Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Education & Manufacturing Partnership

PEIE launched its second season of Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG) seminars on Monday night at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel.

The topic under discussion was Education, Training and Manufacturing: Going Global and the panellists included: Abdullah Al Jufaili, Intilaaqah Enterprise Fund; Abeer Abdullah, Knowledge Horizon; Professor Andrew Self, Serco; Steve Bakalis, Ministry of Higher Education; Talal Al Rahbi, Information Technology Authority; and Dr. Evanglous Asendras, Sultan Qaboos University. The 90 minute panel discussion was moderated by Infocomm’s Managing Director, Karim Rahemtulla. Over 180 people from manufacturing, business, education and government attended the seminar.

Nurturing talent, creativity and building stronger dialogue between manufacturing and higher education were the key themes of the evening. “If we aren’t designing the right degree courses, if manufacturing isn’t in dialogue with colleges and universities then how are we to produce the skilled knowledge workers required to take Oman’s manufacturing sector forward?” asks OMG Co-ordinator and PEIE Marketing Officer, Mulkie Al Hashmi. The objective behind the OMG series is to bring the relevant stakeholders together and discuss issues of concern to Oman’s manufacturing sector. According to Al Hashmi: “Monday night’s session was very well received and we were delighted with the feedback.”

On developing and attracting talent to the manufacturing sector, Rahemtulla says: “The most important national and corporate resource over the next 20 years will be talent. Smart, sophisticated businesspeople who are technologically literate, globally astute and operationally agile. And even as the demand for talent goes up, the supply of it will be going down. So, if we’re to compete globally, we’ve got to get our heads round this issue and look seriously at how we train, educate, attact and retain the right human capital. The OMG seminar addressed these issues squarely. I’m confident that as a result of Monday night’s discussion we’lll see a revitalized education and manufacturing relationship emerge.”

It was evident from the panel discussion and the questions raised by attendees that innovation is critical to the future success of manufacturing and wealth creation in Oman. This is a hard economic fact. Government, the private sector and education, need to work together to create the best possible conditions for innovation in manufacturing, to put innovation at the centre of corporate strategies and to convey to young people the excitement and challenges of the advances taking place today in manufacturing, entrepreneurship, science and technology. “Manufacturing is an exciting sector and we’ve got to get that message out to Oman’s youth – encourage them to study, maths, science and engineering and create industry role models. In particular, we’ve got to get this message across to young women,” says Knowledge Horizon’s Abeer Abdullah.

“We need to see government, manufacturing, higher education, schools and support providers coming together on a more regular basis. Such meetings would play an important role in creating a network and co-ordinated structure that could improve the viability, growth and competitiveness of the sultanate’s manufacturing community. PEIE’s OMG seminar program plays an important role in this regard,” suggests Abeer.

The importance of partnerships was highlighted by Professor Andrew Self, former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Kingston University, London and advisor to Oman’s Minister of Higher Education, HE Dr. Rawiya Al Busaidi on the Colleges of Applied Science: “We need to encourage, for example, partnerships between manufacturers, using clusters and networks to pool their strengths and share best practice. Between manufacturers and universities and colleges to exploit research and provide the skilled people manufacturing needs. Between government and manufacturing to create the best possible conditions for innovation and provide the co-ordinated support manufacturers need to be innovative.” He added: “We also need to promote strategies that focus on innovation in products, people and processes. If this can be accomplished then we’ll raise productivity and higher level skills development within the economy.”
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