Focus On Engineering And Technology |
Khaleej Times - 24 July, 2012
The UAE’s GDP reached Dh1.25 trillion in 2011. With one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, the nation has taken major steps in growing and diversifying its economy since its establishment 40 years ago.
The country’s GDP has increased by 192 times over the last four decades driven by the focus on technical sectors such as transport, energy, manufacturing, constructions, telecommunication, as well as non-technical areas such as trade, tourism and hospitality. However, it is the scientific and engineering fields that will truly drive a country’s future economy. It is, therefore, essential that academic institutions are prepared for the next generation and to contribute towards sustainable development.
In a recent panel discussion organised by Dubai International Academic City (DIAC), Professor Badr Aboul-Ela, Director, Commission for Academic Accreditation, stated that student enrolment patterns in higher education institutions in the UAE reveal a chronic trend with the highest registration in business studies, significantly lower admissions in engineering and technology-related programmes and almost negligible in basic science programmes.
The outcome is anticipated to result in a serious human capital imbalance in the short and medium term between technical sectors and number of UAE national graduates with technical and engineering backgrounds. The scenario is also likely to force a semi-complete dependence on the expatriate workforce.
Currently, the country boasts nearly 30 local and international universities offering scientific and engineering programmes that could fulfil the demand for qualified graduates in diversified engineering disciplines such as mechanical, electrical and electronic, civil, chemical, petroleum, transport, environmental, aerospace, materials, marine, biomedical and agricultural engineering.
Transport and logistics market
Mobility is an essential ingredient to achieve the status of a well-developed and prosperous country. The UAE government has rallied the necessary efforts and resources to build a strong transport network. Dubai Ports World, for instance, is among the leading hubs in the world serving more than 100 shipping lines. The port is supported by Jebel Ali Free Zone, the oldest and largest free zone in the country housing a community of over 6,000 companies.
Unquestionably, the UAE’s aviation industry has placed itself on the global map of success with the remarkable success of Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways. Further, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has recorded an average of 8.6 million
passengers a month on the metro system. More than 3,000 people are involved in running the 74.6-km system. It is also noteworthy to mention one of the most significant national projects in the development of the UAE, the Etihad Rail network. within five years.
Oil and gas
The UAE possesses roughly eight per cent of the global oil resources and the fifth largest natural gas reserves. The Abu Dhabi government has acknowledged the significance of this sector and is planning to pump nearly Dh220 billion into projects to develop the sector in the next 10 years. Currently, oil and gas contribute to at least one third of the UAE’s GDP, making it a very strong sector in the short-medium term and prompting a strong demand for a skilled national workforce.
The UAE is ranked high among the GCC countries for construction projects. According to new research, current construction projects in the UAE including commercial and residential buildings, energy projects, and infrastructure projects amount to $ 1.249 trillion. The total contracts expected to be awarded during 2012 will see an increase of 26.57 per cent compared to last year.
The demand for facilities management is expected to increase enormously over the next few years. According to market reports, the Middle East’s facilities management industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 20 per cent over the next five years. Moreover, sustainable facilities management that focus on energy efficient solutions is the biggest growth area of the sector.
Environment and clean energy technology
Decision makers in the UAE’s energy sector are fully aware of the importance of producing clean energy for the future of the country and the coming generations. Green-energy technologies including clean coal power generation, solar, wind and nuclear energy utilisation as well as biomass energy are increasingly being adopted in the UAE. Dubai’s newly launched Dh12-billion solar energy project is designed to produce 1,000 MW of power, while Abu Dhabi’s world class Masdar initiative, which operates through five integrated units, is moving in the direction of becoming a global leader in renewable energy.
In addition to these sectors, one cannot dismiss the significance of industries such as information and communication technology, healthcare and media that play an equally major role in the advancement of the economy.
It is important to note that universities have introduced diverse programmes in regular and niche disciplines, providing the community an opportunity to choose a path that not only best suits their needs and talent but simultaneously nurtures growth in the UAE. Consequently, while prioritising academic excellence is essential, what remains critical is that academics place a subsequent importance on the application of skills that will work to the advantage of a fast-developing nation.