Gulf Plans Ahead to Bridge Education-Employment Gap

By Bahrain Economic Development Board, PRNE
Sunday, September 19, 2010

MANAMA, Bahrain, September 20, 2010 - The Gulf must collaborate in matching education to future
labour market needs as a population boom transforms the region and its
increasingly pivotal role in the global economy, opinion leaders have said
ahead of an education summit in Bahrain.

In the countdown to The Education Project 2010, which runs
8-10 October, attention has turned to an issue considered one of the most
pressing facing the six GCC states. A recent report by the Economist
Intelligence Unit (EIU) - 'The GCC in 2020: The Gulf and its People' - notes
that with one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations in the world,
the future development of the Gulf ultimately depends on the success of
efforts to educate and employ the next generation. A mismatch between
education and business needs would result in an education-employment gap.

According to Dr Mona Mourshed who leads McKinsey & Co.'s
Middle East practice, though much discussion has revolved around this gap and
its root causes, less headway has been made in finding the solutions which
can be scaled upwards. She will join key figures from academia, business and
politics at The Education Project to discuss how to best build an education
system in the Gulf to address the challenge ahead. The forum is held each
year in the Kingdom having been founded under the initiative of His Royal
Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain and
Chairman of the Kingdom's Economic Development Board (EDB).

Kamal Ahmed, Chief Operating Officer of the EDB which is
organising the annual conference in Manama, says: "The EIU forecasts the GCC
population to increase by a third to 53 million by 2020 with the vast
majority under the age of 25. This presents both challenges and major
opportunities. Matching local labour supply to demand is the key to unlocking
common goals in supporting economic diversification, growth and creating
better opportunities for all."

"A large youth population can be very positive, leading to
strong economic development in the case of ample job creation and a good
match of human skills to employer needs," adds Huda Al Ghoson, General
Manager, Training and Development at Aramco who is speaking at the event. "So
it is imperative that effective collaboration and partnership be instituted
among educators, governments and business leaders to create and sustain an
environment conducive to life-long learning that meets the business needs of
the day. High quality education is essential to lay the foundation for future
growth to address the continuously changing requirements of the workplace and
assure the sustainable development and growth at all levels of the economy."

The creation of greater opportunities and high value-added
jobs in rewarding careers is central to Bahrain's own Vision 2030 and an
ambition to contribute to the economic growth of the GCC as a whole. The
process is being led by the EDB under the guidance of HRH the Crown Prince.
The Education Project itself has grown out of the Kingdom's experience in
learning from the best education systems around the world having been the
first country in the Gulf to introduce a public education system in 1919, and
to open education to women in 1928.

Kamal Ahmed explains: "People talk about India and China as
major economic blocs. Our aspiration in Bahrain is for people to talk about
India, China and the Gulf. Sustainable economic growth that provides
opportunity for all is only achievable with the right education system in
place. So we must work together in building an education system that equips
an increasing number of graduates - including a growing number of women -
with the right skills for the private sector. Different countries face
different challenges but many of the issues are common. Bahrain has a strong
track record but we too have much to learn. Our goal in establishing The
Education Project is to share best practice and create a practical road map
that can be followed to improve outcomes."

"Education is an economic issue," adds Waleed Al Banawi,
Chairman of the Young Presidents' Organisation, MENA. "We need to connect the
dots between education and workforce readiness… we need to make it a
bottom-line issue for companies. The time has come for GCC countries to focus
their energies on the quality of education, making sure that students are
equipped with what they need for the labour market… and prepared for the
jobs of tomorrow."

Abeer Shubassi, Senior Country Officer of the Education for
Employment Foundation (EFE) and who joins Al Ghoson and Al Banawi in speaking
at the event, says: "Many companies lack sufficient qualified human resources
to expand and compete more effectively at local and international levels.
They need employees with a strong work ethic, entrepreneurial mindset,
leadership ability and cutting-edge professional and technical training…
closing the skill gap increases the value of human capital for both youth and

The Education Project is free to attend for educational
professionals from all sectors as well as from public and private sector
institutions with an interest in developing new models and standards in
education. Entry is by invitation only; for more information and to register
online visit:

Notes to editors

About The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB)

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is a dynamic
public agency with an overall responsibility for formulating and overseeing
the economic development strategy of Bahrain, and for creating the right
climate to attract direct investment into the Kingdom.

The role of the Bahrain EDB is to provide leadership by
uniting all of the Kingdom's shareholders through a unified vision, and to
develop key strategies for growth. The Bahrain EDB also acts as a
facilitator, helping all of Bahrain's stakeholders to understand and adopt
the changes necessary for progress. In addition, the Bahrain EDB provides
sound project management to ensure that all agreed reform initiatives are
implemented in an effective and timely manner.

The Bahrain EDB is also responsible for attracting inward investment into
Bahrain, and is focusing on six target economic sectors in which the Kingdom
offers significant strengths. These are financial services, downstream
industries, tourism, business services, logistics, and education and

For more information on the Bahrain EDB visit; for information about Bahrain visit

    Further information

    Jenan Al Maskati, Bahrain Economic Development Board
    Tel: +973-17-589-930

    Katie Bergius, Bell Pottinger
    Tel: +44(0)207-861-3105 / +44(0)7979-701-689

Further information: Jenan Al Maskati, Bahrain Economic Development Board, Tel: +973-17-589-930, Email: internationalmedia at; Katie Bergius, Bell Pottinger, Tel: +44(0)207-861-3105 / +44(0)7979-701-689, Email: kbergius at

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