Attracting, developing and retaining talent has long been a national priority for the UAE.
But in recent years, the country has introduced a series of regulations aimed at making the emirates even more appealing for global talent, to ensure the country attracts professionals that the entire world is competing for.
This comes as the UAE accelerates its ambitious economic diversification plan, reducing its reliance on oil and gas, and instead cultivating a knowledge-based economy and attracting foreign investment.
And this latest talent recruitment drive appears to be working.
With a workforce now made up of ambitious and motivated individuals from more than 200 nationalities, the UAE ranks among the top 25 countries for global talent, and fourth for attracting talent, according to Insead’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022.
As the Arab world's second biggest economy, the UAE is highlighted for its “high level of external openness towards foreign talent, access to growth opportunities and lifelong learning possibilities”.
No surprise then that learners in the UAE workforce now rank second globally for business skills – demonstrating a "very high proficiency" across nearly every skill set, bar accounting.
That's according to Coursera's latest Global Skills Report, which draws data from 124 million learners in more than 100 countries over the last year.
In-demand leadership skills – UAE learners prove proficiency
In particular, UAE learners excel in the areas of communication (ranked #1 globally), leadership and management, and human resources skills (both #2 globally), and also rank highly in terms of entrepreneurship and strategy and operations.
Besides scoring highly in leadership-related skills, this is also an area where UAE learners are most interested, data finds.
Compared to those in other countries, learners in the emirates are more likely to invest in leadership skills, like people development, negotiation, and leadership development.
"This focus on human and leadership skills could serve as a crucial asset in overcoming the disruption set to be caused by the rapid emergence of generative AI," the report says.
This focus on lifelong learning and especially in business skills is endemic of the wider MENA region, which is more likely than other regions to invest in marketing skills like social media (1.44x) and advertising (1.43x), along with leadership skills like people analysis (1.66x), human learning (1.6x), and influencing (1.42x).
Digital skills – data science skills critical for UAE growth
However, technology remains a gap throughout the MENA region with learners in Saudi Arabia achieving the highest skill score (68%), while the UAE ranks 58th and 77th in technology and data science proficiency, respectively.
And while data science proficiency (24%) in the country has improved, to ensure competitiveness, especially as the country evolves into a global hub for technology and innovation, the report identifies it as a critical area for growth.
“The rise of digital jobs and remote work is creating unprecedented opportunities for local talent to participate in the global workforce if they have the right skills and credentials," says Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO, Coursera.
UAE learners are however achieving 'cutting-edge scores' in skills such as security engineering (90%), software engineering (88%), and computer networking (97%).
And with a 22% enrolment growth rate, UAE-based learners increasingly investing in Professional Certificates to prepare for digital jobs.
This is in line with the country’s ongoing investments in human capital under the framework of the ‘Principles of the 50’ that aims to attract talent, retain specialists, and continuously build skills to drive its future growth.
"Continuous investments and ongoing skills development in this sector will be required to take advantage of the opportunities created by the mainstreaming of advanced technologies across industries," the report says.