Dubai, 15 June 2023: UAE school students between the ages of 15 to 18 years have remarkable maturity and are very focused on their professional aspirations, with a vast majority (90%) already exploring career choices in high school and 40% planning to pursue majors in business and healthcare. This is according to a recent report on student career aspirations and the future of work by KPMG Lower Gulf and GEMS Education, spanning 800 high school students across the UAE.
The report, titled ‘Mind the Gap’, was launched today through an event run by KPMG Lower Gulf and GEMS Education at the GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai. The event, which invited students of the academy to participate, was attended by H.E. Faisal Al Hammadi, Advisor to the Minister of Education, GEMS Education’s Group Chief Executive Officer Dino Varkey, Emilio Pera, CEO and Senior Partner at KPMG Lower Gulf, Marketa Simkova, Partner, Head of People & Change at KPMG Lower Gulf and Gunjan Shroff, Partner, People & Change at KPMG Lower Gulf.
The discussions centred around the report findings, which highlighted the statistics of female high school students who displayed remarkable confidence and determination in their career advancement, with 44% strongly agreeing that they planned to work and progress in their chosen field in the long term.
Business was the top career choice for boys (29%) and healthcare was the foremost for girls (24%). Of those surveyed, 14% of boys and 4% of girls planned to pursue careers in information technology. Despite current job trends, less than 1% of respondents planned to study emerging technologies, and only about 5% planned to study natural sciences. Overall, 12% said they planned to pursue engineering and 6% were interested in creative arts.
Students also ranked communication, critical thinking, creativity and innovation, social skills, and leadership as the most important for future job success (9% to 12%). Collaboration, flexibility and initiative were also seen as vital skills to succeed in their chosen career field (6.6% to 8.4%). However, students were less committed to developing technological, information and media literacy (3.4% to 5.7%), indicating a need for schools to perhaps impart these skills early on.
Marketa Simkova, Partner, Head of People and Change at KPMG Lower Gulf, said: “The findings of this research show that UAE students are clear about their career goals and are not afraid to dream big. As the leaders of tomorrow, the skills, experience and aspirations instilled in school students are crucial in realizing a future built on innovation. Their aspirations are also closely linked to the UAE’s vision for progress, which prioritizes innovation, collaboration and life-long learning. Education is key to ready students for the future workplace. Educators have a responsibility to develop the right skills for students to fulfil their ambitions, and it is crucial companies create the right infrastructure that caters to the needs of this future workforce.”
Dino Varkey, Group Chief Executive Officer of GEMS Education, added: “The UAE’s spirit of innovation continues to motivate and inspire the next generation to take up careers in wide-ranging fields. Education has always been one of the UAE’s top priorities, and it is incredibly encouraging to see young students displaying maturity and determination beyond their years to fulfil their dreams. Exposing them to broader opportunities and offering support and guidance throughout their student journey will have an enormously positive impact on their personal and professional development.”
Despite their determination to pursue their passions, more than half of students surveyed (53%) said financial challenges limited their career choices, while about one-fifth reported that their parents’ aspirations were an impediment to pursuing their preferred jobs. This shows that schools should also prioritize educating parents about market trends, career opportunities and financial assistance.
Girls were also more committed to leadership and were nearly as likely as their male counterparts to lead group projects, proactively answer questions in class, and volunteer and participate in extracurricular activities outside classrooms. In fact, more girls were comfortable speaking in public compared to their male classmates (58% and 55%, respectively), and the vast majority of students of both genders were comfortable taking careers risks (84% of girls and 89% of boys).
About KPMG International Limited
KPMG is a global organization of independent professional services firms providing Audit, Tax
and Advisory services. We operate in 147 countries and territories and have more than 219,000
people working in member firms around the world. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and
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KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee. KPMG
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About GEMS Education
GEMS Education is one of the world’s oldest and largest K-12 private education providers and a highly regarded choice for quality private education in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). As a company with roots in the UAE dating back to 1959, it holds an unparalleled track record of providing diverse curricula and educational choices to all socio-economic means. GEMS Education now owns and operates more than 80 schools around the world and educates more 130,000 students in the MENA region alone. Through its growing network of schools as well as charitable contributions, GEMS is fulfilling a long-held vision of putting a quality education within the reach of every child.
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