Internships should be mandatory for students in the Middle East in order to equip them with skills for jobs of the future, according to the CEO of Siemens Middle East and UAE.
Speaking to Arabian Business, following the release of Siemen’s annual Business to Society report, Dietmar Siersdorfer said the Germany-based conglomerate has a difficult time attracting university students to undergo internships.
“We have a hard time getting interns from universities. I understand that students want to have balance between breaks and work they’re performing, but we accept interns all year," Siersdorfer said.
"Students must be aware that they need to have practical experience. They need to be prepared for the job market after graduation. They need to sacrifice some of their time if they want to be equipped with skills for jobs of the future.”
Siersdorfer added that internships are mandatory in countries such as Germany, where the work experience helps students land jobs following graduation. The chief executive said he himself had been hired for a job following a compulsory three month internship.
He urged Middle East businesses and academic institutions to work together to boost internships.
“The region’s public and private sector need to work closer together to encourage internships. If internships are not mandatory, students are unlikely to go for them,” he said.
The Business to Society report touched on a $100 million software grant donated by Siemens to five UAE universities in a bid to prepare students for employment.
“Siemens wants to help train and skill students through the software grant. When students conduct projects at universities using the software, they can come into a company like Siemens prepared," Siersdorfer said.
"We want to give students a chance to be prepared for the job market, so that they can later be employed. Looking into engineering and how the world is changing, we see a rapid change in the use of software,” he said.
Siersdorfer stressed that the private sector is responsible not only for preparing the youth for employment, but also for providing them with opportunities.
“Let’s say this in a polite way, this cannot be done enough. Everybody should think of what can be done to prepare students for the job market and then offer them opportunities. It’s everybody’s responsibility. Both the public and private sectors have to play a role in providing job opportunities to the youth. The UAE and especially Sheikh Mohammed are encouraging more Emiratis to seek opportunities in the private sector,” he said.
The CEO said the UAE’s ministry of higher education is aware of the skills gap and has set targets to bridge the gap, having formed a committee dedicated to helping prepare students in the UAE for employment.
“They see this as a challenge and are working on it. They just need time. You can’t turn a switch and the next moment find that people are in better shape,” he said.
Siemens has donated a total of $300m in software grants to universities in the Middle East in 2018. The company directly employs 2,700 people and an additional 16,200 jobs across the UAE economy as it works with more than 800 SMEs.
Today, Siemens’ technologies enable the delivery of 75% of the UAE’s daily water supply, and represent more than 40% of overall power generation capacity. They also facilitate 50% of operations in the firm’s aluminium and steel sectors.
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