Behind-the-scenes at Expo 2020 Dubai apprenticeship scheme

Engagement manager Khalid Sharaf tells Vision how the Expo 2020 Dubai Apprenticeship Programme empowers young people and aids their career development for the future

What is the Apprenticeship Programme and who is it for?

The Expo 2020 Dubai Apprenticeship Programme is a nine month programme, which will offer graduates under the age of 28 with the opportunity to learn from and work directly alongside the industry experts leading the delivery of Expo 2020. Our aim is to ultimately provide the apprentices with the practical skills and experiences that will then enable them to confidently step into longer term employment.

Just recently we welcomed the first cohort of apprentices, which includes young people from 14 different nationalities, including the UAE, Morocco, India, the US, Jordan, Bulgaria and Denmark. This degree of diversity is testament not only to the inclusive nature of Expo 2020 Dubai, but also to the multiculturalism of the UAE. The feedback we’ve had from the apprentices so far has been really positive and we are excited to see how the programme will continue to evolve and expand each year in the lead-up to 2020.  

What is the rationale behind the Apprenticeship Programme?

The UAE government recognises the importance and value of young people to the UAE's development and has launched a number of initiatives including the Youth Empowerment Strategy and the Youth National Council through which to engage them. At the same time, the UAE also continues to transition towards becoming a vibrant and diversified knowledge economy, fueled by skill development, innovation and creative thinking.

By bringing the globally proven apprenticeship model to the UAE for the first time, Expo 2020 can further support both of these ambitions, enabling young people to take charge of their future and contribute towards their collective success and prosperity. And, the programme is also a great illustration of the Expo 2020 theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and the subtheme ‘Opportunity.’ In this way, the apprentices will become an important part of the Expo’s economic and social legacy.

What are the main aims of the programme?

Young people are at the heart of our plans for Expo 2020 Dubai and we are continually looking for new ways to engage and empower them, so that they are in the best position possible to become the leaders and innovators of the future. We also recognize that young people will need to develop different skills than those of previous generations in order to succeed and flourish in today’s increasingly globalised world.

With this in mind, the Apprenticeship Programme was created in line with global best practice, to provide participants with practical opportunities to build their confidence and develop a skillset that positions them for future employment across a range of industries, broadening and expanding their future.

How were the final apprentices selected?

More than 2,700 young people applied for the programme following its launch in April – not only does this number illustrate the high level of interest in Expo 2020, but we were also really impressed by the diversity and high quality of the applications, which were a great reflection on young people here in the UAE.

We then invited 150 shortlisted candidates to attend a series of assessment workshops at the Expo site. As I’ve mentioned, the Apprenticeship Programme recognises that young people need to develop different proficiencies than those of previous generations and so the selection process was carefully designed to identify and cultivate skills such as teamwork, verbal communication, creativity, leadership, and the ability to problem solve under pressure through a series of both group and individual tasks and challenges.

After a further round of shortlisting and a series of interviews, we identified the final 27 apprentices, who we believe are a great representation of the enthusiasm and talent that the youth of the UAE have to offer, and will help set the standard for future cohorts.

Khalid Sharaf Dubai 2020 Expo 2
'Young people are at the heart of our plans for Expo 2020 Dubai and we are continually looking for new ways to engage and empower them'

How is the programme structured?

Between now and their graduation from the programme in June 2017, apprentices will complete a series of intensive and varied learning modules, which also includes Applied Business Challenges – an opportunity to put their learning and new skills to practice in a simulation environment.

The programme also includes six months’ worth of on-the-job work experience within one of a range of Expo 2020 Dubai departments, such as Commercial, Communications, Procurement and Real Estate Development. We have carefully selected these different departments to match the apprentice’s skillset and area of interest and the variety is an indication of the broad nature of our work here at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Apprentices will also work on a capstone project throughout the duration of the programme, and this has been developed as an individual, investigative workplace assignment that is meant to demonstrate learning and provide a valuable deliverable to their designated department.

And finally, each apprentice will also benefit from expert mentorship and leadership coaching from a senior member of the Expo 2020 Dubai team.

What specific skills do you expect apprentices to gain?

The programme includes four key learning modules; Communication, Being Effective, Project Management and Innovation and Creativity. But outside of the learning modules, the apprentices will also gain important skills such as leadership and teamwork and this will happen through first-hand, real-life experiences.

And of course, apprentices will also benefit from the global nature of the Expo, both in terms of the international team that they will be part of, and the diverse range of networking opportunities that will be available to them during both the planning and delivery of the event.

What else is Expo 2020 doing to engage young people?

Expo 2020 Dubai has launched a number of programmes and initiatives to inspire young people and encourage them to explore the opportunities available to them, whilst also providing the tangible skills that will enable them to take a leading role in the journey to 2020 and beyond.

In November 2015, we launched YouthConnect, an annual event created by youth, for youth. The programme saw more than 800 young people from across the UAE enjoy inspirational speeches and engaging discussions and take part in hands-on workshops led by some of the world’s most successful individuals and entities from across a variety of industries and disciplines, including the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA), the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, Facebook, street artist El Seed and former footballer Frederic Kanoute. We are now busy preparing for the second edition of YouthConnect which will take place in November, and this time we are excited to welcome young people from across the entire GCC region.  

We are also continuing our series of School and University Roadshows, delivering fun and interactive presentations to students across the UAE to raise awareness of Expo 2020. Ultimately, we want to extend the opportunities associated with Expo 2020 as far as possible, and we will continue to develop and roll out youth-specific programmes to help us achieve this.