24 June 2020

Op-ed: The importance and the challenges of guiding young people toward the right career

 

 

Abdulla Al-Mansoori, Director of Qatar Career Development Center – a member of QF – on why greater societal understanding of the need for career guidance and constant self-development is vital to Qatar.

 

Many students who are about to start university wonder about which professional specialization they should set their sights toward, and which one best aligns with their interests and potential. Will they choose the right major? Will their dreams come true?

Similarly, many students who are about to graduate do not know where to start a work life, or how they can find the job that matches their skills and for which they have prepared.

Career guidance provides the answers to all of these questions. Through it, students can make the right career-related decision, choose the profession that matches their capabilities and interests, prepare for it, and enter that profession in a way that brings professional fulfilment and increases the possibilities of success, progress, and growth both for themselves as individuals, and in terms of their contribution to society.

Frank Parsons, founder of the vocational guidance movement and known as ‘the father of career counselling’, was the first to talk about the importance of choosing a career path in his book Choosing a Vocation, considered one of the key books in the field of career counselling in the US during the early 20th Century. In it, Parsons outlines three steps in the road to choosing a career, the first of which is studying an individual’s abilities, potential, aptitude, and interests, then studying the various careers available and the requirements and preparations necessary to enter them. The third step is matchmaking – placing the right individual in the right career.

The issue of career guidance is relatively new to our society; and the process of creating a new culture involves many challenges and difficulties that exceed those required to change an existing culture. This is reflected in the creation of the concept of planning and developing the professional life of youth in Qatar. In spite of the career guidance efforts made by the State of Qatar, there is no standardized and comprehensive framework for organizing these efforts, even given the great development witnessed by the education sector, which has reached a level where Qatar topped the list of Arab countries in terms of the quality of its education system, as well being ranked fifth according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.

Such statistics demonstrate the investment our leadership has made in the education sector, with the government allocating about QAR19 billion to this sector in its 2019 budget, equivalent to 9.4 percent of total government expenditure in Qatar. Some economic reports also predict that investment in private schools in Qatar will virtually triple in 2020, in parallel with a rise in the total number of students enrolled in schools to about 392,000 by 2022, a growth of 3.9 percent. These are all indicators that reflect how professional development and career guidance in Qatar is perhaps more important than ever. These increasing numbers of students will need the right career guidance and counselling if they are to be a driving force in Qatar’s economy, providing the skills and capabilities that meet the needs of the labor market and the requirements of economic growth, whether in normal circumstances or in times such as those we are currently experiencing with the blockade of Qatar and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is where the importance of the national role played by Qatar Career Development Center (QCDC) becomes clear. A member of Qatar Foundation, it disseminates specialized professional knowledge and expertise, and trains and qualifies groups capable of advancing the process of career guidance in order to empower youth in Qatar. Thousands of people from different work-related domains across the country have benefited from these efforts, including students, alumni, parents, career/professional mentors, academics, and others interested in the field of career guidance and professional development.

Today, more than ever, the efforts of QCDC are in greater focus as the exceptional circumstances facing the whole world, due to the spread of COVID-19, prove why we developed ways of providing our services electronically. These include our electronic career counselling system, which includes innovative components, psychometrics and personality analysis measures that will help our new generation better plan for their academic and professional future. The system provides all these tools virtually, without the need to leave home.

However, despite the huge efforts that have been made until now, there is still a long road ahead if we are to develop a societal understanding of the importance of career guidance and professional development, and to overcome the challenges that face our work.

Perhaps the most prominent of these challenges is students relying on the advice of family, relatives, and friends, instead of consulting specialists, when choosing their career path. A previous report issued by QCDC, based on studies and opinion polls conducted within Qatari society, indicated that 65 percent of students asked their parents for advice on career path, and 41 percent of university students and graduates obtained similar advice from their peers and friends.

Such data can motivate us to pay more attention to these influential groups and seek to make this influence a positive one, in order to help individuals choose the appropriate academic and professional specialization that will ultimately allow them to better serve their community. Our issue within Qatari society is not unemployment, but rather the inability of the majority of youth to make the best choice about their university majors, and to decide upon an appropriate career path that aligns with their talents and interests and that enables them to contribute to and serve Qatar.

Given the fact that students nowadays enjoy full access to advanced technology, it is necessary to provide career guidance in interactive and engaging ways, to capture their attention and point them in to the right direction when it comes to choosing their career paths. Today, while we are all remaining at home to protect our society from the spread of COVID-19, I call on our youth to make the best use of this time by developing themselves and honing their skills. There are many virtual and electronic tools available to them, along with an infinite number of sources of information and thousands of free and paid courses. All they have to do is make a good choice.

The current COVID-19 crisis has proved that learning is no longer limited to the years we spend in school or university. No matter what a person’s age is, or their scientific and professional level, they must not stop enriching their knowledge and developing their current skills.

In the era of the knowledge and technology revolution that we are witnessing now, there is no excuse for any person to neglect self-development. Personal and professional development is the starting-point for success for our promising young people, and for the continuation of our nation’s growth, prosperity, and pride.