Emirates Foundation’s Social Investment Forum Encourages Youth to “Think Science”

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has a growing need for Emiratis skilled in science and technology to drive its knowledge-based economy but only seven percent of Emiratis are choosing careers in this area.

The Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, an independent, philanthropic organisation set up by the Abu Dhabi government to create public-private partnerships to improve the welfare of the nation’s youth, addressed challenges relating to this widening skills gap at its third Business Breakfast for Social Investment today.

The event titled “Encouraging Youth to Think Science: Bridging the Skills Gap for Industrial Growth” was hosted by Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the Foundation’s Managing Director. The forum brought together experts and stakeholders from education and industry to collaborate in building a united framework aimed at encouraging more youth to improve their science skills and use them to contribute to the development of the nation’s economy.

“Today’s forum is looking at ways to bridge the gap for future industrial growth,” said HE Sultan Bin Tahnoon, noting “The gap that was created because young generations are not embracing science for their future careers.” Panelists included Dr. Abdul Qader Abusafieh, Technology Advisor at Mubadala Aerospace, Prof. Sehamuddin Galadari, the Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, and Professor of Biochemistry ‘&’ Molecular Cell Biology at the UAEU, and Dr. Shayma Alkobaisi, assistant Professor at the College of Information Technology (CIT) at the UAEU.

Discussions were facilitated by Mrs Clare Woodcraft, CEO, Emirates Foundation, who highlighted the need to create a platform through which organisations and decision makers could delve into the reasons as to why young Emiratis made science a secondary choice in their education.

“Our research and advocacy department prepared research outcome that showed approximately 24.6 percent of young Emiratis are enrolled in science related majors that pool into the knowledge based economy, but only 7 percent of Emiratis are employed in science, technology and innovation related industries,” she said.

“Given the need for young Emiratis to work in science related jobs in the UAE, we thought it is important that we address this issue with experts in the field. We are looking at what is stopping youth from embracing science as a career choice, and then attempting to find solutions to recruit more youth to these fields.” She concluded.

Responding to a question about the role businesses play in supporting youth to choose science, Dr. Abdel Qader Abusafieh mentioned that corporates are struggling to find Emirati talents who are interested in science related jobs. He advised that corporates should be active in creating initiatives to generate the interest among students at early stages to have an impact over their future career choices.

Then corporates have to be more creative in how to sustain and maintain those youth in their cadre. “I believe that academia, the industry and the government must work together to solve this problem.” Sihamuddin Galadari said: “Science is difficult and our brains are made to go the easy way. There is a need to create collaborations between businesses and academia aligned with the country’s needs.

This shall help in exchanging information, data and expertise.” “It is very important to also support scientific research in our community and ensure that the notion of failure is embraced positively. We have to teach and educate our community that with every failure there is a fresh start. Take me as an example, i have countless research papers and experiments that fail, however this didn’t stop me at all.” In her address Dr. Shaymaa Al Kobaisi highlighted her personal experience being an Emirati woman working in a science related profession.

“To a very high extent; being the first national faculty in the college of IT at UAEU makes me feel that I play a major role as an ambassador. I feel that I should always incentives to young people.” “There were never any gender barriers. On the contrary, I had all the support from my family and UAEU and UAE government in general. The percentage of female in the field of IT in the US is very small particularly in academia, but this was never a discouraging factor for me.” She added.

Discussions included input from young, innovative Emiratis who have embraced science and been recognised for their achievements locally and internationally.