Outward Bound, Emirati-style

Getting young people into the outdoors can help them prepare for the world of work

The Duke of Edinburgh International Award could be replicated in other places. Satish Kumar / The National
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Few will disagree that the world of work can be taxing: long hours, tight deadlines and working closely with colleagues under pressure can contribute to stress. Most of us in the workplace learn to cope with this pressure in different ways over time. But for young people who have not yet entered the workplace, finding ways to teach them resilience and how to cope in that environment will give them a head-start in their careers – as well as making it easier for companies to integrate new hires into the company.

One of the difficulties young people face, as The National's story on Monday noted, is that parents wanting to shield their children from the stresses of the world can be over-protective, leaving them unprepared for the working environment. Schools can assist in a number of ways, the two most obvious being to teach stress management techniques and, through work experience, to give young people a taste of office life.

But there is another way to push children out of their comfort zones: by sending them into the great outdoors. Schemes that get children into nature and working in teams can help them develop skills that will serve them later in the working world. The Duke of Edinburgh International Award or the United States-based Outward Bound organisation are two such schemes.

Yet we can go further. We would love to see an Emirati-influenced outward bound scheme, for both Emiratis and expats. Many of the skills that have been traditionally used in this part of the world – navigating over long distances, camping in the desert, swimming and sailing – could easily be incorporated into a scheme that would benefit young people.

For Emiratis, it could provide a stepping stone towards military service – getting them used to the exercise, healthy eating and discipline that they will need. And for expats, it would connect them with Emirati culture, while also teaching them life skills.

Ultimately, anything that gets young people out of their comfort zones early will help them prepare for having to get out of their comfort zones in the world of work.