For years, the human population has been expected to grow rapidly, and it may be accelerating even faster than predicted, which will lead to a significant increase in the working population. In the Arab world, the number of young workers, ages 15-24, will grow to 58 million in 2025. In the largest Persian Gulf state, Saudi Arabia, the working-age population is expected to increase to nearly 18 million by 2025. This will lead to 226,000 Saudis entering the labor force each year, according to Jadwa Investment, a Saudi research firm.
Digitization and its impact on the growing ICT skills gap
At the same time, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is facing a shortage of IT professionals with the right skills to excel in the digital era. In the digital economy, where the only certainty is change, the one source of lasting competitive advantage clearly is knowledge.
According to recruitment firm Robert Half UAE, professionals with skills in IT security, virtualization, mobility, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are currently in great demand and will continue to be sought for the next few years.
This skills gap, especially in information and communications technology (ICT), continues to be a top priority across the MENA region, and governments have established initiatives and programs to address the issue. However, the ICT skills gap will at some point affect us all, which is why bridging this gap is our joint responsibility.
Public-private-academic partnerships to support education efforts in the digital era
To help ensure the availability of skilled ICT talents in the long run, it’s crucial to educate future workers at an early stage on strategically important skills at universities and other educational institutions. However, according to the 2017 Arab Youth Survey, few think their education system prepares students for the jobs of the future. Across North Africa, for example, only 33% are satisfied with the theory-to-practice preparation through the region’s educational institutions.
With a proactive approach to fostering public-private-academic partnerships, local talent can take advantage of new opportunities to build up their skill sets. For example, since its founding in November 2012, the SAP Training and Development Institute (SAP TDI) has offered a host of programs to bring technology skills to people with the cultural and social understanding of their local region. One of these programs is SAP’s Dual Study Program, a collaboration between SAP and participating universities. The program provides students with major-specific SAP training and certification during their academic years via an extracurricular collaboration. It enables students to gain certification on a set of SAP’s functional and/or technical solutions, with a key focus on SAP’s latest innovations. This gives them a competitive edge against other university graduates in pursuing certain career paths.
Through soft-skill development workshops, students can better translate their academic experience to the workplace. But more important, they are prepared to fulfill the jobs of tomorrow and create a future of economic opportunity for themselves and their communities.
For more information on the SAP Training and Development Institute, visit sap.com/mena/tdi.