By Aaron Greenwood
The demand for professional training courses catering to the audio engineering, event management and live production sectors is booming in the UAE. S&S checks in with the country’s top training providers about their plans for 2010.
The demand for professional training courses catering to the audio engineering, event management and live production sectors is booming in the UAE.
checks in with the country’s top training providers about their plans for 2010.
With the UAE consolidating its reputation as the number one country in the region specialising in media production, it is little wonder that some of the world’s leading specialised training services providers have set up shop in the emirates.
One of the best-known independent training service providers is the SAE Institute. Hailing originally from Sydney, Australia, SAE operates campuses in Dubai’s Knowledge Village precinct and in Amman, Jordan.
The institute has been one of the key organisations working to improve professional standards in the regional pro audio and live events production industries, providing a range of courses catering to specific sectors of the market.
“At the moment our focus is on ensuring our students learn multiple disciplines relating to their chosen vocation, whether it is audio engineering or multimedia production,” says Giorgio Ungania, SAE’s head of commercial services, who is based in Dubai.
“We have been surprised by the sheer volume of demand for our pro audio engineering training programmes. We are looking to create one-year courses that have a variety of components. We have all the expertise in technology.”
Ungania claims this noticeable upswing in interest has come from young Arabs keen to pursue careers in audio production.
“The numbers of Arab nationals who are both interested in studying this field and who can also afford to enroll in the courses has increased dramatically,” he says. “We haven’t really seen a drop off in enrolments even despite the impact of the recession.
“We’ve also seen a number of working professionals contact us about our short-term training courses. It’s an industry where the rate of technological change means you have to constantly review your skills.”
In regards to young Emiratis enrolled in SAE’s training schemes, SAE Dubai’s head of marketing and strategic alliances, Anthony Frantzis, places the figure at around 10 percent of the total student body. But he claims this figure does not reflect the sheer number of graduates who stay on working in the industry in the UAE after graduating.
“A large number of our graduates remain based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi because they are recognised regional production centres,” he says.
“Some of our graduates also continue their studies abroad. We offer post-graduate degrees in the UK and Australia.
“We work quite extensively with the industry. Part of our commitment as an international school is to partner where possible with regional organisations.
“As a result, many of our courses are developed in collaboration with industry leaders, so what we present to students is in fact timely and relevant. Having said that, we also have to bow to other masters [the accrediting bodies in each market].
“In Australia, for example, the Department of Education has accredited our film and audio curriculums in accordance with the various state-based higher education requirements. We’ve always been well-known for our vocational training capabilities, but we’ve now gone up another level as a higher education training provider, as opposed to our objectives-based training, which is vocationally-orientated.”
SAE’s emerging rival in the UAE training services sector is EMDI Institute, which specialises in live event production courses.
EMDI’s founder and director of international operations, Nowshir Engineer, claims the organisation hasn’t been adversely impacted by the recession.
“During late-August and early-September, we saw a huge upsurge in enrolments,” he says. “The onset of the annual winter events season usually results in a rise in enrolments. I’d say our numbers will be as good in 2010 as last year, if not better.”
Engineer attributes EMDI’s success to the partnerships it has forged with leading industry stakeholders, which guarantees its students gain access to practical and relevant on-the-job training.
“Our relationship with companies is built on the fact that we might hold 150 sessions per year taught by key stakeholders,” he says. “Whenever these stakeholders stage an event, our students are able to work with them as interns and trainees.”
He does admit the institute struggled in 2009 to find full-time placements for its best students compared to previous years.
“Typically, around 80% of our graduates find full-time employment in the event sector straight out of training. However, last year with the downturn it was probably more like 45%,” he concedes.
“If we work with 80 companies in any given year, we figure each of those companies will recruit at least one person from each graduating class, depending on their individual requirements.
“Placement is something we look at if required, when required. The problem that we are finding at the moment is not that there aren’t any jobs; it’s that wages have come down to a level that many graduates aren’t interested in working for.
“If they’re already employed in another profession, they’re not willing to pursue their new career at this point.”
The latest player to enter the sector is Abu Dhabi’s content creation precinct, twofour54, which launched its tadreeb training academy in 2009. While the academy has primarily focused on vocational training for existing media professionals, it plans to expand its range of technical training courses this year to include audio engineering and other related media production sectors.
“The key issue restricting the growth of the Middle East content production sector is the lack of professional training,” says Tony Orsten, CEO of twofour54. “We need to provide individuals with the skill sets to match their creative aspirations.”
Orsten says the academy aims to attract more than 3,000 students within its first two years of operation, a large number of whom he expects to travel to Abu Dhabi from across the region.
“We have students from right across the Middle East and North Africa – everywhere from Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait to Sudan and Morocco,” he explains.
“This diversity highlights the need [for training services] throughout the regional media sector. Through tadreeb, we are taking major steps forward in developing the Arabic content creation talent pool across the MENA region.”
Orsten says the academy was consulting with various regional stakeholders before rushing to create new training programmes.
“Rather than running standard courses and trying to fit people in, we are going to do it the other way around,” he says.
“We will discover what professionals need to cover their academic and vocational requirements by going to companies and asking them: ‘What would you like or require your staff to learn?’”
twofour54 tadreeb has enlisted the cooperation of some of the world’s largest media companies to assist in developing and conducting the training programmes, including the BBC, Thomson Foundation and Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Long-term, the tadreeb academy will develop training programmes for Arab nationals looking to pursue careers in media production. Orsten says twofour54 is aiming to provide these graduates with a career path working within the media production precinct in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s all very well and good turning out tremendous numbers of young professionals but if they don’t have jobs at the end of their training then it’s an opportunity wasted,” he concludes.