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Wed 29 Jan 2020 05:27 PM

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Turning possibilities into realities for students - why we are all responsible for shaping our future workforce

Nineteen contributors, from the UAE and beyond, share their experiences, insights and practical advice to help young people navigate change

Turning possibilities into realities for students - why we are all responsible for shaping our future workforce

One of the most common concerns I hear from clients is that finding and retaining ‘good’ young talent is hard. Finding fresh graduates who are able to handle the technical requirements of the job isn’t as difficult as bringing young people into the workforce who are able to smoothly transition from education to work. People who can communicate effectively, possess self-awareness, common sense and know how to approach challenges. It’s very easy to criticise young people and often even easier to forget that many of these skills are lacking among the more experienced of us. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard something along the lines of, “Well, in my day…” But we live in different times. Students in the UAE aren’t as likely to have part time jobs while they’re still in full-time education (where many of us gained foundational workplace skills). Work experience may happen on a sporadic basis, but often lacks structure and isn’t mandatory. 

For many young people, they simply haven’t had any insight into the world of work until they formally start their career. By then, we think it’s too late. Years of experience working with ‘grown ups’ tells me that soft skills are harder to learn the older you get. Particularly because it involves undoing lots of bad habits and learned behaviours. And yet is the business community willing to invest in young talent? 

To give time and resource to work experience placements and in-school training to help prepare younger students, in order to give back to the communities in which they operate? We’re missing an opportunity to help the next generation workforce to develop and reach its potential. 

This is why, with the help of many amazing people, we’ve produced ‘The Possibilities Project: A young person’s guide to career success’. 

Nineteen contributors, from the UAE and beyond, share their experiences, insights and practical advice to help young people navigate change, make decisions and prepare to embark on their career journey. The book comprises many different perspectives and addresses topics including communication, presentation skills, online safety, recruitment, networking, entrepreneurship, resilience and navigating change/dealing with adversity.The focus is very much on soft skills development – the things students are less likely to learn at school/university. 

Our contributors range from business leaders, entrepreneurs and journalists, to communications specialists, philanthropists and visionaries. From HE Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, and Amna Al Haddad, the first Hijabi Emirati Olympic weightlifter, to Ziauddin Yousafzai, the Malala Fund – we’re honoured that they’ve shared their experiences, failures and learnings. 

There is only so much schools/universities can do in order to prepare students for work. It takes a village – education institutions, students, parents/families and the business ecosystem all have a role to play. 

It also takes a village to produce a book in four months – but we did it. Not just with the help of the contributors, but also the corporate partners who supported us financially. It’s because of their commitment that we are able to offer this book to students across the UAE, for free.

We produced The Possibilities Project for young people, but the themes, advice and messages are relevant to all of us – whatever our age or career stage. Lifelong learning – one of the topics in the book – is the only way we can continue to grow and do better. We should never fall into the trap of thinking we know it all, but we should also realise what we know may just be useful to young people starting out. We have an obligation to help the next generation turn possibilities into realities. 

The Possibilities Project is launching on 8th February at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. For more information on the launch, as well as how you can get involved, click here

* Dawn Metcalfe, Workplace Culture Advisor, Managing Director, Author of ‘The Possibilities Project: A young person’s guide to career success’