Academic and technical skills are not enough to thrive in today’s competitive labour market, says Fadi Aloul, dean of the College of Engineering at the American University of Sharjah. Engineering graduates need soft skills, too.
Aloul wants to make sure his college’s graduates have all the skills they need to interact with this increasingly complex market to find job opportunities flexibly and easily.
In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, he pointed to three axes in the college’s efforts to better prepare students for the labour market.
Those are to admit the best students; to provide them with the best education experience throughout their four years of study; and to help graduates find a job or an opportunity to continue postgraduate studies. Some of the college’s graduates have enrolled at institutions like the University of Oxford, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he said.
The Importance of Soft Skills
Aloul, who has been dean of the college since January 2022, stresses the importance of soft skills.
“The current trend in United States universities is to train students on 21st century soft skills, besides academic and technical skills,” he said. “These skills include oral presentations, time management, leadership skills, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, writing emails, innovation and entrepreneurship skills, to be ready for the job market.”
He described how his college responded: “From Day One at school, students are divided into work teams, of men and women, of different nationalities and majors, to be decision-makers, to deal with differences. This better prepares them for the market, as most of the companies that recruit our students are interested in diversity. It also makes them more able to comfortably deal with their future career.”
As an example of how the college links soft skills to the curriculum, he cited an entrepreneurship programme that is offered to engineers, so that they learn how to look for a job, how to pass a job interview, and how to deal with superiors in business.