Grassroot approach required for creating GCC digital skills

By Arun Shankar   13 February, 2018
Grassroot approach required for creating GCC digital skills

Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn Talent Solutions, Emerging Markets, Middle East and North Africa.

According to LinkedIn’s Industry Talent Report from September 2017, employment of information technology and services industry professionals in the United Arab Emirates grew by 9.6% over the past year, with most professionals taking the leap into this industry from sectors such as banking, telecommunications and retail.

While the report says 4,000+ recent graduates are currently employed in UAE’s IT industry, it also throws light on the most sought-after skills that employers are looking for in candidates. Management, which also includes team and business management ranks on the top, followed by project management and team leadership skills.

While there has been much speculation surrounding the challenges of attracting and retaining great talent in the world of IT and technology, 61% of professionals, rank compensation and benefits from the company as the biggest reason, why they move within the IT world or new candidates look for in a job in this sector. This is followed by the need for a good work-life balance 52%, strong career path 51%, job security 43% and companies with a long-term strategic vision.

The MENA region is moving in the right digital direction, where demand for the latest and most emerging technologies like Blockchain will continue to reflect the profound changes the IT markets are experiencing.

According to research carried out by LinkedIn and Strategy&, currently digital jobs account for only 1.7% of the total GCC workforce, compared to 5.4% of the total EU’s workforce being employed in similar roles. In fact, GCC nationals are mostly employed in sectors at risk of disruption by new digital technologies.

Only one of the ten skills that GCC digital professionals cited matched the fastest-growing skills globally on the LinkedIn platform. Although there is a regional trend towards more technical skills, these remain scarce for emerging technologies such as big data and analytics.

The skills showing the highest growth among GCC digital professionals are focused on technology sales and distribution, whereas globally the most rapidly growing skills relate to product development. Such a mismatch between the regional digital job environment and that of our global peers has its roots in an underdeveloped digital job market.

The GCC digital job market faces challenges on both the supply and demand sides. From a supply perspective, the GCC education system does not keep up with technological changes or provide the adequate level of information, communication, and technology ICT education.

In fact, 93% of the region’s digital professionals on LinkedIn completed their university education abroad. Also, the professional development environment is inadequate. Due to the limited awareness of what digital careers offer, young students are reluctant to study in this field – GCC nationals tending to prefer more stable jobs in traditional sectors.

In terms of demand, there are low levels of digitisation in the region – for example, only 18% of companies use cloud computing – which restricts employment opportunities for digital professionals locally. The GCC’s ICT industry itself is also underdeveloped and focuses on technology consumption rather than production.

In order to create a skilled workforce, GCC countries will need to focus their efforts on building digital capabilities within academia by emphasising a science, technology, engineering and mathematics approach in schools and training teachers to use more digital tools in delivering their curriculum.

To increase the demand for these jobs, GCC countries should push for greater digitisation, the aim being to drive organisations to leverage more emerging technologies and adopt digital strategies to transform their business models.

While there is a significant mismatch between the fastest growing job skills globally and in GCC, a corrective approach starts inside the education sector, writes Ali Matar at LinkedIn Talent Solutions.

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