Final nqa report employment decisions fdc project

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Final nqa report employment decisions fdc project

  1. 1. A project funded by the: EMPLOYMENT DECISIONS Empowering students and employers to make employment decisions that help to drive a competitive and sustainable workforce in the UAE
  2. 2. 2 The National Qualifications Authority (NQA) was established in 2010 to coordinate with related entities the establishment and implementation of an internationally-recognised education and training system for the UAE, which includes a national qualifications framework. This framework (known as the QFEmirates) is a singular integrated structure covering qualifications for general education (G12), vocational education, higher education, work-based training, and professional education and training. The Authority is also leading the development of quality assurance processes for higher, general and vocational training. These roles aim to deliver outcomes that assist the UAE to keep pace with scientific and technological progress and meet the country’s economic and social development needs. For further information about the NQA, go to www.nqa.gov.ae. The National Qualifications Authority (NQA) acknowledges the important contribution of students, employers and industry representatives who participated in this project and the funding support from the Federal Demographic Council. No part of this report may be adapted or modified, in any form or medium, whether by electronic transmission or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the National Qualifications Authority. While all care has been taken in preparing this report, the Authority disclaims any liability for any damage from the use of the material contained in this publication and will not be responsible for any loss, howsoever arising from use, of or reliance on this material. Refer all correspondence to: Research and Development Department National Qualifications Authority Email: sandra.haukka@nqa.gov.ae Phone: +971 (0)2 815 6622 Address: P.O. Box 63003, Abu Dhabi, UAE Web: www.nqa.gov.ae © National Qualifications Authority (NQA) March 2013 Front cover photo by iTami http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamyo0/6779439014/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  3. 3. 3 Table of contents 1. Extended executive summary 5 1.1 Project purpose 5 1.2 Project approach 6 1.3 Key findings from literature review 7 1.4 Key findings from employer data 8 1.5 Key findings from secondary school data 9 1.6 Key findings from higher education data 11 1.7 Main implications 12 1.8 Further research 16 1.9 Chapter summary 20 2. Project background 21 2.1 A world-class education and training system for the UAE 21 2.2 Challenges to building a highly skilled workforce 22 2.3 A national qualifications framework for the UAE 23 2.4 Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook 25 2.5 Project purpose 25 2.6 Chapter summary 26 3. Project approach 27 3.1 Phases and activities 27 3.2 Literature review 28 3.3 Analytical framework 28 3.4 Data collection 28 3.5 Sampling 29 3.6 Ethics requirements 31 3.7 Data analysis 31 3.8 Limitations 32 3.9 Employer guide 32 3.10 Chapter summary 32 4. Literature review 35 4.1 Employment indicators and trends 35 4.2 Education pathways and challenges 40 4.3 Qualifications frameworks worldwide 46 4.4 Chapter summary 49
  4. 4. 4 5. Perspectives of employers 51 5.1 Survey participants 51 5.2 Jobs and employability indicators of the QFEmirates 53 5.3 CoreLife Skills 59 5.4 Recruitment of graduates 62 5.5 Hiring intentions of employers 70 5.6 Organisational factors 73 5.7 General comments 75 5.8 Chapter summary 77 6. Perspectives of secondary school students 79 6.1 Survey participants 79 6.2 Study decisions and intentions 80 6.3 Careers advice 92 6.4 Preferred job and industry sector of employment 98 6.5 Chapter summary 105 7. Perspectives of higher education students 107 7.1 Survey participants 107 7.2 Study decisions and intentions 109 7.3 Preparation for study 113 7.4 Careers advice 117 7.5 Preferred job and industry sector of employment 123 7.6 CoreLife Skills 130 7.7 Chapter messages 132 8. Implications and further research 135 8.1 Introduction 135 8.2 Qualifications and jobs 136 8.3 Importance of vocational education and training 139 8.4 Career aspirations of students 143 8.5 CoreLife Skills 148 8.6 Employer recruitment practices and hiring intentions 152 8.7 Occupational information guide for employers 157 8.8 Further research 160 8.9 Chapter summary 164 9. Appendices 165
  5. 5. 5 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary To build a highly skilled workforce, the UAE must have a world-class education and training system that understands the needs of the labour market. 1. Extended executive summary This chapter summarises the project’s background, approach, key findings, implications and ideas for further research presented in different chapters of this report. 1.1 PROJECT PURPOSE The UAE increasingly requires a highly skilled, qualified and adaptable workforce to secure the international and regional competitiveness of the UAE economy. To build such a workforce the UAE needs a world-class responsive education and training system and a supporting national qualifications framework that improves the quality of qualifications awarded in the country. The system should create harmony between itself and the requirements of the labour market. The origin of this project arose from the work underway from 2007 to 2011 to develop a unique national qualifications framework for the UAE based on the knowledge of a strong international trend towards the development and use of qualifications frameworks. The culmination of this work came when the Board of the National Qualifications Authority (NQA) approved the Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook on 20 February 2012. This Handbook sets out a 10-level national qualifications framework for the UAE, known as the QFEmirates. The Framework is a singular, coherent and integrated qualifications framework covering the higher education, vocational education and training (VET) and general education sectors. It signifies a new order in the way qualifications are developed, approved and aligned to employment. The Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook provides “detailed information about the architecture of qualifications in the UAE and also defines the requirements that will enable UAE qualifications to be compared with and valued alongside foreign qualifications” (NQA, 2012)1. This public national document formally articulates the relationship between a qualification and an occupational requirement. Due to the highly technical nature of the Handbook and to give credence to the QFEmirates, the Federal Demographic Council (FDC) commissioned the National Qualifications Authority to undertake a research project that would: 1 National Qualifications Authority (2012). Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook. Retrieved November 20, 2012, from http://www.nqa.gov.ae/pdf/QF%20Handbook_v1b_28_Feb_2012.pdf, p. 3
  6. 6. 6 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary When recruiting employees, the QFEmirates Handbook will help employers match their workplace needs to the qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience of an applicant.  provide employers with real tangible and concrete information that can help them to use the Handbook as a resource to recruit employees with the qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience that match their workplace needs and align with the QFEmirates  provide students with real tangible and concrete information that can help them to better prepare for entry into the workforce. Therefore, this research project has endeavoured to identify:  the extent to which employers understand the link between qualifications and occupational requirements of jobs  the level of awareness among employers and students of the importance of vocational education and training  employer and student views on generic (CoreLife) skills i.e. skills that underpin work and the ability of learners to learn throughout their lives (i.e. lifelong learning)  employer recruitment practices as well as their hiring intentions over the next two years  career aspirations of students and the support they need to help them achieve these aspirations, which includes gaining a good understanding of the UAE labour market in order to make well-informed study and career decisions  appropriate content for an occupational information guide for employers in the UAE, which is a QFEmirates reference document that aims to help employers to match qualifications with occupational requirements when recruiting employees. The rest of this chapter summarises the project’s approach (Chapter 3), key findings from the literature review and employer and student surveys (Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7), and implications and ideas for further research (Chapter 8). 1.2 PROJECT APPROACH  The research project involved three phases undertaken over a 17-month period:  Phase 1: Project planning, literature review and survey planning  Phase 2: Sampling strategy, survey design and survey administration  Phase 3: Final reporting and employer guide  The literature review focussed on employment indicators and trends in the UAE, education pathways and challenges, and qualifications frameworks worldwide.  The analytical framework consists of three integrated elements – research questions and hypotheses, data collection methods, and data analysis procedures.
  7. 7. 7 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary Expected job growth and salary rises may attract more UAE Nationals to the private sector and thereby improve the country’s nationalisation rate.  A series of research questions sought to find out:  from employers – their knowledge of job requirements related to the QFEmirates, recruitment practices, hiring intentions over the next two years, and views about generic (CoreLife) skills  from students – their intentions after finishing school (secondary school students only), study decisions, preparation for study, access to careers advice, career intentions, knowledge of their preferred job and industry sector of employment, and views about generic (CoreLife) skills (higher education students only).  Data collection involved four online surveys – employer survey, secondary school survey, higher education survey, and industry validation survey. Researchers followed ethics procedures to collect the data.  The sampling strategy involved a mix of stratified sampling and convenience sampling.  Data analysis involved descriptive analysis – frequencies, cross tabulations and the Chi- square test for independence.  The main project limitation related to survey returns – insufficient returns from employers (only 83 returns), insufficient returns from some Emirates (all surveys), and gender imbalance of returns from secondary school students (males accounted for 86% of returns). 1.3 KEY FINDINGS FROM LITERATURE REVIEW Key findings emerging from the literature review are as follows:  The UAE continues to face the employment challenges of a heavy reliance on non- nationals to meet workforce needs, a large proportion of UAE Nationals working in the public sector, high rates of unemployment among recent graduates, and low nationalisation levels in the private sector. According to GulfTalent.com (2012), UAE Nationals accounted for 7% of total private sector employment in 2011 – the second lowest nationalisation rate in the Gulf region.  Recruitment and salary data from GulfTalent.com (2012) indicates that the UAE is continuing to experience increases in job creation and salary rises, GulfTalent.com predicts that 51% of employers will create new jobs and salaries will rise by 4.9% in 2012. Dubai’s share of regional recruitment activity is increasing after two years of slowdown.  Data on hiring expectations of employers who responded to the 2012 Middle East Jobs Index Survey (JI) was positive, with 72% indicating they would be ‘definitely hiring/probably hiring’ over the next three (3) months. Employers indicated a preference for:  Engineering, Business Management and Commerce graduates  candidates with team skills, communication skills and leadership skills
  8. 8. 8 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary UAE’s national qualifications framework, the QFEmirates, will enhance the international attractiveness of the skills in the country.  managers who are able to manage a team as opposed to candidates with very senior level experience.  Employers regarded Banking/Finance, Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals and Telecommunications as the most attractive industries to top talent, and Medical/Health Sciences as the least attractive industry to top talent.  There are ongoing concerns about UAE’s education system, in particular the quality of primary and second education systems not matching international standards; a large number of students failing to complete high school and make a successful transition to postsecondary education; and graduates not meeting employers’ standards in a variety of academic areas. Low performance of students is also evident at the university level.  Although many of the private schools and most universities offer career guidance to their students, young people in public schools rely heavily on their families or an interested teacher. It is not known to what extent the establishment of the National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia) in 1999 has addressed the lack and/or quality of career guidance in public schools.  Many countries have introduced or are developing national qualifications frameworks as a lead mechanism to reform their education and training systems and enhance international attractiveness of available skills in their country. The UAE has established a 10-level national qualifications framework known as the QFEmirates - a singular, coherent and integrated qualifications framework covering the higher education, vocational education and training (VET) and general education sectors. 1.4 KEY FINDINGS FROM EMPLOYER DATA Key findings emerging from the analysis of employer data are as follows:  There were variations in participants’ level of understanding of qualification, knowledge, skills and experience (KSE) requirements associated with particular jobs, which have affected their level of understanding of the employability indicators in the QFEmirates. Most participants had a good level of understanding of function verbs associated with particular jobs.  In terms of qualifications, participants generally had a good understanding of occupations at the para-professional level and above that require a qualification at Diploma/Associate degree level and above. They had a lower level of understanding of occupations that require a qualification at Certificate 4 level or below.  Participants indicated all CoreLife Skills were important to their organisation, particularly teamwork skills, communication skills, and initiating and organising skills. They were generally satisfied with graduates’ level of CoreLife Skills, particularly graduates’ ICT skills and teamwork skills. However, participants were least satisfied with graduates’ initiating and organising skills.
  9. 9. 9 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary When recruiting graduates, employers overwhelming want graduates with a Bachelor degree or higher.  When recruiting graduates, participants placed particular importance on graduates having formal qualifications (72% of all participants), work experience (59%) and CoreLife Skills (57%).  Participants preferred graduates with Bachelor degree qualifications (81%), perhaps as a way to filter applicants. Participants were more likely to indicate that post-graduate qualifications (Masters degree and Graduate Diploma) were more relevant than qualifications at the Diploma/Associate degree level or lower, particularly Certificate qualifications.  Participants indicated their organisations use a range of methods to recruit graduates, in particular advertising positions on their website (67% of all participants), word of mouth (57%) and through educational institutions (53%).  There is a need for greater promotional and brand awareness of Tanmia given that 40% of participants indicated they were not aware of Tanmia or unsure of the Authority’s existence.  Growth prospects of employment numbers over the next two years are highly positive, with 82% of participants indicating their organisation is likely to have more employees in two years time. Participants identified engineering and industrial occupations as occupations in highest demand followed by account executives, business development, administration, analysts and accounting professions.  Larger organisations and in particular, public sector and government related entities (GREs), are better equipped to effect significant changes and implement initiatives than small to medium sized organisations. As frontline bodies, they can help smaller players to adopt changes and initiatives progressively. The roll-out and take up of the QFEmirates could be hastened and best achieved via these bodies.  As part of the survey, employers were able to express additional thoughts. Common themes were the importance of improving graduate motivation, work ethic, proactiveness and ‘here to learn’ character, and strengthening ties between institutions and employers.  Overall, members of the industry expert group validated findings and observations presented in this section, although one member was rightly concerned about sample size (83 returns from employers). 1.5 KEY FINDINGS FROM SECONDARY SCHOOL DATA Key findings emerging from the analysis of secondary school data are as follows:  Almost three-quarters (73%) of students intend to study at a university or college immediately after completing school, indicating that the higher education sector is facing increasing pressure to absorb increasing numbers of both male and female students. However, only 4% of students intend to study at a vocational institute and 12% intend to find a job after they finish school.
  10. 10. 10 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary Many secondary school students have unrealistic salary expectations – 60% would only take a job if they were paid a monthly salary of AED 20,000 or over.  Survey results indicate a strong interest in pursuing education in Engineering and Engineering Trades due largely to the significant number of responses from male students. To a lesser extent, students were interested in the fields of Business and Administration, Computing/IT, Social Services, Architecture and Health. The survey found a lack of interest in the important fields of Education and Manufacturing.  Gender remains a significant factor in determining Emirati intentions for fields for study. For example, males prefer the field of Engineering and Engineering Trades and females prefer the field of Health.  As well as the industry sector of Energy Resources, students indicated a preference to work in the sectors of Government Services and Public Administration, Business, Administration and Financial Services, and Building and Construction. There was significantly less interest in the important growth sectors of Manufacturing, Logistics and Transport, Utilities and Infrastructure, and Tourism.  Students are heavily output focussed when selecting a course, identifying the most important factors as the ‘availability of a good job’ followed by ‘salary and conditions’. There were differences in the importance of other factors by nationality and gender. For example, an ‘opportunity to study overseas later’ was also important to Emirati secondary school students.  When asked about the likelihood of undertaking a foundation program as part of their future studies, almost 90% of students indicated ‘yes/unsure’. Many of the students who expect to undertake a foundation course felt confident in undertaking independent study and research.  Non-Emirati students were more confident in undertaking independent study and research than Emirati students. Surprisingly, many students who indicated Science was important to their future were more confident than those who did not find this subject important.  Almost two-thirds of students (64%) have already accessed careers advice and over 70% indicated they would access careers advice in the future. Students who have already accessed careers advice were more likely than students who have not accessed careers advice to access careers advice in the future.  Many students prefer to access careers advice at careers events/fairs, direct from employers, by being mentored by someone who is working in a job of interest to them, from careers advisors at school and through websites. They were less interested in printed materials.  Although the majority of students indicated their level of knowledge of their preferred job and industry sector employment was ‘average’, ‘good’ or ‘very good’, other indicators suggest their knowledge is lower than they perceive it is:  Over 30% of students indicated the (unrealistic) minimum monthly starting salary of graduates in their preferred field is AED 40,000 and over.  60% of students were unsure if finding work in their preferred job would be easy or difficult and a further 28% indicated it would be ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’; yet almost half of the students believe there will be more jobs of interest to them in the future.
  11. 11. 11 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary Like secondary school students, the availability of a good job after graduation was very important to higher education students when selecting a course.  Almost half of the students prefer to work in the public sector and believe the number of jobs in the public sector would increase; a sector that is unlikely to emerge as a priority industry sector.  Governments at the Federal and Emirate level have introduced initiatives designed to increase students’ awareness and understanding of study and career options in the UAE labour market. The scope of this project meant it was not able to identify and evaluate careers services available to secondary students. However, it did find that only 41% of students had heard of Tanmia.  The findings about the ineffectiveness of existing careers services in informing students about the UAE labour market confirms other sources that indicate the urgent need to improve the availability and quality of career advice/services in UAE schools. 1.6 KEY FINDINGS FROM HIGHER EDUCATION DATA Key findings emerging from the analysis of higher education data are as follows:  Three quarters (76%) of students indicated they started their course straight after finishing school. The factor of the ‘availability of a good job after a graduation’ was the main factor that influenced students when selecting their course, although there were some variations in the importance of factors by gender and nationality:  Male students were more influenced than female students by the factors of ‘graduate salary and conditions’ and the ‘opportunity to study overseas later’.  Non-Emirati students were more influenced than Emirati students by the factors of ‘family wishes’ and ‘reputation of a particular institution’.  Emirati students were more influenced than non-Emirati students by the factor of the ‘opportunity to study overseas later’.  Almost two-thirds of students (66%) indicated they have undertaken a foundation program, with female students and Emirati students more likely than male students and non-Emirati students respectively to have undertaken a foundation program. In terms of the effectiveness of these programs:  53% of students indicated they ‘agree/highly agree’ with the statement “The foundation course has prepared me well for the course I am currently studying”.  15% of students were dissatisfied with the foundation program they had undertaken, when they indicated they ‘disagree/highly disagree’ with the above statement  32% of students indicated the foundation program was ‘neither effective or ineffective’ – a proxy for ‘unsure’  Emirati students were more satisfied than non-Emiratis students with foundation programs.
  12. 12. 12 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary 31% of higher education students have never accessed careers advice, 21% of students were unsure if they would access advice in the future, and a further 10% indicated they would not access advice.  Many students indicated they have already accessed careers advice (60% of higher education students) and found this advice to be ‘effective/very effective’ in helping them to select their course (64%) and decide on their preferred future job (60%). Therefore, many students intend to access careers advice in the future (65%). However:  31% of higher education students have never accessed careers advice  21% of students were ‘unsure’ if they would access careers advice in the future and a further 10% indicated they were ‘unlikely/very unlikely’ to do so  students who have not accessed careers advice were less likely than those who have accessed careers advice to do so in the future  51% of students who have accessed careers advice and were dissatisfied with this advice indicated they were ‘unlikely/highly unlikely’ to access careers advice in the future.  Higher education students are mainly accessing careers advice from family and friends and careers advisors at educational institutions. They prefer to access advice from careers advisors and careers events/fairs and direct from employers/mentors. Similar to secondary school students, higher education students prefer text-based career materials to be available online rather than in printed/hard copy format.  Higher education students are more likely than employers and secondary school students to have not heard of Tanmia. Only 27% of higher education students have heard of this important government body that helps Emirati job seekers to find work.  Similar to the secondary school survey, the higher education survey included questions to gauge students’ understanding of the UAE labour market, with some responses related to the effectiveness of careers advice. The analysis found that although 56% of students indicated their knowledge of their preferred job and industry sector of employment was ‘good/very good’, the findings suggest their level of knowledge is much lower.  Students perceived their level of CoreLife Skills much higher than employers perceived the level of CoreLife Skills of graduates. 1.7 MAIN IMPLICATIONS As already stated, the Federal Demographic Council funded this project largely due to the highly technical nature of the Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook. The Handbook should not only benefit individuals and organisations involved in qualifications development and delivery but it should also empower students and employers to make employment decisions that help to drive a competitive and sustainable workforce in the UAE. The implications from this research are summarised in this section of the chapter and discussed in more detail in Chapter 8.
  13. 13. 13 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary The National Qualifications Authority will facilitate the development of industry-led national vocational qualifications based on needs of UAE’s labour market. 1.7.1 Employers’ understanding of the link between qualifications and occupations The first project purpose was to identify the extent to which employers understand the link between qualifications and occupational requirements of jobs. Dedicated infrastructure in the form of respected providers of vocational programs and government bodies responsible for quality assurance, licensure and program accreditation are significant steps in building a world-class VET sector for the UAE. The National Qualifications Authority will lead national efforts by establishing and maintaining standards and regulations for technical, vocational and professional education and training. These standards and regulations must keep pace with scientific and technological progress and meet the requirements of economic and social development.2 The Authority will facilitate the development of industry-led national vocational qualifications based on labour market requirements. It will also implement a national qualifications framework that is a national frame of reference for all qualifications in the UAE, including vocational qualifications. In time, these efforts will raise employers’ understanding of the nature and benefits or vocational qualifications. 1.7.2 Employers and students awareness of the importance of VET The second project purpose was to identify the extent to which employers and students are aware of the importance of vocational education and training. The country’s visions for its education and training system, which encompass vocational education, raise the bar as to the actions and reforms envisaged to improve the quality of outcomes of technical, vocational and professional education in the UAE. However, findings presented in this section indicate much work is needed to build the confidence among employers and individuals of the benefits of vocational programs and occupations. Overtime, infrastructure developments and awareness raising strategies will help address this issue. What is missing at this stage is a way to measure the progress of the development of UAE’s VET sector. Some of the indicators presented in this section are out of date, do not focus sufficiently on vocational enrolments and outcomes, and do not allow for rigorous international comparison and rankings. One of the roles of the National Qualifications Authority is to collect, analyse and provide qualifications-relevant data. The timely collection of this data will require data-sharing agreements with providers of vocational programs, licensing and program accreditation bodies, different ministries (such as the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research) and statistical bodies (such as UAE’s National Bureau of Statistics and Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi). It will take some time before the UAE has a centralised data collection system for VET statistics. What is possible in the near future is the development of a ‘Pocket Guide’ or similar that consists of existing vocational and related statistics that are available from the above bodies. 2 National Qualifications Authority (2012). Qualifications Framework Emirates Handbook. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from http://www.nqa.gov.ae/pdf/QF%20Handbook_v1b_28_Feb_2012.pdf, p. 13.
  14. 14. 14 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary A national careers strategy for the country would educate UAE Nationals about critical, sustainable and attractive jobs in the private sector. 1.7.3 Career aspirations of students The third project purpose was to identify the career aspirations of students and the support they need to help them achieve these aspirations, which includes gaining a good understanding of the UAE labour market in order to make well-informed study and career decisions. There is a need to educate and encourage students (particularly UAE Nationals) about critical, sustainable and attractive jobs in the private sector. This must occur as early as possible in secondary schools so that students can select a) the right subjects before starting their secondary school certificate; b) select the right course if they decide to pursue further study; and c) look for the right job after finishing school or graduating from further study. Therefore, there is a pressing need for a national careers strategy that links careers services and initiatives together to ensure they are ‘singing the same song’ when it comes to promoting critical, sustainable and attractive career opportunities in the UAE. This strategy must consider the challenges facing Emiratisation in the UAE, in particular how to address young Emiratis’ unrealistic expectations and how to convince foreign businesses that they have a responsibility to provide Emiratis with proper training and on-the-job experience. The public sector is also responsible for creating a work culture that instills in Emirati graduates a work ethic similar to that required in the private sector. 1.7.4 CoreLife Skills The fourth project purpose was to identify employer and student views on generic (CoreLife) skills i.e. skills that underpin work and the ability of learners to learn throughout their lives (lifelong learning). One way for educational institutions to address the challenge of improving the CoreLife Skills of students is through their teaching methods and content. The Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) in the UAE has recognised the importance of CoreLife Skills by adopting the QFEmirates as part of its licensure and accreditation standards. However, improvements to an individual’s level of CoreLife Skills can take some time as many institutional qualifications and programs have accreditation periods of four to five years before review. There is a range of approaches to develop an individual’s CoreLife Skills in vocational programs and workplaces that do not revolve around accreditation periods. Educational institutions, employers, individuals and other relevant stakeholders must work together to provide graduates entering the labour market with the necessary skills to gain and remain in sustainable employment. Employers should not set their expectations too high by expecting graduates to be ‘work competent’ rather than ‘work ready’. Individuals must understand the importance of CoreLife Skills to their current and future employability.
  15. 15. 15 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary We must provide students with authentic workplace learning experiences as well as recognise the extensive workplace experience of individuals who have no formal qualifications. 1.7.5 Employer recruitment practices and hiring intentions The fifth project purpose was to identify employer recruitment practices as well as their hiring intentions over the next two years. It is vital to the future employability of students that they have access to authentic workplace learning experiences during their study period. Many employers who participated in this project indicated work experience is a key factor influencing their recruitment decisions. Participating students expressed a strong desire to interact directly with industry. If designed, organised, resourced and delivered properly, all parties involved in a work placement benefit: students by learning new skills, employers by having a chance to try out potential employees, and providers by learning about the latest developments in workplaces. Many employers also rely on qualifications when recruiting graduates, confirming the importance of strong relationships between educational institutions and employers. Existing employees with extensive work experience but no formal qualifications will benefit from the country’s decision to establish a national policy and procedures for the recognition of prior learning. The National Qualifications Authority in collaboration with stakeholders will facilitate this policy initiative and oversee the establishment of industry advisory committees. These committees will gather industry intelligence on future workforce needs and manage the development of national occupational standards. These efforts will contribute significantly to building the skills of new and existing workers based on labour market needs. 1.7.6 Occupational information guide for employers The sixth and final purpose was to identify the appropriate content for an occupational information guide for employers in the UAE. The Occupational Information Guide for Employers in the UAE: Mechanisms to aid reliability and consistency in occupational descriptions in the UAE should help employers to match qualifications with their occupational requirements when recruiting employees. They can also use the guide to inform their reskilling and retention practices and increase their awareness of the importance of supporting infrastructure. Education and training providers and students can use the guide to educate themselves about the link between qualifications and occupations. The guide consists of five sections supported by a number of appendices. This guide is presented as a separate document to this report.
  16. 16. 16 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary As part of a national careers strategy, we need initiatives to increase students’ knowledge of the UAE labour market to help them make informed study and career decisions. 1.8 FURTHER RESEARCH This project identified several opportunities for further research that would explore in more depth some of the findings generated from this project. 1.8.1 A national careers strategy for the UAE This project identified a need to improve the matching of employer demand with the supply of graduates at an educational and training system level. There is also a need for initiatives that increase students’ knowledge of the UAE labour market in order to help them make informed study and career decisions. This project recommends further research in the form of a feasibility study for a UAE national careers strategy that aligns to the economic visions of the country (e.g. UAE Vision 2021) for consideration by policy makers. In order to identify the features of a national careers strategy, the feasibility study would build on findings from this project to find out:  community awareness of the UAE labour market, importance of careers advice and the availability of careers services (note: community includes students, parents, educators, industry, government)  how to best deliver publicly available and up-to date information about sustainable careers in the UAE labour market  the ability of careers advisors in educational institutions to effectively communicate labour market needs to students  features of initiatives that would enable students to interact effectively with industry during their study period e.g. work placements, mentoring programs, industry visits, etc.  the currency of study programs in light of changing industry needs and trends  the nature and effectiveness of current employer-to-institution relationships that aim to enhance the employability outcomes of graduates  the types of collaborative stakeholder mechanisms that bring together industry, government, education and training providers, individuals and community stakeholders to collectively develop and maintain the most current labour market and education and training system information.
  17. 17. 17 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary To track the progress and performance of UAE’s VET sector, we must collect, analyse and publish vocational statistics. 1.8.2 Pocket Guide for vocational statistics Existing indicators that relate to the progress and performance of UAE’s VET sector are out of date, do not focus sufficiently on vocational enrolments and outcomes, and do not allow for rigorous international comparison and rankings. The National Qualifications Authority will assist in addressing these issues by collecting, analysing and providing qualifications-relevant data and making this data available to the public. One approach to presenting this data is through a Pocket Guide of vocational information and statistics3 consisting of:  the nature of vocational qualifications and careers  the number of vocational qualifications by type, location and industry sector  the names of education and training providers of vocational qualifications, including qualifications offered, number of students and location  student participation as indicated by enrolments and completions by age, gender, nationality, location and field of study. Data collected on employers’ use of the VET system to meet their skills needs and views about their engagement and satisfaction with the VET system4 could form part of the Pocket Guide and/or be presented in a separate publication. Similar to the Australian approach, collecting this data would involve surveying a sample of employers randomly selected and stratified by location (Emirate), industry sector (12 sectors in the UAE) and employer size (small, medium and large).5 Collecting the above data would involve data-sharing agreements with providers of vocational programs, licensing and program accreditation bodies, different ministries (such as the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research) and statistical bodies (such as UAE’s National Bureau of Statistics and Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi). Underpinning these data-sharing agreements could be a national VET Data Management Strategy that covers the areas of:  data collection, validation and reporting  data quality, timeliness, transparency and warehousing  a centralised data system for providers and government bodies, including training users of the system and minimising the burden on these organisations  linking reporting to payments/contracts with providers who receive government funding. 3 National Centre for Vocational Education and Training Resource (2011). Pocket guide: issued 2011. Retrieved 10 February, 2013, from http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2415.html 4 National Centre for Vocational Education and Training Resource (2011). Employers’ use and views of the VET syste2011.. Retrieved 10 February, 2013, from http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2409.html 5 National Centre for Vocational Education and Training Resource (2013). Employers’ use and views of the VET system: technical notes. Retrieved 10 February, 2013, from http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2409.html
  18. 18. 18 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary Given that 60% of employers considered work experience important when recruiting graduates, students must gain exposure to the workplace during their studies. 1.8.3 Exposure of students to the workplace Almost 60% of the employers who participated in this study considered work experience an important factor when recruiting graduates. This project did not investigate the extent to which most students gain exposure to the workplace during their studies, the range of programs currently available to students in the UAE (e.g. internships, apprenticeships, cadetships) and the effectiveness of these programs in providing students with authentic workplace learning experiences that increase their employability. A project (linked to the feasibility study just discussed) would explore these areas of inquiry and recommend fit-for-purpose work placement models for the UAE that enhance learning, practice and exposure to the workplace during the study period. The study by Smith and Harris (2000)6 identified specific areas of future research about work placements that this project could undertake:  A mapping exercise of work placements  Experiences of students and workplace mentors during placements – what is it like to be a student on placement, and what is it like being a workplace mentor for placement students?  Power relationships in the workplace and their effects on student learning during work placements roles and identities in what is labelled in the literature as the ‘tripod’ arrangement (Le-Clercq, 1992) – the student, the provider mentor and the workplace mentor  In-depth analysis of the actual learning undertaken by students  The skills employed by practitioners who arrange and monitor placements  Relative strengths of alternative models and approaches, such that empirical research can begin to inform the development of robust theoretical models that can be used cross- sectorally  Access and equity issues, such as the availability of placements in particular locations and industries, and for particular types of students  The processes involved in managing placements and maintaining host employers  Assessment during placements, and the issue of recognition of prior learning (RPL)  A follow-up study of students who have completed placements. 6 Smith, E. & Harris, R. (2000). Review of research: work placements in vocational education and training courses: evidence from the cross-sectoral literature. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/567.html p. 4
  19. 19. 19 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary Two-thirds of higher education students have undertaken a foundation program. However, 15% indicated the program was not effective and another 32% were unsure if it had prepared them for their studies. 1.8.4 Study decisions of students This project identified several factors that influence the study decisions of students and found that these factors vary by gender and nationality. There were also differences between factors important to secondary students and those important to higher education students. Further research could explore:  the actual factors that influence secondary school students at the time of making their decision about further study (target group: students who have just applied to undertake further study)  changes to these factors over the further study period (target group: students in their final year of study)  impact of these factors i.e. did students achieve the outcomes they expected such as a good job after graduation, a job that met their salary expectations, they continued their studies overseas (target group: graduates) The research would identify those factors that are more or less likely to lead to an informed study decision and recommend strategies to enhance students’ ability to make an informed decision. Before making a study decision, it is critical that students are aware of the fields of study that are likely to lead to sustainable jobs in the UAE labour market. 1.8.5 Effectiveness of foundation programs Nearly half (44%) of the secondary school students indicated they expect to undertake a foundation program and two- thirds (66%) of higher education students indicated they have undertaken a foundation program as part of their current studies. In the case of higher education students, many students were ‘unsure’ if the programs had prepared them well for tertiary study and some students were dissatisfied with the programs. Many secondary school students who indicated they are confident in undertaking and research still expect to undertake a foundation program as part of their further studies. This project identified several sources that discussed concerns related to foundation programs, such as the high number of students entering programs because they are ill- prepared for tertiary study, the financial burden of programs on institutions and students not getting a second chance if they faced difficult circumstances during their final exams. This project did not locate any existing research on the effectiveness of foundation programs from the student perspective. Further research at a national level (rather than at an institutional level where outcomes of foundation programs are probably measured) would identify the factors that influence student satisfaction with foundation programs and develop success indicators for these programs.
  20. 20. 20 Chapter 1: Extended executive summary Many employers and students have not heard of Tanmia, an important body that helps Emirati job seekers find work. 1.8.6 Tanmia This project found that 42% of employers, 57% of secondary school students and 69% of higher education students who participated in this project were not aware or unsure of the existence of UAE’s National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia). This is concerning given that Tanmia commenced operations in November 2000. Tanmia has an important role in providing:  Emirati job seekers with access to training, career guidance and employment vacancies  employers with a national website to advertise their vacancies and access CVs of UAE Nationals. Employers that achieve the employment quota of UAE Nationals are upgraded to class A status in the Ministry of Labour, which means they are excluded from the need for a bank guarantee. One of the functions of Tanmia is “following up and evaluating employment of nationals in the public and private sectors” (Tanmia, 2003).7 This project recommends further research, in partnership with Tanmia, that supports this function by:  assessing employment outcomes of Emiratis  gauging satisfaction levels of employers and Emiratis who have used Tanmia’s services  exploring brand awareness of Tanmia  identifying success indicators for each service  recommending a strategy to raise awareness of Tanmia and its services. 1.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY The chapter represents an extended executive summary of the report. It consists of:  content from the chapter summaries at the end of Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7  main points from the five implications sub-sections in Chapter 8  all content from Section 8.8 Further Research in Chapter 8. 7 Tanmia (2013). About Us. Retrieved January 25, 2013, from http://www.tanmia.ae/Content/aboutUss.aspx
  21. 21. 21 Chapter 2: Project background 2. Project background This chapter describes the background and purpose of this project. 2.1 A WORLD-CLASS EDUCATION AND TRAINING SYSTEM FOR THE UAE Over the past 20 years, economies and the organisation of work have witnessed a fundamental change in which occupations have become more complex and employees' responsibilities are increasingly linked with competencies than with routine. This change has necessitated flexibility in labour mobility and productivity. It has also enhanced innovative capacity of companies to assimilate new production technologies rapidly and adapt themselves timely to new demands of the market. In response to such a shift, new methods for occupational analysis and recognition are being deployed to help build a highly skilled, qualified and adaptable workforce that can operate in a more globally competitive and constantly changing environment. To build such a workforce the UAE is working to develop a world-class responsive education and training system that is:  both nationally and internationally recognised, and  supported by a national qualifications framework that improves the quality of qualifications awarded in the UAE. To achieve this vision, the UAE along with other countries in the Arab World, must address the clear gap and disharmony between the requirements of the labour market and the education and training system. Over some five or so decades, most Arab countries have tried to incorporate or adapt/adopt different education systems from Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. However, as the Arab Knowledge Report (2009)8 states, the education sector in the Arab World still suffers from serious shortcomings. Despite huge investments to build an education sector for the knowledge economy, this sector continues to struggle to compete with those of other nations. This is a serious issue given that economic and social developments of a nation are influenced primarily by its education and training system. Discussing the inextricable link between economic prosperity of nations and education, William Becker (1999)9 rightly argues that for education to bear fruits, nations need to see it as a long term investment for the purpose of development and progress. 8 Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (2009). Arab Knowledge Report 2009. Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge. Retrieved December 24, 2012, from http://www.mbrfoundation.ae/English/Documents/AKR-2009-En/AKR-English.pdf 9 Becker, W. E. (1999). The Role of Education and Training in Economic Development. In D. Davies (Ed.), Education and the Arab World (pp. 23-50). Abu Dhabi (Reading, UK): ECSSR
  22. 22. 22 Chapter 2: Project background The United Arab Emirates has placed education and training at the nucleus of all its strategic planning. It recognises the close relationship that exists between education, vocational training and socio-economic development. The country is investing heavily in the initial and continuing education and training of its citizens. Targets have been set to increase participation rates in education, training and work, particularly for UAE Nationals. In time, these efforts will inspire learners (the ingredients of a nation’s human capital) to make informed education, training and career decisions within the context of the economy and market forces of their country. 2.2 CHALLENGES TO BUILDING A HIGHLY SKILLED WORKFORCE For the UAE and other countries in a similar situation (Gulf States, for example), there are a number of challenges to developing an internationally competitive workforce. The country’s citizens and residents must have the skills and qualifications necessary to work in occupations typified by new and emerging technologies, materials, systems and workplace environments. The UAE faces a number of challenges to building a highly skilled workforce. Current and future UAE workforce needs: With one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, the UAE has recently focused on growing and diversifying its economy. A foundational lever for economic growth is the education and training institutions established in the country to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. The UAE is showing some progress in realising projected occupational demand and Emirati labour supply, occupations and industry trends, and skills shortages and gaps. Such intelligence provides benchmark information to build a better understanding of the workforce situation in the different regions of the country and the key factors involved in renewing and sustaining regional communities. Participation in education, training and work: Developing and harnessing human capital for resource productivity and sustainability is a critical determinant for economic growth and social development. The country needs to understand the practical ways employers and individuals (particularly UAE Nationals given the Emiratisation agenda) can identify suitable employment and future career prospects, develop new pathways to transition from the education setting into the workplace, and build new opportunities to participate in continuous education and training i.e. lifelong learning. Workplace learning: Workplace learning has become a prominent issue for employers and policy makers concerned with the recognition of formal and informal learning taking place within the organisation structure. The country needs to understand the impact on the employees’ occupational positioning and status within the organisation; the way organisations dismantle obstacles to participate in learning; and the opportunities created to encourage engagement in work place learning in order to further knowledge, skills and competencies in the workforce. UAE education and training system: The Federal Cabinet established the National Qualifications Authority (NQA) in 2010 to coordinate the quality of outcomes of the education and training system and enhance their relationship with economic development and the labour market. This critical role involves setting policy requirements that facilitate linkages between qualifications, occupations, education and training, and careers pathways. The
  23. 23. 23 Chapter 2: Project background Authority will collaborate with stakeholders to assure the quality, consistency and rigour of national qualifications. These qualifications must be internationally recognised qualifications and assist the mobility of learners and workers. The Authority will also introduce measures for assessing the previously unrecognised skills and knowledge an individual has achieved outside the formal education and training system. Central to these roles is developing and implementing an effective national qualifications framework for the UAE. 2.3 A NATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS FRAMEWORK FOR THE UAE The national qualifications framework for the UAE, known as the QFEmirates, aims to contribute to higher levels of post-compulsory education by integrating and streamlining the requirements of individuals, education and training providers and employers. The introduction of a 10-level framework for the UAE (‎Figure 1) signifies a new order in the way qualifications are developed, approved, aligned to employment, and nationally and internationally recognised. Figure 1 Qualifications Framework for the Emirates (QFEmirates)10 10 National Qualifications Authority (2012). Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook. Retrieved November 20, 2012 from http://www.nqa.gov.ae/pdf/QF%20Handbook_v1b_28_Feb_2012.pdf
  24. 24. 24 Chapter 2: Project background The QFEmirates is a unified, singular, coherent and integrated qualifications framework. It encompasses higher education, vocational education and training and schools, identifying learning outcomes for each level and qualification type. As a reference point for all national qualifications, the Framework aims to:  enable mechanisms for UAE’s decision makers to develop relevant strategic educational and training policies and directions (including prioritising targeted areas) to improve the country’s economic, social and personal competitiveness as well as standing in the world  bring ‘national’ order (using common nomenclature and outcomes based criteria) to the many and varied qualifications on offer being issued across the country by licensed or unlicensed providers  aid in developing new recognisable and government endorsed national qualifications  provide a framework of common language that could be used as a ready guide for both employers and learners/employees in terms of identifying the level of education required when advertising for jobs  serve as a guidance tool to individuals to identify what type of jobs they may be eligible for and what qualifications they need to apply for these jobs  lead to more transparent mechanisms that facilitate formal recognition of ‘lifelong’ learning (including formal, non-formal and informal learning) to ensure that all qualifications support and recognise lifelong learning  enhance linkages and alignments with other countries to affect international comparisons leading to improved information for assisting in learner mobility. The QFEmirates draws on strong international trends towards the development and use of qualifications frameworks as a mechanism to reform their education and training system and enhance their international attractiveness and competiveness of available skills. Over 250 countries have in place or are developing a national qualifications framework, including all of the UK countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. Most of the EU countries have developed national frameworks (or are in the process of doing so) to ensure alignment with ‘meta-frameworks’ that would link national systems of qualifications. The two meta-frameworks are:  the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) that provides an ‘interchange’ enabling the alignment of national qualifications frameworks in Europe  European Higher Education Area’s Bologna Framework that now forms the basis of a common understanding of the ‘cycles’ in Higher Education and the qualifications associated with the cycles. The establishment of a national qualifications framework for the UAE ensures the country is well placed to align and compare its qualifications with other national qualifications frameworks and meta-frameworks.
  25. 25. 25 Chapter 2: Project background 2.4 QUALIFICATIONS FRAMEWORK FOR THE EMIRATES HANDBOOK The NQA Board approved the QFEmirates in the form of the Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook on 20 February 2012. For the first time in the UAE, this public national document formally articulates the relationship between a qualification and an occupational requirement. It is a national technical document for:  referencing, developing and evaluating all future recognised and approved qualifications in the country, including foreign qualifications  specifying how qualifications are to be integrated and quality assured in the UAE qualifications framework  establishing common, stable and unified national definitions and terminologies that can serve as a guide for both employers and learners/employees in terms of identifying the level of education required for jobs as well as recognise formally lifelong learning. However, whilst necessary in its current form, the Handbook is too technocratic and detailed for some stakeholders to interpret and understand. This was particularly so in relation to the relationship between qualifications and employment. To some extent, the employability indicators are too abstract and conceptual and do not provide sufficient concrete characterisations and examples of occupations or jobs commonly known in the community. For more information about the employability indicators, go to: Appendix 1: QFEmirates employability indicators (p. 166) 2.5 PROJECT PURPOSE Due to the highly technical nature of the Handbook and to give credence to the QFEmirates, the Federal Demographic Council (FDC) commissioned the National Qualifications Authority to undertake a research project that would:  provide employers with real tangible and concrete information that can help them to use the Handbook as a resource to recruit employees with the qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience that match their workplace needs and align with the QFEmirates  provide students with real tangible and concrete information that can help them to better prepare for entry into the workforce. Therefore, this research project explores a number of important areas related to the QFEmirates:  The extent to which employers understand the link between qualifications and occupational requirements of jobs.  The level of awareness among employers and students of the importance of vocational education and training.  Employer and student views on generic (CoreLife) skills i.e. skills that underpin work and the ability of learners to learn throughout their lives (lifelong learning).  Employer recruitment practices as well as their hiring intentions over the next two years.
  26. 26. 26 Chapter 2: Project background  Career aspirations of students and the support they need to help them achieve these aspirations, which includes gaining a good understanding of the UAE labour market in order to make well-informed study and career decisions.  Appropriate content for an occupational information guide for employers in the UAE, which is a QFEmirates reference document that aims to help employers to match qualifications with occupational requirements when recruiting employees. To this end, this report presents:  an extended executive summary (Chapter 1) that draws together key findings from Chapters 2 to 8  the background and purpose of this project reported here (Chapter 2)  the approach used to collect and analyse data from employers, secondary school students and higher education students (Chapter 3)  findings from the literature review (Chapter 4), surveys of employers (Chapter 5), secondary school students (Chapter 6) and higher education students (Chapter 7)  implications identified by the research together with ideas for further research (Chapter 8). Through an effective dissemination strategy of the results and discussions presented in this report, the project ultimately aims to empower students and employers to make employment decisions that help to drive a competitive and sustainable workforce in the UAE. The findings from this project as well as from projects that the NQA may undertake in the future, also aim to inform policy makers responsible for establishing a streamlined, comprehensive and harmonised education and training system. Such a system will particularly assist students, employers, and education and training providers to make appropriate choices that will benefit the nation as a whole. 2.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY The purpose of this chapter was to discuss the background of this project in terms of the need to build a world-class education and training system for the UAE and the challenges the country’s faces in doing so. One significant step the country has taken is the development of a national qualifications framework, known as the QFEmirates, laid out in the Qualifications Framework for the Emirates Handbook. Due to the highly technical nature of the Handbook, the Federal Demographic Council funded the National Quality Authority to explore areas of research that could help address this issue.
  27. 27. 27 Chapter 3: Project approach 3. Project approach This chapter describes the project’s phases and activities, including its analytical framework, sampling strategy, and approach to data collection and analysis, and limitations. 3.1 PHASES AND ACTIVITIES The project involved three phases undertaken over a 17-month period (‎Table 1):  Phase 1: Project planning, literature review and survey planning  Phase 2: Sampling strategy, survey design and survey administration  Phase 3: Data analysis, final reporting and employer guide Table 1 Project phases Phase 1: Project planning, literature review and survey planning  Prepare project plan  Undertake a literature review  Design draft higher education, secondary school and employer surveys  Submit Phase 1 Progress Report to the FDC October 2011 to March 2012 Phase 2: Sampling strategy, survey design and survey administration  Design sampling strategy  Finalise surveys and transform into online format  Administer surveys and follow up as required  Update literature review  Submit Phase 2 Progress Report to the FDC April to August 2012 Phase 3: Final reporting and employer guide  Analyse survey data  Validate findings with industry expert group  Prepare an employer guide  Submit the final report and employer guide to FDC  Present findings to the FDC August 2012 to March 2013 Post project  Disseminate findings to stakeholders  Distribute the occupational guide to employers 3 months
  28. 28. 28 Chapter 3: Project approach 3.2 LITERATURE REVIEW The literature review presented in Chapter 4 addressed three dominant themes:  Employment indicators and trends in the UAE  Education pathways and challenges  Qualifications frameworks worldwide 3.3 ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK The project used an analytical framework consisting of three integrated elements:  Research questions and, in the case of higher education and secondary school data, hypotheses and variables for selected research questions. Research questions were grouped into the following categories:  Employers’ knowledge of job requirements related to the QFEmirates  Employers’ recruitment practices and hiring intentions over the next two years  CoreLife Skills  Students’ study decisions  Students’ preparation for study  Students’ access to careers advice  Students’ career intentions  Secondary school students’ intentions after finishing school  Data collection – higher education survey, secondary school survey, employer survey and industry validation survey  Data analysis – descriptive analysis using frequencies, cross tabulations and the chi-square test of independence. 3.4 DATA COLLECTION Researchers used Key Survey software to develop four online surveys:  A 23-question survey for employers designed to find out their views of the relationship between jobs and qualifications; CoreLife Skills of graduates; their recruitment practices when employing graduates; and employment intentions over the next two years.  A 33-question survey for secondary school students (in Arabic and English) also designed to identify their career aspirations, the support they need to help them achieve these aspirations, and their knowledge of the UAE labour market.
  29. 29. 29 Chapter 3: Project approach  A 44-question survey for higher education students designed to identify their career aspirations, the support they need to help them achieve these aspirations, and their knowledge of the UAE labour market.  A 12-question industry validation survey for industry representatives designed to find out the extent to which they ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with findings and observations from the employer survey that were presented in an employer validation report. The aim of this exercise was to determine if the analysis of the employer survey data was fair, reasonable and realistic to industry. Five secondary school students and three employers piloted the secondary school survey and employer survey respectively. Two university staff members provided feedback about the higher education survey. As a result, researchers adjusted the design of these surveys. To view the surveys, go to: Appendix 2: Employer survey (p. 168) Appendix 3: Secondary school survey (p. 175) Appendix 4: Higher education survey (p. 184) Appendix 5: Industry validation survey (p. 193) 3.5 SAMPLING The sampling approach set targets of 220 returns for the higher education survey, 960 returns for the secondary school survey, 343 returns for the employer survey, and at least five (5) returns for the industry validation survey. Researchers used stratified sampling for the secondary school survey; a mix of stratified and convenience sampling for the higher education survey; and convenience sampling for the employer survey and industry validation survey. 3.5.1 Employer survey For the employer survey, the convenience sampling approach involved using an NQA employer database and a university employer database to attract employers. Researchers sought to attract participants from different Emirates and from 12 industry sectors identified by the National Qualifications Authority. Despite sending follow up emails, only 83 responses were received – significantly below the number of responses needed for significance testing. Reasons for this outcome were:  NQA sending emails to employers in batches rather than as personalised, individual emails due to the large number of employers in the database (4,000)  the large number of inactive emails in the NQA employer database, with around 20% of emails bouncing back. As most employers in the university’s database were from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, many participants were from these two Emirates. Despite these limitations, the project attracted participants from organisations that varied in terms of industry sector, size, sector and type. For returns by industry sector, go to: Appendix 6: Survey returns (p. 197)
  30. 30. 30 Chapter 3: Project approach 3.5.2 Secondary school survey The stratified sampling approach was based on type of school (public vs. private), location (Emirate), gender and grade (10, 11 or 12). Despite the difference in secondary school enrolments (e.g. 1,460 enrolments in public schools in Umm Al Quwain and 31,731 enrolments in public schools in Abu Dhabi11), the preferred sample size for each cell for significance testing was the same at 16 returns. Researchers set up a database to generate mail merge letters posted to principals at selected secondary schools. Where possible, follow up emails were sent to principals who did not respond to the survey. An NQA Arabic-speaking staff member also followed up by calling several public schools. Although the survey attracted 803 returns instead of the target of 960 returns, the number of returns was sufficient for significance testing. 3.5.3 Higher education survey The stratified sampling approach was based on size (number of student enrolments), location (Emirate), gender, program level (Diploma, Higher Diploma, Bachelor and/or above) and field of study. Despite the difference in higher education enrolments at different institutions (e.g. ranging from 146 students at Fujairah College to 10,833 students at the University of Sharjah), the preferred sample size for each cell for significance testing was the same at 20 returns. For field of study, researchers selected programs that align to different industry sectors. For example, the Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Administration at Fujairah College (HCT) aligns to the Business, Administration and Financial Services industry sector and the Aircraft Maintenance Diploma at Al Ain International Aviation Academy aligns to the Logistics and Transport industry sector. To obtain a balance of male respondents and female respondents, researchers selected programs with a higher proportion of male enrolments (e.g. Higher Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at Sharjah Institute of Technology) and programs with a higher proportion of female students (e.g. Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Ras Al Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University). The number of returns (915 students from 19 institutions) was significantly above the target sample size of 220 students. One reason for this outcome was the American University in Dubai employs a member of the research team. She was able to access students’ email addresses at this university and its sister university, the American University of Sharjah. Responses from these two universities accounted for 40% of all responses. Therefore, researchers also used convenience sampling to attract students. 11 ADEC Statistical Handbook March 2010; Ministry of Education
  31. 31. 31 Chapter 3: Project approach 3.5.4 Industry validation For the industry validation exercise, researchers used a convenience sampling approach to attract members to the industry expert group. They invited industry representatives who indicated in the employer survey an interest in participating further in the project. They also invited several NQA existing industry contacts to join the group. Five (5) of the 14 members of the industry expert group completed the industry validation survey. In appreciation for their significant contribution, four of the five experts agreed to be named in the final report:  Ms Lisa MacLeod, Transformational Synergies International FZ-LLC  Dr Marko Savic, ALHOSN University  Mr Darren McClements, Yahsat  Dr Leslie Thurogood, Mubadala Development Corporation 3.6 ETHICS REQUIREMENTS To meet NQA ethics requirements, the letters/emails sent to schools, universities, employers and members of the industry expert group represented plain language statements. The higher education survey and secondary school survey did not include questions that asked students to provide their name or contact details. As a result, their identities were not disclosed. Given that most of the secondary school students were under 18 years of age, schools also received an opt-out form to send to parents to complete if they did not want their child to complete the survey. Researchers had to obtain clearance from the Abu Dhabi Education Council and the Ajman Education Zone to administer the secondary school survey in public schools in Abu Dhabi and Ajman respectively. Only those participants who indicated in the employer survey an interest in participating further in the project (32 participants) and/or receiving a summary of project findings (60 participants) disclosed their names and contact details. Similarly, it was optional for members of the industry expert group to provide their names and contact details when completing the industry validation survey. 3.7 DATA ANALYSIS The analysis of higher education data and secondary school data involved:  initial diagnostic screening of items to transform variables to form dichotomous or trichotomous variables as required for significance testing  descriptive analysis using frequencies, cross tabulations, and the chi-square test for independence for significance testing. Given the number of responses to the employer survey was insufficient for significance testing, researchers were restricted to descriptive analysis using frequencies to analyse the employer data.
  32. 32. 32 Chapter 3: Project approach 3.8 LIMITATIONS The main project limitation related to survey returns:  Higher education survey: The analysis of data by location (Emirate) proved difficult because of the low returns from Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain.  Secondary school survey: The significantly higher than expected number of returns from males (86% of returns) due to strong participation by male students from Applied Technology High Schools, affected the analysis of data by gender to some extent. Only one student from Umm Al Quwain completed the survey despite researchers eventually contacting all schools in this Emirate.  Employer survey: Despite using two large employer databases (NQA database and a university database) and sending employers a follow up email, employer returns (83 compared to a target of 343) were well below the threshold for significance testing. 3.9 EMPLOYER GUIDE Findings from employer survey and industry validation survey informed the development of an occupational information guide for employers in the UAE. The guide is a QFEmirates reference document that provides employers with validated information that can help them to match qualifications with occupational requirements when recruiting employees. The employer guide is a separate document that accompanies this final report. 3.10 CHAPTER SUMMARY  The research project involved three phases undertaken over a 17-month period:  Phase 1: Project planning, literature review and survey planning  Phase 2: Sampling strategy, survey design and survey administration  Phase 3: Final reporting and employer guide  The literature review focussed on employment indicators and trends in the UAE, education pathways and challenges, and qualifications frameworks worldwide.  The analytical framework consists of three integrated elements – research questions and hypotheses, data collection methods, and data analysis procedures.  A series of research questions sought to find out:  from employers – their knowledge of job requirements related to the QFEmirates, recruitment practices, hiring intentions over the next two years, and views about generic (CoreLife) skills  from students – their intentions after finishing school (secondary school students only), study decisions, preparation for study, access to careers advice, career intentions, knowledge of their preferred job and industry sector of employment, and views about CoreLife Skills (higher education students only).
  33. 33. 33 Chapter 3: Project approach  Data collection involved four online surveys – employer survey, secondary school survey, higher education survey, and industry validation survey. Researchers followed ethics procedures to collect the data.  The sampling strategy involved a mix of stratified sampling and convenience sampling.  Data analysis involved descriptive analysis – frequencies, cross tabulations and the Chi- square test for independence.  The main project limitation related to survey returns – insufficient returns from employers (only 83 returns), insufficient returns from some Emirates (all surveys), and gender imbalance of returns from secondary school students (males accounted for 86% of returns).
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  35. 35. 35 Chapter 4: Literature review 4. Literature review The chapter presents findings from a literature review that explored three dominant themes: employment indicators and trends in the UAE, education pathways and challenges, and qualifications frameworks worldwide. 4.1 EMPLOYMENT INDICATORS AND TRENDS Despite clear consensus in national agendas about the importance of employability for graduates, there remain sizable variances in both outlook and approach to developing students’ skills. 4.1.1 National human resource challenges National human resource challenges can be characterised as follows: 1. Heavy reliance on non-nationals to meet workforce needs for skilled and unskilled labour. 2. A large proportion of nationals working in the public sector; indicating the preferential treatment received in the public sector in comparison to what they receive in the private sector, such as compensation, working conditions and job security. 3. High rates of unemployment among recent graduates, which may indicate a mismatch between the skills needed in the labour market and those acquired by young university graduates. This mismatch has always been attributed to the existing education and training systems being unable to appropriately prepare students/learners for the changing needs of the 21st century global economy (International Labour Organization (2009)12; Keevey, Chakroun and Deij (2011)13; OECD (2007)14. 4.1.2 Recruitment and salary trends Drawing on a survey of 35,000 professionals and 1,300 companies, a survey of 2,100 executives and HR Managers, interviews with 60 senior executives from the Gulf as well as relevant reports and other sources, GulfTalent.com produced a report about employment and salary trends in the Gulf in 2012.15 12 International Labour Organization. Global Employment Trend (2009). Retrieved December 6, 2011, from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_101461.pdf 13 Keevey, J., B. Chakroun, B. & Deij, A. (2011). Transnational Qualifications Frameworks. The European Training Foundation. Retrieved December 4, 2011, from http://www.etf.europa.eu/webatt.nsf/0/720E67F5F1CC3E1DC125791A0038E688/$file/Transnational%20qualificat ions%20frameworks.pdf 14 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2007). Qualifications Systems: Bridges to Lifelong Learning. Retrieved October 21, 2013, from http://www.oecd.org/edu/highereducationandadultlearning/qualificationssystemsbridgestolifelonglearning.htm 15 GulfTalent.com (2012). Employment and Salary Trends in the Gulf. Retrieved December 23,, 2012, from http://www.gulftalent.com/home/Employment-and-Salary-Trends-in-the-Gulf-2012-Report-33.html
  36. 36. 36 Chapter 4: Literature review The report states that the UAE continues to experience increases in job creation and salary rises. As shown in ‎Figure 2, GulfTalent.com predicts that 51% of employers in the UAE will create new jobs and salaries will rise by 5.1% in 2012. Dubai’s share of regional recruitment activity is also expected to increase after two years of slowdown. In the Gulf region, healthcare and retail continued to experience the largest growth in employment while real estate experienced the lowest growth. Figure 2 Gulf job creation and salary rises, actual (2011) and expected (2012) Job creation (number of employers creating new jobs) 2012 (expected) 2011 (actual) 62% 56% 51% 51% 37% 8% Salary rises 2012 (expected) 2011 (actual) 5.6% 6.0% 6.5% 4.9% 5.1% 4.5% Source: GulfTalent.com (2012, pp. 33-34) 42% 51% 65% 68% 73% 77% Bahrain UAE Qatar Kuwait Oman Saudi Arabia 4.5% 4.9% 5.1% 5.6% 6.2% 6.4% Bahrain Kuwait UAE Oman Saudi Arabia Qatar
  37. 37. 37 Chapter 4: Literature review 4.1.3 Policy trends in the UAE Given the young population and large numbers of graduates entering the job market annually, creating opportunities for nationals continues to be a top priority across the Gulf region. In addition to setting minimum levels of Emiratisation, the Federal Government is rewarding companies in the UAE that achieve higher nationalisation levels by charging them lower fees to process visas for their expatriate employees (GulfTalent.com, 2010). Additionally, employers across the Gulf are coming under increasing pressure, not only to limit the number of expatriates, but also to diversity them in terms of nationality (Al-Ali, 2007)16. Despite initiatives to encourage Emiratisation in the private sector, data from GulfTalent.com (2012) indicates the proportion of UAE Nationals employed in the private sector in 2011 is low at 7% of total private sector employment – the second lowest in the Gulf region (‎Figure 3). To some extent, this result could be due to the lower proportion of UAE employers indicating Emiratisation is a key HR challenge (28%) compared to 82% of employers in Oman. However, 17% of companies in the UAE did report an increase in their nationalisation rate during 2011. Figure 3 Nationalisation rates, 201117 Pressure on employers (1) Average Nationalisation rate (2) Increase in Nationalisation (3) 14% 10% 20% 5% 7% 1% 36% 59% 17% 27% 17% 15% (1) Pressure on employers - percentage (%) of employers reporting nationalisation as a key human resource challenge (2) Average Nationalisation rate - Nationals employed in the private sector as a percentage (%) of total private sector employment (3) Increase in Nationalisation – percentage (%) of companies reporting an increase in their nationalisation rate during 2011 16 Al-Ali, J. (2008). Emiratisation: Drawing UAE nationals into their surging economy. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 28(9/10), 365-379. 17 GulfTalent.com (2012). Employment and Salary Trends in the Gulf. Retrieved December 23,, 2012, from http://www.gulftalent.com/home/Employment-and-Salary-Trends-in-the-Gulf-2012-Report-33.html, p. 12. 17% 28% 38% 54% 78% 82% Qatar UAE Kuwait Bahrain Saudi Arabia Oman
  38. 38. 38 Chapter 4: Literature review 4.1.4 Employers preferences for qualifications and skills The Middle East Jobs Index Survey (JI)18 gauges perceptions of job availability and hiring, identifies job trends, and provides an understanding of the key skill sets and qualifications required in the Middle East job market. Data for the August 2012 Jobs Index was collected online between the 26th July to the 26th August 2012, attracting 5,999 participants from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Pakistan (Bayt, JI, 2012). UAE accounted for 10% of all participants. ‎Table 2 presents the following hiring preferences of UAE participants:  28% of participants indicated their organisation would be ‘definitely hiring’ and 25% indicated their organisation would be ‘probably hiring’ in the next three (3) months.  Organisations are on the lookout for Engineering graduates (27% of respondents), Business Management graduates (22% of respondents) and Commerce graduates (20%). Participants were least interested in graduates with Law qualifications (3%).  Key skill sets most sought for in candidates were ‘Team player - Cooperative/helpful/ flexible’ (49%), ‘Good communication skills - Arabic & English’ (48% of respondents) and ‘Good leadership skills’ (47%).  In terms of experience, respondents were most interested in those with ‘Managerial - ability to manage a team’ (35%) and least interested in those with ‘Very senior level experience’ (7%).  Banking/Finance was regarded as the most attractive industry to top talent (34%), followed by Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals (32%) and Telecommunications (27%). Participants regarded Medical/Health Sciences as the least attractive industry to top talent (14%). Table 2 Hiring preferences of UAE employers Will you be hiring in the next 3 months either for your organisation or for your clients if you are in the recruitment field or an HR consultant Definitely hiring 28% Probably hiring 25% Probably not hiring 11% Definitely not hiring 7% Don’t know/can’t say 29% What are the educational and academic qualifications you emphasize on nowadays when looking for suitable candidates? Engineering graduation/post graduation (highest in the Middle East) 27% Business Management graduation/post graduation 22% Commerce graduation/post graduation 20% Administrative qualifications 16% Computer Science qualifications 14% Information Technology graduation/post graduation 13% 18 Bayt, JI, 2012. Middle East Job Index. August 2012. Retrieved December 23, 2012, from http://www.slideshare.net/bayt_com/middle-east-job-index-survey-august-2012
  39. 39. 39 Chapter 4: Literature review Science graduation/post graduation 12% Electronics/Electrical qualifications 9% Arts graduation/post graduation 7% Hospitality qualifications 6% Teaching qualifications 5% Law qualifications 3% Which of the follow requirements/factors do you most look for in a candidate? Team player - Cooperative/helpful/flexible 49% Good communication skills – Arabic & English 48% Good leadership skills 47% Ability to work under pressure 44% Trustworthy/Honest 40% Good negotiation skills 39% Effective/productive 36% Overall personality and demeanour 34% Good personal grooming 32% Passionate/desire to make a difference 32% What experience are you ideally looking for? Managerial – ability to manage a team 35% Mid-level experience (3 to 7 years) 27% Engineering 27% Computer skills 26% Sales and Marketing 25% Administrative 22% Senior level experience (7 to 10 years) 18% Junior level experience (less than 3 years) 17% Public speaking/giving presentations 9% Very senior level experience, Department Head or Director (more than 10 years) 7% Which industries are attracting/retaining the top talent in your country of residence today? Banking/Finance 34% Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals 32% Telecommunications 27% Construction 26% Tourism/Hospitality 24% Consumer goods 18% Advertising 18% Electronics 17% Medical/Health Services 14% Source: Bayt, JI (2012)
  40. 40. 40 Chapter 4: Literature review 4.1.5 Qualifications and employability issues The situation in the UAE can be compared to issues faced in other parts of the world. A key issue at the forefront of European projects concerning higher education and employability is to learn about the relative impact of higher education programs on acquired competencies and professional success (Pavlin, 2010)19. In examining the UAE, a similar approach of examination may be applied that Pavlin (2010) describes for the European market. As such, the concept of employability and the need for a national framework might be presented in the UAE as a holistic structure for the integration of different issues in a specific context. These relate to the levels of competencies, job requirements, labour market segmentation, or determinants of graduates’ careers, and the function of education systems providing skills for the labour market. In this perspective, for the UAE and other nations, definitions of employability frequently relate to paradoxes and connections of the following: 1. Employability as individual capabilities vs. actual registered employment (Pavlin, 2010) 2. Employability as a skill-supply phenomenon versus a skill demand phenomenon as measured in skill shortages versus skill surpluses (Allen and Van der Velden, 2005)20 3. Employability as individual factors (i.e. skills, socio-biographic characteristics, qualifications) versus personal circumstances (i.e. access to resources, work culture, national policy) (McQuaid and Lindsay, 2005)21 4. Employability as the justification of the professional orientation of jobs in which predominant characteristics are distinguished among managerial-organisational characteristics of jobs versus professional characteristics (Pavlin, 2010). 4.2 EDUCATION PATHWAYS AND CHALLENGES 4.2.1 Secondary and primary education The UAE has successfully expanded primary and secondary education; however, there is general acknowledgment that the quality of the primary and secondary education systems have room for growth to match and exceed international standards. For example, secondary school graduates can neither directly enter the labour market with the required skills and many are unable to pursue undergraduate education without foundation or bridge programs. According to PA Consulting (2009)22, these concerns are validated by: … different forms of evidence: low levels of performance on internationally benchmarked student assessments; low shares of students whose studies at the secondary and post- secondary level concentrate in the critical fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology; and low rates of obtaining postsecondary degrees. 19 Pavlin, S. (2010). Higher Education and Employability Issue 1. DECOWE Working Paper Series. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from: http://www.decowe.org/static/uploaded/htmlarea/decowe/reports/DECOWEWorkingpaper_201012Pavlin.pdf 20 Allen, J. & Velden, R. V. (Eds.). (2009). Report on the large-scale graduate surveys: Competencies and early labor market careers of higher education graduates. Retrieved December 4, 2011, from http://www.decowe.org/static/uploaded/htmlarea/finalreportshegesco/Competencies_and_Early_Labour_M arket_Careers_of_HE_Graduates.pdf 21 McQuaid, R.W.& Lindsay, C. (2005). The Concept of Employability. Urban Studies February, 42, pp. 197-219. 22 PA Consulting (2009). Curriculum Reform Program - A case for change.
  41. 41. 41 Chapter 4: Literature review In this context, it is of great importance to identify the vital role secondary education plays in the development process the UAE is undergoing at all levels. However, it is well recognised that in the current information and technology-based economy, secondary education is no longer sufficient as a terminal degree. Most of the fastest-growing jobs require at least some postsecondary education; yet, a large number of students fail to complete high school and make a successful transition to postsecondary. Further, studies consistently show that many high school graduates do not meet employers’ standards in a variety of academic areas as well as in employability skills such as attendance, teamwork, collaboration and work habits, whereas many others enter postsecondary education needing remedial coursework. 4.2.2 Identified needs for change The study by PA Consulting (2009) engaged 330 stakeholders about their opinions on the UAE education system. These stakeholder groups included principals, teachers, parents and students. There was consistent feedback on the following points:  There is a desire to improve current curricula structures and to make study more relevant to individual and societal needs as the current rigid structures are de-motivating for many students, parents and teachers.  Students need to understand better the relevance of school to their future work and study through improved career counselling.  Students need to be prepared better to undertake successfully tertiary studies and training. This requires that schools improve the teaching of basic skills and life skills such as decision-making, problem solving, and critical thinking.  Change takes time and requires resources to succeed, and limited success associated with past initiative needs to be addressed through improved communication, involvement of stakeholders and strategic planning.  There is insufficient time to learn all that is in the curriculum: either the time at school needs to be expanded or the breadth of the curriculum reduced.  There is a need to improve the total system and it is not enough to change what happens in secondary schools alone, since the system needs to be aligned from Years 1 to 12. The study explored the following aspects of the system that most need change in order to achieve high standards of education for UAE youth:  The mix of subjects was a concern as some students and teachers felt that insufficient opportunity is provided for students to undertake vocational programs. There was considerable support for greater flexibility and choice and the provision of a combined core and elective program.  Concern was expressed that current facilities are not designed to accommodate subjects where there are practical elements – a disincentive for some, more practically oriented students to remain in school.  If there is to be change then sufficient time is needed for teachers, educational managers, students and parents to understand the changes and develop new programs and approaches to teaching.
  42. 42. 42 Chapter 4: Literature review  Career counselling and the development of ‘student learning pathways’ was a concern as a considerable number of students do not have a sufficient understanding of post- school options and the link between what is studied at school and future work.  Generally, countries are offering additions beyond traditional academic subjects. These may be in the form of vocational education programs or through elective programs where students have the opportunity to choose subjects beyond the core curriculum, or a combination of the two. Core programs include the home language, another language, mathematics, science and personal development. 4.2.3 International comparisons The structure of senior secondary school curricula varies from country to country with a common trend towards the provision of several pathways for students to cater for the various abilities, attributes and aspirations of students (‎Table 3). The research was restricted to looking at the curricula structures associated with those students who continue with more formal and academic education rather than into vocational programs. Further work may be needed to understand better the full range of education and training programs that are available outside the more academic programs that are the focus of this report. Table 3 Key features of education systems in selected countries Australia  Academic and vocational curriculum established throughout secondary schools  Concept of students choice supported by counselling is embedded within the system  Highly qualified teachers with access to continuous development opportunities  Teaching and learning supported by high class IT and technology facilities  Secondary school qualifications internationally recognised and benchmarked Finland  Strong core curriculum, with electives having to be extensions of core subjects  Parents, pupils and employers integral to the design of new national curriculum  Concept of student choice supported by counselling is embedded within the system  Teachers need Masters degrees to teach and have access to continuous development  Over 99% of pupils complete basic education to end of Grade 9 Korea  Strong core curriculum, with elective in the last 2 years of high school  Curriculum content is aimed at progression to university  Drop-out rate from Middle to High School is only 0.5%  220 teaching days in the school year, which is one if the highest in the world (6 day week)  National network of teacher training institutions for initial and continuous training

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