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development put together the conference that was intended to address the difficulties in higher education and the absence of funding for research. These situations have resulted in a gap between supply and demand in the UAE job market.
The figures show that labour distribution is unbalanced. The oil and gas sector employs only four per cent of the total workforce, while contributing 64 per cent of the GDP. Agriculture, which is only responsible for one per cent of the GDP in Abu Dhabi, employs eight per cent of the workforce. These figures were reported by the division manager of the Office of Strategic Affairs, part of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), Ala’a Al Deen A. Ali.
The UAE also falls short of global benchmarks for research performance. In 2007 only 0.1 per cent of the nation’s GDP was invested in R&D (research and development) and patents were issued at a rate of only six per cent. In comparison, the United States spent 2.67 per cent of national GDP on research.
Ali also noted that the discipline demands in the labour market are not being met by the supply of higher education graduates. Most UAE universities put their focus on academics in place of research and technical skills. There is a select group that supports research and the ADEC is working to bring the rest around.
The ADEC reported that only a few universities, either federal or non-federal, incorporate research into their instructions. There should be a funding model put in place for higher education that allocates certain funding specifically to research, according to the ADEC.
The Council has been working at improving the education policies, in line with the social and economic development plans for Abu Dhabi.
There are four specific difficulties faced by higher education institutes in Abu Dhabi. The ADEC lists them as these: the output of the system is not in line with the social and economic vision of Abu Dhabi; both the graduates and faculty are lacking in quality; research is limited; and the opportunities within higher education and the access to them are restricted.
Ali also stated that six things are undergirding these challenges: low level of preparation in the students; there is little assurance of and accountability to quality; the programs offered are limited and without focus; quality faculty are not attracted to the system; funding levels are low; and the environment for research and innovation is immature.
Again, the statistics are obvious. Nine per cent of UAE students are graduating from a law program, when the job market demands for law graduates sits at only 3.5 per cent. Seventeen per cent of students are in sciences, while there is only a two per cent demand for science grads in the job market. The humanities field is another area with discrepancies. Student graduate levels sit at 13 per cent, while job market demands are only at six per cent.
ADEC noted that because Abu Dhabi universities land far down the international higher education rankings, the emirate needs to set up a science and tech research committee that will provide guidance and implementation for the nation’s R&D plans.
Also, the creation of an agency that will look after research funding will help direct the strategies that line up with Abu Dhabi’s priorities.Paul Holdsworth, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News