Imagining a Skills Policy for the GCC

Imagining a Skills Policy for the GCC

In order to keep up with the workforce needs of the time, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations need an interdisciplinary skills policy to mobilize and deploy skills throughout the ecosystem. The skills policy needs to be interdisciplinary in terms of covering requirements, activities, responsibilities and professional tools shared by varied stakeholders, public sector agencies, the private sector, academia and small businesses.

The challenges of a pragmatic skills policy for the requirements of the GCC can only evolve through several stakeholders collaborating across multiple sectors and public administration layers. Thus, in that sense, the skills policy will effectively be far more than a simple and direct educational policy. The strategy should contain elements of key work trends across GCC societies that constitute important factors for the creation of the policy framework.

The jobs of today require far greater levels of competence than generally required in the past (Welsh Government, February 2017). To meet the challenge, there is the need for apprenticeships to integrate more widely and effectively into the GCC educational system and its larger economic fabric. This means that stronger co-operation and collaboration between academic and vocational education programs are required to facilitate high quality work or employment opportunities within domestic communities.

For instance, in many countries in European Union (EU), there are coordinated Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems (Irish Congress of Trade Unions). It has worked credibly well across several parts of the EU economy and the societies that the coordinated approach is the major reason why several countries (like Germany) have historically tackled the phenomenon of NEETS (i.e., young people ‘not in employment education or training’) well (Ibid.). Borrowing from the approach, the GCC should also put into place programs that will ensure that training people for work or jobs that will start coming into existence becomes the norm.

A starting point would be to have a comprehensive study that identifies emerging skills at multiple levels across educational and skill levels. Different cohorts of workers in the GCC may experience varied levels of under-skilling, with deeper country-specific nuances operational too. Thus, GCC education and training policies should consistently continue to deliver attention to low and middle skilled individuals to offer them required training options. This includes relevant VET courses too. The overwhelming benefit of having such a centralized view of the GCC skills economy is that competing skills initiatives will not vie for similar or the same set of workers.

Moreover, like in other parts of the world, the variation of under-skilling across sectors needs the potential intervention of informed policy makers (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). Essentially, higher levels of under-skilling in highly skills-based or sensitive professions, like health or medicine studies, need education providers to ensure that workers’ skills remain up-to-date while employers too have to remain vigilant to the need of providing greater or continuing vocational training.

Credible projections of future skills shortages will help in the development of a coherent skills policy and help evaluate training and qualification issues in concert with various international skills experiences and lessons (or insights). Employers should be provided with new and innovative opportunities to ratchet up key skills and critical productivity levels through availing the support of strategic bodies tasked with identifying skills and productivity requirements of major economic sectors. This will galvanize action to prioritize and tackle issues.

Policy makers will have to strategically support the effective functioning of sector workforce markets by developing occupational standards and continuous learning requirements (or qualifications) for meeting evolving sector needs. The delivery of the designed skills policy should provide the necessary leadership in meeting the minimum functional standards in return for considerable enhancements in sector skills and productivity levels.

To start with, the GCC should prioritize basic skills as the first rung of the learning pyramid (HM Treasury, U.K.). Basic skills programing into the economic fabric must be viewed or prioritized as the first essential step towards acquiring advanced skills if GCC productivity is to be noticeably improved. A higher skills equilibrium can be made to fruition only by first targeting those with patently low skill levels, as these individuals are most likely to be deleteriously affected by several market failures plaguing the GCC work environment.

The steady supply of skilled and resourceful workers to GCC firms is important towards cementing success in economic diversification and long-term sustainability initiatives. Dependable skills are a reliable route to a more stable and satisfying employment, better salaries, and long-term sustainable prosperity, which also boost personal development and confidence. The GCC can no longer afford to neglect the skilling and development of its workforce, especially for those who inhabit the lower layers of the skills pyramid.

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