Digital dream falls short sans skills

Initiative by Seera Group brings real-world digital practice to KSA, UAE youth

Global and regional players need high calibre professionals to join their businesses, Aldawood says.
Global and regional players need high calibre professionals to join their businesses, Aldawood says.

One of the focal areas for economic and social development of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE is digital transformation, as reflected in the Saudi Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021 roadmaps. Both countries have made notable strides in driving digitisation – and one of the key driving forces of this transformation is empowering the youth with digital skills.

While the Vision Realisation Programmes of the Saudi Vision 2030 articulate a clear structure for digital talent empowerment in the Kingdom, there is a concerted emphasis in the UAE in upping the skills of its young people and in promoting a culture of digital entrepreneurship.

However, there needs to be a stronger focus on ensuring that the educational and development needs of young people in the region are fully supported, says Abdulaziz Aldawood, head of Jadarah at Seera.

Jadarah is a talent accelerator programme founded by Seera Group in partnership with digital giants Google, Twitter, Microsoft, AWS and Udacity.

According to the World Bank 2018 report, the effective years of school in the MENA region is about seven compared to 10.5 years in North America and Europe. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE have largely addressed this gap with high levels of literacy in both countries – but I believe it is important to inculcate digital skills training at a young age,” says Aldawood. 

Twenty-four candidates will take part in the second edition of the five-month programme commencing September 2019. “With Jadarah, we are offering the participants a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kick-start their careers under the leadership of brilliant minds from the regional and global digital industry,” says Aldawood.  

Regional context

Though KSA and UAE public and private organisations are heavily invested in technology, there is always room for enhancing the digital transformation drive, says Aldawood.

“This is one of the remits of Jadarah. Fully curated locally in the region, Jadarah offers a combination of training, mentorship and on-the-job experience to diversify the capabilities and accelerate the growth of the Arab youth.  The programme includes partnerships with industry giants including to give the candidates insight into some of the world’s most recognised and successful businesses,” says Aldawood. 

Fortunately, half of Jadarah’s work is done from the get-go due to an already tech-savvy youth population here in the region.

The main challenge, says Aldawood, is the lack of awareness among the youth on how to kick-off their career path. They also have limited on-job training and low exposure to networking opportunities, he adds.

“With Jadarah, the shortlisted candidates get an opportunity to create their own experiences, explore their potential, and change the course of their future. As the region focuses on digital transformation, global and regional players need high calibre professionals to join their businesses,” Aldawood says.

“Through Jadarah, we are helping to strengthen the regional talent pool, assisting in the development of valued skills, and providing fast-track access to opportunities in the digital space.”

Jadarah’s aim is to bridge the gap between classroom education and the modern workplace in the private sector.

Jadarah’s aim is to bridge the gap between classroom education and the modern workplace in the private sector. This is accomplished by tackling three key challenges that fresh graduates face in the region, explains Aldawood.

First is to provide clarity on how to kick-off a successful and accelerated career path which is aligned with the passion and capabilities of the participants. Second is equipping Arab youth with essential skills required at the workplace and create opportunities to apply them through effective on-the-job training and work experience. Third is to facilitate opportunities for exposure and networking within Seera Group and its global and regional partners – Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Amadeus, Udacity, AWS, Step Group, Manchester University, and Dubai Future Foundation, among others.

Empowering communities

Seera Group sees training and empowering the next generation of youth with digital skills as a strategic imperative and a commitment to the community, says Aldawood. Indirectly, “this programme also offers us the opportunity to network with like-minded private sector and governmental entities, which helps us further define our identity as a forward-looking full services travel provider committed to digitisation,” says Aldawood.

The programme received over 2,500 applications from Arab nationalities including Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians, Palestinians, Sudanese, Yemenis, Omanis, Lebanese, Tunisians, Moroccans, Kuwaitis, Iraqis, Bahrainis and Comorians. The initiative also attracted remarkable female participation, accounting for 48% of the applications, versus 40% in 2018, Aldawood observes.

Jadarah 2019 candidates come from renowned global universities such as Hult International Business School, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, as well as prestigious universities within the region such as the American Universities of Sharjah, Dubai and Cairo, Abu Dhabi University, King Saud University and the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Fifty five percent of the selected candidates are from Saudi Arabia, while the other Arab nationalities including Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians, Palestinians, Sudanese, Moroccans and Iraqis make up the remainder.

“This makes Jadarah a truly regional programme fostering cultural connections and opportunities,” says Aldawood.

Top candidates who cleared the online test were invited for a one-day assessment centre in Dubai or Riyadh which included presentations, concentrated group exercises and interviews with experts from the company. Following an assessment, 24 successful candidates have now been selected and invited to join the programme in September in Dubai. 

“We aim to extend our knowledge sharing initiative to our social media followers with original content from inspiring speakers through our Jadarah Talks initiative as well as selected trainings that would be beneficial for youth in the region,” Aldawood says.   

This year builds on the success of the inaugural year of the programme which saw 90% of the candidates securing jobs in leading organisations including McKinsey & Company, noon, Foodex Saudi, Riyadh Airports Company and Seera Group.

A former candidate of Jadarah, Dina Ayoub, is now a senior branding officer at Seera Group. She felt being at a crossroad of choosing between an internship and a full-time job after her graduation. Jadarah offered her the ideal platform to nurture her skill set before venturing into the real world.

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