Jobseekers must 'upskill' or face redundancy in the machine age

Milken Institute’s MENA summit hears that jobseekers must adapt or be left behind

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 12 FEBRUARY 2019. Panel discussion on Workforce at the Milken Institute 2019 MENA Summit. LtoR: Mina Al-Oraibi, Editor in Chief The National, Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: John Dennehy. Section: National.

Skills are the currency of the new machine age and jobseekers will have to adapt or face being left behind.

That is the stark warning from Jeff Maggioncalda, chief executive of Coursera, one of the world’s leading online learning platforms.

Mr Maggioncalda said the percentage of jobs taken by robots is going to increase and people must show what sets them apart.

His comments came at the Milken Institute’s MENA summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

In a panel moderated by Mina Al-Oraibi, editor in chief of The National, the summit heard how 60,000 Abu Dhabi Government employees will be given access to Coursera's online courses to provide them with training in data science, artificial intelligence and digital changes.

It comes as the region is in the grip of a youth unemployment crisis following the Arab uprising. Rates of joblessness among young people stand at 31 per cent and the panel examined what is being done to create more opportunities for the region’s youth.

The UAE Government has made huge efforts over the past few years to get more Emiratis into the workforce. Only last year, recruiters said interest among Emiratis in the private sector was growing because of a competitive job market, word-of-mouth and challenging training programmes.

Mr Maggioncalda said it was important the online courses were localised, with the language, skills and content that people here understood.

Of the 170,000 people currently using its courses in the UAE, he said they are as capable as people anywhere else in the world but well ahead of others in the Middle East.

But he also cautioned that jobseekers could not get complacent.

“The percentage [of jobs done] from robots will get bigger,” he said.

“And there will be greater competition among people to signal what talents they have. Humans will have to upskill.”

The Milken summit concludes on Wednesday.