The rising number of Emiratis studying nuclear technology at Abu Dhabi Polytechnic is a positive sign that perceptions about vocational education are starting to change. Next month, 65 students will graduate from the institution compared to only 17 last year. Those students will join the job market and doubtless play an active role in developing the emerging local nuclear sector.
Having more institutions like Abu Dhabi Polytechnic is critical for the country as it undertakes the process of economic diversification. The institute, which was established in 2010, offers dual vocational training with high-tech disciplines, including aircraft engineering and maintenance, air traffic management, petroleum engineering and meteorology.
It’s good to see more young Emiratis interested in pursuing careers in technical industries, especially at a time when demand for this type of jobs is increasing in Abu Dhabi’s Dh41.5 billion industrial sector.
As the Industrial Development Bureau announced plans to add jobs in that sector at a rate of between 8 and 9 per cent annually through to 2020, vocational institutions will help close the gap between the education sector and the job market. They will inject the market with highly specialised professionals who have the right knowledge and skills needed for the available jobs. This is a critical step towards building a knowledge-based economy.
The industrial sector is critical not only to shift the economy away from oil, but also to drive innovation, create jobs and tackle unemployment. Today, young people have the opportunity to work in diverse fields, such as nuclear, aerospace, petrochemicals and plastics, renewable energy, semiconductors, building materials and transportation. Many of these options were not available a decade ago.
All this is an indication that the economy is heading in the right direction, but it should be matched by further strides in vocational education across the country.