…Panel says digitisation must close the education-employment gap and enhance inclusivity
How do we prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented? This pertinent question that every country in the world faces today, was addressed by a panel of experts in the fields of youth, education and technology at the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2018) panel discussion, ‘Youth of the Future: Building Young Skills for the Digital Millennium’ today (Thursday, March 29).
Speakers Gavin Anderson, Director of British Council, UAE, Martin Roeske, Senior Manager, Public Policy and Government Relations, Google ME, Fatimah Al Sanea, KSA Branch Manager, UTURN Entertainment Network and Nelly Andrade, Global Director – On Campus Program, Hult Prize Foundation were led into a dynamic and informative discussion by the session’s moderator, Adrian Wells, Managing Director of ENEX, Association of Commercial Global Broadcasters.
“When you engage with young people who want to create their own media, UTURN is there to help facilitate that, what is the level of involvement required? Are they ahead of the curve or is there still quite a big gap?” asked Wells.
Al Sanea responded saying: “The level of expertise isn’t always up to the mark, so UTURN plays the role of an incubator that recognises and attracts young talents and nurtures their capabilities by offering them subject matter expertise, a robust infrastructure and a stimulating environment where young creators exchange experiences and learn from like-minded peers. In the Saudi Arabian market, we are pioneers in the field of content creation on multi-network platforms like Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook and others by the youth.”
The global phenomenon of the inability of governments and educational institutions to keep up with the pace of technological advancements, and how they can speed up was highlighted by Martin Roeske.
“The only way we can do this is when public and private sectors, civil society and academia work together. We need to devise effective curriculum reform, meaning educational institutions are still teaching students to become IT technicians and network engineers, when the world is moving towards could, machine learning, and AI. We need a very different infrastructure to be able to facilitate this kind of training that will help society create data analysts, experts and technological scientists. This combination of skills will be achieved only if we all work together.”
The role of governments in building ecosystems required to support this level of education and introducing policies that are conducive to allow young people to access opportunities in a digital economy were also highlighted.
“The smooth transition from education to work is very important and the government should play in central role in facilitating this,” Roeske noted.
The need for education to be more engaging and relevant to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities was one of the main themes of the discussion.
British Council Director, Anderson, remarked: “Educational systems can be quite conservative. The knowledge versus innovation debate is rather interesting as education systems are expected to impart certain values to the youth, which by their very nature can be quite a conservative force. Moving away from this to create a more progressive and innovative ecosystem is where governments ought to play a central role by encouraging a diverse set of social, private and political actors to address the question of 21st century skills that are represented by problem-solving, critical thinking and core STEM training.”
The importance of imparting soft skills versus a more traditional method of knowledge assimilation that machines are better capable of doing, was stressed by Andrade, who said: “Hult focuses on deploying skills that seek to turn the youth from being job seekers to becoming job creators. What we want to do is to encourage young students to see that there is much more in entrepreneurship than making money.”
The question of what is the right age to begin imparting soft skills to students was asked. According to Wells young learners should be introduced to soft skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, tolerance, etc., as early as in primary school.
The recent announcement about over 50 percent of the world going online was viewed by the panelists as a major achievement, and at the same time was seen as having the potential to give birth to a new inequality.
The panel said that as governments and societies become more technologically sound, they need to be very careful to not isolate the other 50 percent. They recommended a more inclusive approach to technology and stressed on the important role government can play in making opportunities equally available to all.
Hardworking Baby Boomers, Managerial Gen X, Enthusiastic Millennials & Honest Gen Z
An interactive session on the final day of the 7th International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) heard of the stark differences between generations covering the last 70 years and the role of technology in increasing those gaps, at an interactive session titled, ‘Dynamics of the Relationship Between Millennials and Gen Z’.
Ayman Arandi, Technology Entrepreneur and founder of Iris Solutions told the audience that ‘Baby Boomers’ born between the 1940s and the 1960s had a well-established reputation as hardworking, productive team players who were instrumental in rebuilding the aftermath of the second world war. For them, he said, there was no private technology.
For Generation X, used to define those born from 1965 to 1984, Arandi said the world looks back on them as managerial, revenue-driven problem solvers, epitomising much of the global ideal of capitalism.
That, though he claimed was the beginning of a new era. The Millennials, who are now typically aged 22-37 years old enjoyed the fruits of new technology and regarded themselves as enthusiastic, tech-savvy – the first time ever for a generation – and entrepreneurial.
But, Arandi told the forum, the generation gap has widened more than ever; for good and for bad, it is primarily a technology-driven community.
Some of the statistics the speaker quoted showed that 96% of Gen Z in emerging and developed countries own mobile phones, 85% use social media, 50% are online for 10 hours per day or more and reportedly have an attention span of eight seconds.
In terms of personality, Arandi said, they are a generation which is honest, health-conscious, salary-motivated, environmentally-conscious, but perhaps most tellingly, they are set apart from previous generations because they are screen-oriented, realistic – as opposed to previous generations of optimistic – and are apparently driven by a fear of missing out (FOMO).
IGCF, which is organised by the International Government Communications Centre and is being held at Expo Centre Sharjah, concludes today (May 29).
Since its launch in 2012, the IGCF has been successful in fostering government communication in the UAE and wider Arab world, and developing communication channels between governments and the public. To achieve its goals, IGCF has hosted elite experts and influential speakers to share their expertise and visions on the best methods of upgrading government communication and increasing its efficiency in dealing with the challenges facing the world at the present time and in the future.