Middle East needs to develop stagnant educational curricula
World Forum for FDI concludes on a high note with thought provoking sessions Senior executives at the 12th edition of the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Sharjah called on the Middle East countries to revise their stagnant education curricula to attract and develop the current tech-savvy generation and the coming ones. Held for the first time in the Middle East and hosted by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), the three-day conference, which ran from the 8th to the 10th of February, was attended by a prestigious line-up of experts and specialists in investment and business from all over the world, as well as senior CEOs of the local and international firms, international investment promotion agencies and economic development organisations. In the session entitled “Developing Top Talent, Part One: Trends, Part Two: Workforce Development, Part Three: International Mobility”, Jane Richardson, Director of Oracle Academy Program, EMEA Oracle, said there is not enough talent and the IT industry is witnessing increasing demands for computer sciences skills and a gap between the number of students coming to universities with those skills. This will affect the future of businesses in the industry. Mike Weston, Senior Vice President Middle East, Cisco Systems, said the world has 95 to 100 million unskilled workers vis-a-vis demand for 40 million skilled workers. Cisco built its Net Academy that has 5 million students with a large portion hailing from the Middle East. Annually, Cisco approaches 400 top students globally and is looking to building similar moves in the Middle East. Weston also called on universities to infuse enthusiasm into science curricula to encourage younger generations to join them. Dr Naguib Attia, Chief Technical Officer, Middle East & Africa at IBM, said governments have a major role in developing skills. Schools and university curricula were developed 25 years ago while industries move on 6-month plans. A different methodology of curricula improvement is required. Christopher Sanders, Executive Vice President & Head of Corporate Planning, Leopold Kostal, stressed that language is one of the major focuses for future development, citing China is an example where English language speakers outnumber the US population. Luiz Fuchs, President, Embraer Aviation Europe, emphasised the need for collaboration with governments. She cited the example of the Brazilian Government, which helped Embraer by choosing two schools where they can tap talented skills. Andreas Karaikos, CEO, Fitch Learning pointed out that corporates, academia and governments should adapt the way education is delivered to suit this generation and the coming ones. “Capture transformation or miss the opportunity. This is the time for change,” Karaikos stressed. Meanwhile, in her speech “Building and International Business”, Robin Chase, Founder & Former CEO of Zipcar and Buzzcar, said the idea of her business is based on an innovative car sharing service and gives automobile reservations to its members, billable by the hour or day. In 2014, Zipcar secured one million members, operated in 470 cities in 5 countries, had one reservation every 6 seconds and averted 635000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. “ Zipcar and Buzzcar focus on three components; leveraging excess capacity, a platform for participation which was the technology we built, and dealing with customers as collaborators. People spend $9000 on owning cars they consume for 5% only. If you also want to rent a car for an hour, you can’t wait to go to the office of a company for 30 minutes to fill the forms. As a company, I also need to reduce transaction costs,” she explained. Robin believes the world is moving from old capitalist economy to collaborative economies because shared networks and open assets deliver greater value than closed ones. “More networked minds are equally always smarter that the few people a company has no matter how many smart individuals it employs.” Meanwhile, in his concluding speech, HE Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, said the 12th edition of the World Forum for FDI ended after three successful days of diverse discussions, fruitful meetings, networking opportunities, and cross-border communication between the East and West. Al Sarkal said the conference was supported by HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, whose vision has quickly established Sharjah as a world-class business destination and a sought-after location for foreign direct investments due to its integrated environment and well-developed industrial cities and free zones. The UAE also, added Al Sarkal, stands high amidst challenges of the decline in oil prices, global turbulence, wars and currency fluctuations, drops in the Euro against the Swiss Franc and the US Dollar. It continuously looks for new initiatives, new incentives, and new innovations and develops legislation to attract FDIs. The theme of the forum Where East Meets West will also continue in Shurooq’s future plans and strategies. “We will continue to encourage FDI investments by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract them to Sharjah and will continue looking at mutually beneficial ventures and global partnerships as prime issues in a world that will always remain in need for multicultural communication, integration, and coherence.” Organised by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) this international economic forum comes in implementation of the visions and directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, in hosting the international events and highlighting the emirate’s business potentials regionally and internationally. The forum is being organised under direct follow up of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq. Organising the WORLD FORUM for Foreign Direct Investment in Sharjah in 2015, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time, marks another prestigious milestone for the Emirate. In previous years the world’s leading FDI platform has been held in prime locations including Amsterdam, Brussels, London, Valencia, Bologna, Vilnius, Tallinn, Shanghai, and Philadelphia. The 2015 World Forum for FDI was sponsored by Shurooq – the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Host Sponsor); the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF-Zone), Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA), and the Department of Seaports and Customs - Government of Sharjah (Titanium Sponsors); the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Tilal Properties, and Gulftainer (Gold Sponsors); AIM the Annual Investment Meeting (Supporting Partner); Emirates Transport (Official Transport Sponsor); CNBC Arabia, (Official Business Broadcaster); Bloomberg Businessweek (Official Business Magazine); Sharjah Media Centre, Emirates Neon Group (Outdoor Media Partner(.