Business Leaders’ Perspectives on the Role of Education and the Skillset Required in United Arab Emirates’ Knowledge Economy
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is traditionally known for its vast oil reserves and associated wealth, however the Government has accentuated the necessity to transform into a knowledge economy. In order to do so it has reformed its education system with the objective of developing the requisite skills required in a knowledge economy during the formal education period. The purpose of this research is to obtain in-depth understanding of whether senior business leaders of large and medium companies operating in the UAE considered education to be a means of developing a knowledge economy skill set, and if education was important, how successful had it been in enhancing the availability of those skills in the UAE labour market. The initial stage of the thesis was to identify the components of the conceptual framework to answer the research questions, and to assess the progress that the UAE had made towards knowledge economy status, based on established studies and global institutional reports. Mixed methodology was employed to answer the research questions and accomplished by conducting semi-structured interviews with 15 UAE based business leaders, plus a quantitative survey answered by 138 multi-level managers and professionals employed in UAE. The qualitative data was analysed using content analysis, and the survey, was analysed by means of SPSS software. The major findings are that the skills needed for the UAE knowledge economy differed somewhat in ranking from those suggested by previous studies and that the current educational policies, although progress have been made, are not generating sufficient skills to meet labour market demands. The key limitations of the study included a lack of agreed definition of the knowledge economy and the challenge of acquiring robust data from local UAE sources. Several recommendations are made for further study including extending the education framework to embrace early childhood education and university research culture. Furthermore, the organization of a platform for business leaders and education leaders, researchers, policymakers and practitioners to share knowledge and practice, so that the output of skills levels from the education sector could be substantially enhanced.