Hospital management, data analysis, agriculture and sustainable construction techniques will be among the skills to be taught at a forward-thinking new technical school in the UAE aiming to "bridge the gap" between the classroom and the workplace.
The Emirates Youth Professional School was launched under the directive of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday.
The school, which will open in November, aims to equip learners aged between 15 and 35 with a wealth of vocational skills to help them secure gainful employment.
“The Emirates Youth Professional School provides a unique educational experience that bridges gaps between conventional academic learning and the rapidly changing labour market,” said Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth.
The school will not recruit permanent teaching staff, nor will it have a set curriculum for its subjects.
Instead, instructors, specialists and experts are crowd-sourced to teach the courses – "utilising an uber-like model", said the Dubai Media Office in a press statement.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, took to Twitter to announce that the ministry would be holding programmes at the school.
Those include a vocational programme for sustainable agriculture and developing animal health. Another programme focuses on sustainable maritime activities, and the third on sustainable buildings.
Arwa Al Ali, a member of the Emirates Youth Council and an executive at the UAE National Qualifications Authority, said the new school has been long-awaited.
“We have been looking forward to such an initiative for a long time, especially since the programmes revolve around the essentials of the labour market,” said Ms Al Ali.
She believes vocational training will steer learners towards fields where extra resources are needed.
“They (students) often enrol in majors for fields that the labour market is already overloaded with.
“Whereas there are many fields in the UAE where the youth are needed."
The school will provide a diverse range of programmes, covering everything from the management of airports, museums and ports to vocational courses on setting budgets.
“This school will be unprecedented and it will link the youth directly with jobs that suit their skills and passion," said Ms Al Ali.
Ms Al Ali said she had been involved in a similar initiative, launched by the youth authority this summer, the Summer Academy, which helped shape the talents of young people and prepare them for the future.
“We were given the chance, as specialists, to coach young people on a number of professional skills, such as leadership and management and empowerment.”
The Summer Academy held more than 100 workshops across the emirates, and will be resuming courses in Al Ain after Eid.
Parents and teachers speaking at the Inclusion and Wellbeing – Mena 2019 conference organised by Optimus Education in February, called for more vocational education courses for those who don’t want to pursue an academic path.
They pointed to countries where colleges offer qualifications in technical and electrical work plus cooking, hospitality and administration, among other fields.
Nan Billingham, principal at School of Research Science in Dubai, said during the education conference there was an academic-centric culture in the UAE and that vocational courses must be more widely recognised.
“Culturally in the UAE, there is an expectation that 100 per cent of pupils go to university or higher education,” she said.
“That’s not the case in UK or other countries, where maybe 60 per cent of people go to university and others may have an alternative path.”