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Want to build a rewarding career in the Middle East? Then focus on this skill

Experts say professionals must continuously update their technical skills to stay relevant and adapt to emerging trends

Want to build a rewarding career in the Middle East? Then focus on this skill
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Now, Einstein, being Einstein, could afford to say such profound things.

For millions of us, though, continuous education remains the best and, maybe, the only ticket to a shot at a successful career. It’s not just about the skills needed now but also those that will be needed in the future. It’s no surprise that it’s a much sought-after commodity.

“In a rapidly changing world, preparing for future challenges requires a versatile skill set, and continuous learning is essential to contend with prevailing and future industry disruptions,” says Ammar Al Malik, Executive Vice President of Commercial – TECOM Group PJSC.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2023 report, big data analytics, encryption and cybersecurity, and digital platforms are among the technologies most likely to create jobs in the MENA region in the coming years.

“It is abundantly clear that professionals must continuously update their technical skills to stay relevant and adapt to emerging trends regardless of the sector they operate in,” adds Al Malik.

Experts say to be a productive lifelong worker in today’s economy, you have to be a lifelong learner. Leaders and entrepreneurs need to be equipped with a new set of skills to navigate complex business landscape through short, hybrid, practice-based courses in addition to our other accredited academic programs, according to Professor Evangelos Moustakas, Professor in Digital Marketing and Executive Director of Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education at Heriot-Watt University Dubai.  

“The ever-changing business world requires even experienced leaders to adapt through new skills and innovative ways of thinking. Whereas traditionally, higher education meant attending a university degree, today, people view it as a means to switch careers or achieve career progression in their current jobs. Continuing education can happen in different forms, including Master’s programs and short training courses,” adds Moustakas.


There are more choices and career changes than ever before, but job growth is all about having the ability to learn – and fast. As businesses change, knowing how to learn new things will bump previous experiences.

And as businesses compete in a global market, companies will need workers who can quickly adapt to changes in the market. Research shows that companies that invest in worker training increase their bottom line over time.

“Regional businesses are clearly becoming more conscious of the critical role these skills play in fostering resilience, navigating dynamic work environments, and nurturing collaboration between diverse teams,” says Al Malik.

While some employers may recognize the importance of helping workers update their skills, there will still be many workers who have to shoulder this responsibility themselves. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s report, companies across industries cite skills gaps and a talent shortage as major barriers to transformation, with six out of ten workers requiring training before 2027, yet only half of employees currently have access to adequate training opportunities. 

“The growing divide between workers’ existing skills and future business needs presents a challenge that must be addressed. Both companies and governments are responsible for facilitating learning and reskilling opportunities,” says Grace Najjar, Regional Managing Director for the MENA region, Project Management Institute.

You don’t need to look far to see these digital skills in demand. For starters, now we see more job postings for coders and software developers than for production workers. Auto mechanics spend more time with computers than they do with wrenches. 

Fortunately, the region is adapting quickly enough. 

Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park are among the MENA region’s largest higher education and human resources hubs. Top universities, training academies, and professional development institutes offer courses from augmented and virtual reality and AI and robotics to emerging technologies such as Web3.

“All these offerings are geared to empower existing and future workforces for modern workplace demands,” adds Al Malik.

Short-term courses are overwhelmingly popular among professionals, as it allows them the flexibility to update their skills with manageable time and resource commitments, ensuring they remain competitive and are up to date with the latest trends in their respective fields.  

“With the increased emphasis on skills in the job market, including digital literacy and team-building skills, the appeal of the short courses lies in their ability to concentrate on specific skills, unlike traditional degree programs,” says Moustakas. “This flexible but also focused approach to learning establishes a strong connection between the investment made, the skills acquired, and the potential career advancements learners wish to acquire.”

For example, data science, analytics, and digital marketing courses have grown. Gone are the days when you can learn one skill that sets you up for life. Today, new technology is regularly introduced in every industry, and workers have to learn how to use it. 

“New applications and technologies require experts to frequently upgrade their skills,” he adds.


While many studies point to the importance of technical skills and digital know-how to successfully navigate today’s job market, Moustakas says soft skills are equally becoming critical, especially in light of hybrid working and emerging management and workplace trends.

For example, a study by LinkedIn shows that 92% of talent professionals believe that soft skills are just as important, if not more important, than technical skills. 

Soft skills are also expected to gain greater prominence in the coming years. Analytical and creative thinking were cited by the Future of Jobs 2023 report’s MENA respondents as their top reskilling and upskilling priorities over the next five years, ranking above artificial intelligence (AI) and big data and technological literacy. 

Soft skills such as problem-solving, adaptability, and communication are essential to navigate today’s ever-changing landscape and could be major determinants of success.

“Collaboration and effective communication have become more important than ever. Building strong relationships and articulating ideas are vital for successful teamwork,” Najjar adds.

To navigate today’s job market successfully, Al-Malik emphasizes that technical and people skills are essential for a well-rounded workforce. 

“While technical skills lay the foundation for specialized expertise to be gained and sharpened, people skills are critical for professionals to unlock pathways to improved business outcomes as well as leadership opportunities by driving collaborative innovation.”

“To ensure workforces are future-ready, we must ensure professionals are equipped with a diverse skill set enabled by well-rounded educational programs that balance contemporary technical knowledge with the creativity and analytical intellect needed to navigate the ever-evolving professional landscape,” adds Al Malik.

Experts agree that the region can only progress if we build a globally competitive workforce. Having a skilled workforce enhances the productivity of individual companies and the productivity, economic security (and ultimately), the region’s resilience.

Continuing education is undeniably the future of work. 

As industries face disruptions from automation, AI, and economic headwinds, Najjar says, “Continuing education helps professionals adapt to new circumstances and take advantage of emerging opportunities.”

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Suparna Dutt D’Cunha is the Editor at Fast Company Middle East. She is interested in ideas and culture and cover stories ranging from films and food to startups and technology. She was a Forbes Asia contributor and previously worked at Gulf News and Times Of India. More