WISE: In your view, what are the skills that are most important for individuals entering the workforce? What mix of general and job-specific skills is important?
Mr. Shipchandler: Today, the traditional work environment has evolved dramatically. Conventional hierarchies and workplace stereotypes are hardly relevant in today’s dynamic idea-driven workplace, where talent more often than not gets the recognition it deserves. Apart from the technical knowledge, gained through conventional education, what will set apart individuals entering the workforce today is their genuine passion for work. A deep-rooted interest in work must be matched by openness to ‘unlearn’ and ‘learn.’ It is not uncommon that fresh recruits come with the baggage of their prejudices and purely academic orientations. For them, today’s work culture can sometimes come as a shock, as they are expected to adapt to the work ethics and culture of the organization.
Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend a set box of skillsets for young recruits. I would rather suggest that they adopt an open mind to learn and understand the organisation’s culture and philosophy. Each organization has a central belief, which is built on the pillars of integrity and ethics. Young recruits must quickly ingrain these as part of their workplace identity.But the biggest differential will be how they approach work creatively, keeping an open mind to experiment and identify solutions that enhance efficiency at work.
WISE: Should we be talking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education — or about STEAM (with arts as an important part of the curriculum)? Should arts and humanities be receiving more attention in schools, or given weaknesses in STEM, is it better to focus energies there?
Mr. Shipchandler: Of course, the value of humanities is increasingly becoming crucial now than ever before. This is because of the ability to think creatively that studies in humanities provide to the students. The traditional STEM approach has often been seen to become text-book oriented, leaving little room for students to think outside the box and innovate. While there are exceptions, with some educational institutions emphasising on strengthening ability of students in problem-solving, especially in real settings, most often, the importance of this hands-on approach is sidelined.
A STEAM approach, by the very nature of humanities being more hands-on and community-focused, can instill in the students a broader understanding of the true challenges that they must eventually address as professionals.
The ability to be innovative and creative is acquiring greater importance in today’s work environment, and therefore adapting a STEAM approach can help strengthen the overall skillsets of students effectively.
WISE: How can private sector and education stakeholders work together more effectively?
Mr. Shipchandler: We are already witnessing a strong partnership approach among the private sector and the education stakeholders here in the Middle East region. GE, for example, works with several leading educational entities in Qatar, as well as the wider Middle East, to create educational programs that reflect the actual needs of businesses and the community. A stronger private sector-educational sector tie-up is of immense value in promoting localized research and development, and in nurturing the skillsets of our students, enabling them to become fully rounded professionals as soon as they enter the workplace.
To work together more effectively, I believe, it is important to create a culture of dialogue. Unless both sectors come together to identity the gaps and address them, such partnerships will tend to be largely unidirectional and not all-encompassing.