Abu Dhabi has moved to strengthen its growing vocational education and training sector, linking with an international risk management partner to improve the emirate’s occupational health and safety methods.
In early October the Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute (ADVETI) signed a memorandum of understanding with the UK-based International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM) that will see both parties work together on issues of risk management, workplace safety and training.
ADVETI has already worked alongside the IIRSM on two risk-management pilot programmes, with the signing of the new deal to increase awareness of the importance of occupational safety issues across Abu Dhabi.
Vocational training key to meeting economic diversification goals
The increased importance placed on workplace safety and risk management comes amid a rapid expansion in vocational and technical training over the past decade.
The creation of ADVETI, established in 2007, and the launch of the emirate’s regulatory body, the Abu Dhabi Technical and Vocational Training Centre (ACTVET), in 2014, has led to increased activity in the sector.
According to ACTVET, the total number of students in vocational training programmes rose from 4771 to 14,143 between 2010 and 2015. The number of vocational training institutes increased from 9 to 49 over the same period, while licensed training centres also jumped from 88 to 240.
This increased capacity has been met with improved academic results among technical students at the secondary education level.
Students from ACTVET’s Applied Technical High Schools (ATHS) recorded grades 11.7% above the emirate’s average in the Common Educational Proficiency Assessment university entrance test, while those from ADVETI’s Secondary Technical Schools registered scores 4% above the average.
In addition, 82% of university-bound ATHS students were not required to take an introductory foundation year when starting university, an increase on 59% of students in 2014.
The expansion of vocational and technical training ties into the UAE’s Vision 2021 strategy, which places the creation of an internationally renowned education system at the centre of plans to transform the country into a competitive knowledge economy.
Educational improvements to generate economic growth
In order to meet these goals of economic diversification, the authorities are exploring how to best improve the UAE’s education system and encourage more growth in vocational training.
Despite being described by the OECD’s 2015 “Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives” report as “one of the most rapidly improving education systems in the world”, students in the UAE still perform below academic levels achieved in advanced economies, thereby leaving potential for improvement.
The report estimates that if the results of the country’s lowest-performing 15-year-olds improved to at least Level 2 on the Programme for International Student Assessment’s international rankings, which is considered to be a minimum for effective participation in industrialised economies, then it would generate an estimated $2.4trn in additional wealth over the course of the students’ working lives.
Meanwhile, achieving gender parity in terms of educational outcomes could generate an additional $660bn in the long term, according to the report.
Framework to link vocational training with industry needs
On top of improving academic achievements, there are also challenges associated with boosting participation in targeted vocational areas, with the authorities looking at ways to link training programmes with the needs of targeted industries.
“There are two main issues for vocational expansion,” Abdulrahman Al Hammadi, the managing director of ADVETI, told OBG. “One is the cultural component that makes UAE nationals shy away from technical and vocational education as they have a belief that it is unglamorous and of little value. The second issue is to ensure that technical vocational provision in the country is specialising in programmes that will promote social and economic growth by enabling skilled Emiratis to enter into private sector sustainable careers.”
The rapid development of new industries, including nuclear energy and aerospace parts manufacturing, will require future generations to acquire advanced skills, with the alignment of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates with private sector jobs a key aim for authorities moving forward.
To address these needs the emirate has developed a technical and vocational qualification framework that guides recognised providers to deliver qualifications suited to certain industry needs, subsequently addressing skills shortages in targeted areas.
Skills competitions to boost technical and vocational awareness
Abu Dhabi’s focus on vocational training was also given a boost following the hosting of the WorldSkills 2017 competition on October 14-19, the first edition of the event to be held in the MENA region.
The event, which is the world’s largest international vocational skills competition, brought together around 1300 competitors from 77 countries and attracted more than 100,000 international and domestic visitors to Abu Dhabi, and included a focus on areas such as construction, engineering and building technology, ICT, creative arts and fashion, and transport and logistics.