We are by now all too familiar with the doom-and-gloom scenario painted by last year's World Economic Forum report into the future of the workforce: within three years, nearly half of all companies expect to cut jobs as they increasingly move towards automation. In a technology-driven world, the skills needed to survive in the workplace are constantly evolving. It is to that end that 60,000 Abu Dhabi government employees are being given access to 3,000 online courses to ensure they have the tools needed to update their skill set and employability.
The partnership between the state-funded Abu Dhabi School of Government and online learning platform Coursera is grand in its ambitions and scale. It will give public sector workers access to experts at the top of their field from the world’s best universities and forms an important element of the Ghadan 21 programme, which aims to improve the competitiveness of Abu Dhabi in four key areas, including knowledge and innovation.
Online learning is a cost-effective way of making sure governments and public sector workers are not left behind in the technology revolution, a concern voiced by UAE Cabinet Affairs and Future Minister Mohammed Al Gergawi at this week's World Government Summit. The scheme provides a flexible and easily quantifiable means of learning for employees while the easy accessibility of courses means no one will be excluded, including those with parental obligations, who can study in the comfort of their own home. Moreover, the availability of 30 courses in Arabic and 70 with Arabic subtitles will reach a far wider audience and ensure no one is left behind.
The availability of online learning is a key part of the UAE's transformation to a knowledge economy. It should sow the seeds of a mindset of "lifelong learning", because those who realise they need to constantly expand their knowledge and skills will benefit most from this opportunity, as Coursera chief executive Jeff Maggioncalda said in an interview with The National. Learning is no longer reserved for the classroom, and the government's efforts to incorporate it as an integral element in the workplace will hopefully be replicated across the public and private sector. In a world where we are all short on time, flexible online courses have much to offer those willing to learn, as and when they can. Indeed, as new technologies pervade the workplace, disregarding such opportunities is a luxury we can ill afford.