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23 April 2019

Public Administration Forum 2019: The Way to the Future Starts with Self-Development, Centres around Lifelong Learning

The way towards the future begins with self-development for individuals and centres around lifelong learning, asserted expert speakers at the third annual Public Administration Forum, held in Dubai on April 23, 2019, under the theme “Capacity Building for Future Readiness”.

Organised by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) – the first research and teaching institution focusing on governance and public policy in the Arab world – the Forum was held under the patronage and in the presence of His Excellency Dr Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Cabinet Member, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, Chairman of the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR); MBRSG’s Executive President H.E. Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri; H.E. Dr Sulaiman Alkaabi, CEO of the Foresight Foundation – Abu Dhabi; H.E. Dr Yasser Al-Naqbi, Assistant Director-General for Government Leadership and Capacity at the Prime Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future; and Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA); along with a number of officials from various federal, government, and private entities in the UAE.

Discussions explored the prospects of building capacities among government employees, promoting scientific principles, future foresight, creativity, change management, excellence, and finding innovative solutions for future challenges. The experts went on to assert that the UAE consistently invests in its human capital, equips them to handle all future developments, and establishes an environment that empowers individuals to take the lead and move confidently towards the future. 

The speakers called on qualified nationals to embrace lifelong learning, invest in themselves, and take advantage of development opportunities, programmes, and activities that help them develop and sharpen the advanced skills needed to remain on top of the transformations sweeping across the labour market, especially in light of global statistics that predict drastic shifts in the labour market. 

In his opening remarks, H.E. Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi noted that the UAE leadership prioritises capacity building and future-readiness as an essential catalyst for development and a means to achieve the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Centennial 2071 Plan, which aspires to establish the UAE as the best country in the world across all sectors. 

“Future-readiness and taking on the challenges of the future ultimately boils down to three factors,” H.E. Al Falasi said. “First, it is an individual decision that reflects a person’s commitment to developing their skills and building their own future. Second, individuals must hone their advanced skills and embrace a lifelong learning approach, and third, there needs to be a positive and stimulating work environment that encourages employees to keep moving forward.” 

“The UAE is spearheading a transformation in the fundamentals of traditional government work processes and promoting excellence-based performance. The government has taken concrete steps to train the national workforce and equip future generations with advanced scientific and professional abilities, empowering them to transform challenges into opportunities and enhance the UAE’s competitiveness for the future, as the country prepares to export its last barrel of oil,” H.E. added. 

H.E. Al Falasi highlighted the role that the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources plays in building capacities and ensuring future-readiness. The Authority has launched a number of initiatives and programmes targeting employees at Ministries and Federal Government entities in the UAE; these include the Federal Government Preferred Training Partners Initiative (“Maaref”), which has so far trained 27,000 employees. Furthermore, the FAHR has launched 11 initiatives to promote corporate-culture principles and create a stimulating work environment, in addition to smart solutions, such as the e-Learning and Development Initiative, and the e-Knowledge Portal on the FAHR smart application, which allows employees to register in various training programmes.

In his keynote speech titled “Remaining Competitive”, H.E. Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri asserted that the world is moving towards the future at an accelerated pace. “We are on the cusp of a new era of rapid transformations across all sectors,” H.E. said. “Everyone must be prepared for these changes and ready for the future. Future-readiness is dependent on a sound understanding of the challenges of the future – at an individual and an organisational level – before we can begin building the right competencies to meet the needs of the future.”

“We are now living in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with all the novelties it brings, most notable of which are such advanced technologies as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and robotics, among others,” H.E. Al Marri continued. “Modern technology is evolving faster than people’s capacity to keep up, which compels us to expedite our development efforts. As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, said, ‘Fast-paced times compel us to take initiative.’”

H.E. Al Marri noted that the UAE Government has launched several initiatives and programmes to train employees and help them develop the future skills the UAE will need to drive its development projects and lead the world in all sectors. “Five years from now, if employees want to keep up with the rapid developments constantly transforming government work in the UAE, it would be imperative for them to seek learning and training opportunities,” H.E. explained. “Employees gain 70% of their skills from the workplace, while academia only helps them learn 30% of what they need to know. With that in mind, it is imperative that we play an effective role in the UAE’s efforts to forecast and build a bright future for UAE citizens.”

In a discussion titled “This Is Me”, Dr Abdulla Al Karam noted that efforts are underway to implement the directives of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the 50-Year Charter, which call for developing a Central e-Learning Record for each citizen from birth and that continues with him throughout their lives, documenting all the certificates they earn, the lessons they learn, and the courses and conferences they attend. This is key for creating an environment that nurtures human talent, and paves the way for tapping into the expertise, knowledge, and skills of each individual, according to their field of specialisation. 

“This, in turn, helps outline a map of human resources and talents in the UAE to harness their tremendous collective skills in vital sectors, and build on them to drive development and the national economy,” Dr Al Karam said, urging talented nationals to invest in themselves and develop their abilities to keep up with future developments. “Individuals must develop advanced skills that they can use to improve themselves and play a role in implementing strategic plans in both the government and the private sector,” he concluded.

In a panel discussion titled “Jobs and Skills of the Future”, H.E. Dr Sulaiman Alkaabi said: “The world is moving towards a complete transformation in the employment map; as many as 45% of current tasks in the Middle East can be automated, leading to job losses in the millions. The UAE is working to keep up with global technological developments – particularly, artificial intelligence – all while preserving the human role in this development, creating new jobs, and helping employees develop the skills of the future. This is the reality we must all recognise and begin studying and training accordingly – starting from now.”

H.E. Dr Alkaabi added that those with high school diplomas or less are 50% more likely to lose their job in the future; that likelihood is only 20% for those with university degrees. It is therefore necessary to study, adopt a lifelong learning approach, and seek to acquire the skills of the future. H.E. went on to outline the most important areas of specialisation for the future, namely, mathematics, quantum computing, science, artificial intelligence, and programming.

In a lecture entitled “Future Leaders”, H.E. Dr Yasser Al-Naqbi said that the world has become fast-paced, complex, and unclear, making it necessary to find solutions to a wide range of challenges and manage their effects in all sectors. “This begins with a leadership that can develop a consistently clear vision for the future and that boasts a great ability to make decisions,” H.E. asserted.

“The UAE leadership’s journey began with the Founding Fathers and the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had incredible foresight into the future and its requirements. Sheikh Zayed believed that people are the true wealth and the catalysts of development in all sectors. Our leadership today continues in their footsteps and is committed to train and empower the generations of the future,” H.E. added, asserting that the UAE looks forward to achieving excellence by launching the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Centennial 2071 Plan, which seek to place the UAE ahead of the world across all sectors. 

“This makes it essential to train leaders who can make sound decisions and implement ambitious plans according to set timelines,” H.E. Al-Naqbi explained, pointing to the UAE Government’s launch of the UAE Model for Government Leadership last year to develop human resources in the government and private sectors. 

H.E. asserted that leadership relies on three pillars, namely, a leadership spirit, a future-focused outlook, and achievement and influence. “Each individual must acquire the skills of the future, most notably management skills,” H.E. Al-Naqbi concluded. “They must also be role models, embody the UAE’s values and principles of tolerance and co-existence, and be open to the world and make positive contributions to their environment, society, and country. These qualities are what makes the leader of the future.”

The first panel discussion, entitled “Capacity Building for Future Readiness” and moderated by H.E. Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, urged individuals to make use of training and development platforms in both private and public sectors to learn new skills. They called on individuals to look towards the future, noting that some of the skills we acquire today may seem of limited benefit, but in the next few years could become essential in light of new technologies. 

The second session, titled “Future Skills Gap” and moderated by media anchor Mohammed AlKaabi, brought together members of MBRSG’s Leaders Club and Youth Councils, who stressed that bridging the future skills gap is a responsibility shared by individuals and organisations. Individuals must strive to acquire the necessary skills of the future in all sectors, while organisations should adopt innovative policies that take into account the tremendous technological development around the world.
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