1. Overview

This is a career guidance stakeholders platform envisioned as an informal “Cross-Organizational Network” in the area of career guidance in the State of Qatar. Its overall purpose is to encourage engagement of all stakeholders of career guidance in reflective processes for collaboration, innovation, exchange of knowledge, research findings and best practices in order to advance and support career guidance as a powerful means for personal, social, educational and economic success of young Qataris, in particular, and the Qatari society, in general. Obviously, this support is critically instrumental to Qatar’s Education and Training Sector Strategy, therefore to the ultimate accomplishment of three QNV 2030 pillars: Human, Social and Economic development.

 As such, the platform represents an annual meeting for Qatari youth, their parents, career advisors researchers, practitioners, policy makers, decision makers and others who have a stake in career guidance. Each year’s meeting will be organized around a specific theme or a set of themes. Also, and in view of its overall purpose, each meeting will constitute an invaluable opportunity for all stakeholders to share their ideas and to discover other relevant perspectives and views on how best to further develop career guidance. This will, no doubt, help in empowering Qatari youth through helping them to discover, develop and use their talent to jointly satisfy their future “needs and aspirations” and the future needs of the Qatari economy.

The theme of the platform for this year, “Evidence-based insights into strategic collaboration among career guidance stakeholders in Qatar”, represents an important set of opportunities and constraints highlighted through the findings and recommendations of three complementary pieces of research conducted by Qatar Career Fair Center (QCF) in 2015. Based on such evidence, the platform will be organized on 16th May 2016 from 08:30 a.m. to 02:30 p.m. at Qatar National Convention Center.

The program of the platform will include key note addresses, presentation of evidence-based insights into strategic collaboration, expert panel discussion and four breakout sessions. Each session will concentrate on one of the following four issues: development of career guidance policies and strategies, building the organizational capacity of career guidance centers, professionalization of career guidance practices and integration of information technology into career guidance practices.

In addition, a selected set of policy-makers will be divided into two round table discussion groups. While one group will deal with issues related to investment in career guidance, the other group will concentrate on the values associated with development of life and business skills among Qatari youth. Moreover, a plenary closing session will be devoted to the presentation of the views, insights, perspectives and ideas produced by each of the four breakout discussion groups. Based on such outcomes, QCF will develop and disseminate the platform’s annual report, follow-up on action items associated with the report and coordinate with stakeholders in order to arrange for next year’s platform.

2. Rationale

In light of Qatar National Vision 2030 and its strategic drive to develop a knowledge-based economy, and in view of the unique Qatari economic and labour market circumstances, it becomes extremely important to develop highly-skilled, productive and diverse national workforce. As such, the State of Qatar has devoted greater efforts to jointly satisfy current and future needs of the Qatari economy and those of all Qatari people. Expressed in terms of Qatar’s 2011-2016 National Strategy, in general, and its derivative Education and Training Sector Strategy, in particular, the State of Qatar needs to invest more in attempting to, firstly, raise and meet the aspirations and abilities of the Qatari people and, secondly, to link such aspirations and abilities to Qatar’s education and labor market system.

To that end, a career guidance intervention is an important strategy that needs to be well planned and effectively implemented. This is due to the observation that career guidance does, in many important ways, help people to unlock their potentials, reflect on their ambitions and revisit their interests, qualifications and abilities. In addition, and in a complementary manner, career guidance helps people to: (1) understand their labour market and education systems (2) relate these two systems to what they know about their real and potential talent (3) select and pursue education and career pathways that best suit them and (4) use their talent and skills in more productive functions.

 In this sense, and in light of relevant human development experiences elsewhere, it is extremely important to conceive career guidance as a key pillar in all types of human development effort within the State of Qatar. This will, practically speaking, help in implementing and assessing a set of important issues outlined in Qatar’s “Education and Training Sector Strategy 2011 – 2016”, which emphasizes helping the Qatari people “to access educational and training opportunities that are consistent with their abilities and interests, and better prepare them for participation in the workforce, and promote their values and their affiliation”.

In view of the above, and realizing the significant role of career guidance in talent development, many leading organizations in Qatar have begun to invest in career guidance. Since 2007, the Amiri Diwan, Qatar Foundation, Qatar University, Ministry of Labor and Qatar Petroleum have organized an annual, national level career fair event. This event was organized for six years with the purpose of attempting to integrate career guidance with workforce preparation, placement and development.

In a complementary manner, and for more or less similar purpose, Ministry of Education, Qatar University, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar Community College, College of the North Atlantic in Qatar and other human development oriented institutions like Qatar Foundation, Qatar Development Bank, Silatec and Social Development Center have developed their own career guidance centers. Similarly, leading corporate businesses like Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar Petroleum and its subsidiaries, Ooredoo, and Qatar Airways have, in various ways, adopted career guidance as an essential part of their national talent development strategies.

Obviously speaking, such effort by various organizations, in various sectors, is a valuable contribution to human capital development in Qatar. Nonetheless, and in as much as this effort is still in its early stages of development, there is an urgent need to address a series of issues related to how best to integrate career guidance with the education and labor market systems. To illustrate, the current career guidance system in Qatar is wanting in many important ways. The quality, coherence and degree of service responsiveness are negatively affected by, for example, unavailability of a national level government agency responsible for career guidance. Absence of national career guidance framework is another factor that contributes to such unhealthy situation. Other challenges, which have more or less similar consequences, include lack of adequate career guidance information such as readily available and accessible labor market information, and unavailability of sound career planning portals/systems. In addition, coordination and collaboration among career guidance providers are yet to be developed.

Addressing the above mentioned types of challenges is a prelude to utilizing career guidance as a powerful means for enhancing human capital development in Qatar. To that end, Qatar Career Fair Center organizes an annual “Career Guidance Platform”. This platform is envisioned as an informal “Cross-Organizational Network” in the area of career guidance. Its basic purpose is to encourage engagement of all stakeholders and beneficiaries of career guidance in reflective processes for collaboration, innovation and exchange of knowledge, research findings and best practices in order to advance and support career guidance in Qatar. The objectives and processes related to this platform in are presented below.

3. Objectives of the Platform

Envisioned in light of Qatar Foundation’s mission to unlock human potential, the aim of the Career Guidance Stakeholders Platform is to add value to the process of developing quality career guidance in the State of Qatar. This will be achieved through facilitating voluntary collaboration and coordination among all stakeholders. The overall purpose is to develop quality career guidance as a powerful mechanism for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Qatar’s education, training and labor market systems.  To that end, the plat form will be organized on annual basis in order to present, discuss, evaluate, disseminate and build on Qatar-based career research findings, policy papers, programs, initiatives, best practices and other related topics.

Detailed objectives of the platform are as follows:

  • To encourage engagement and collaboration of key stakeholders who are involved in career guidance. Examples of key stakeholders include policy-makers, decision-makers and human resource professionals entrusted with career-related issues, career guidance practitioners, researchers, parents and youth, as well as people with physical, mental and social challenges, for whom comprehensive career development plans and opportunities are currently limited.
  • To present, discuss and evaluate career planning and development practices applied in Qatar, identify best practices and lessons learned and provide relevant stakeholders with recommendations for future application, programs and improvement.
  • To develop a culture of research–to-policy engagement and build key understanding of, and support for, career guidance in order to improve outcomes for young people in Qatar through effective research-policy knowledge exchange, innovation and collaboration by such means as:
  • Producing research, analysis-papers, policy briefings as well as descriptive reports and sharing them with policy-makers, decision-makers, practitioners and other stakeholders. Here, the purpose is to ensure knowledge exchange, impact, innovation and utilization of relevant research and best practices. This will, no doubt, help in assessing and formulating new career guidance policies, or improving existing ones, developing codes of practice and designing career-based educational, training and employment programs.
  • Sharing, disseminating and discussing key findings, analysis and recommendations of locally and regionally-based career guidance research projects with key stakeholders, and identify gaps in current research and policy needs for purposes of informing future research.
  • Highlighting and discussing the knowledge gained from international career guidance projects or practices that were customized and implemented locally and/or regionally. As such, benefits, challenges, insights and lessons gleaned from such projects will be emphasized, synthesized and utilized for career guidance improvement purposes.

4. Key Stakeholders

In light of its focus on the education, training and career guidance, the platform is consciously designed to provide the views and insights of key career guidance stakeholders in Qatar. These are presented below in terms of four subsuming groups:

  • Career guidance decision makers, Policy makers and researchers in the private, public and mixed sectors of the Qatari economy. These include key school principals and human resource professionals in work organizations at the director’s level and/or above, senior level officials in the government sector, particularly regulatory bodies, with the authority to develop, approve, adapt, review, evaluate and/or otherwise implement career guidance policies and procedures. Also, included in this group are career-related researchers who work independently of, and/or as researchers within career guidance and development units or organizations.
  • Career guidance practitioners: this refers to career counselors and advisors working in educational institutions, career guidance organizations and corporate training and development centers. It is assumed that these types of practitioners are professionals who have first-hand experience of career guidance as a result of their direct work with the Qatari youth issues.
  • Qatari Parents and Youth: This is an extremely important group which represents the end users and their parents, custodians and/or careers who are, in one way or another, engaged in the process of career planning and development and affected directly by the decisions taken by them and/or on their behalf.
  • Career guidance knowledge exchange professionals: the exchange of career guidance knowledge within the State of Qatar is an important issue that would, in a selective and case-by-case basis, contribute to the development of locally appropriate career guidance practices, improve the impact of research, support innovation and professional collaboration between careers guidance stakeholders. As a result, representatives of international career guidance providers will be engaged to present and discuss experiences as applies to the situation within Qatar. Here, emphasis will be placed on case studies and lessons that can be, practically, related to the situational peculiarities of the Qatari context.

5. This year’s Platform Theme

As explained earlier, the platform will be organized as an annual event, and that each event will be organized around specific theme or set of themes. In consequence, and in as much as Qatar Career Fair Center (QCF) has, over the span of last year, conducted a series of research activities in the area of career guidance in Qatar, it is useful to organize this new initiative, in its first edition, around the findings of such research activities. In addition, and in view of the observation that utilization of the findings of such research requires strategic collaboration among stakeholders, this year’s platform is themed as follows: “Evidence-based insights into strategic collaboration among career guidance stakeholders”

Based on this theme, the platform will, on 16th May, 2016, concentrate on presentation and discussion of the findings and recommendations of three research based papers produced in 2015 by QCF.  This will, no doubt, help in initiating and utilizing evidence-based dialogue among platform participants. While such dialogue may raise more issues than it could possibly resolve, it will, in the long-run, lead to development of career guidance in Qatar through strategic collaboration and coordination among all stakeholders- particularly among the education, training, employment and career guidance organizations in the State of Qatar.

6. Platform’s research papers

An overview of the main findings of each of the three research papers produced in 2015 by QCF is presented below.

6.1) Qatar, Country Paper, 7th ICCDPP Symposium, 2015, USA

This research paper was based on the 2015 theme of the international symposium organized, on 14th - 17th July 2015, by the International Center for Career Development and Public Policy in the USA. Based on the symposium’s theme, “Building the Talent Pipeline and Providing Youth with Hope for the Future”, the paper addressed four career guidance issues central to youth empowerment. These issues included emerging technologies, return on investment, engaging employers and integrated policies.

Through collecting and analyzing qualitative data related to the above mentioned issues, the paper identified and addressed major challenges for establishing an effective career development system in Qatar. Such challenges pertain not only to developing career guidance as an isolated system, but more importantly as a sub-system that interacts with education, training and labor market as sub-systems that make up a unified system of workforce preparation, placement and development.

Viewed from this holistic perspective, the paper suggests how best to design, deliver and assess quality career guidance services that can, in various ways, contribute to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the education and labor market sub-systems. This will, as argumentatively conveyed by the paper, require development and adoption of a well concerted sets of policies, strategies and actions needed to handle challenges related to the development of:

  • National level entity vested with responsibility for regulating, monitoring and developing career guidance services across various sectors.
  • Comprehensive career development framework, which specifies standards, policies, competencies, processes, etc.
  • Coordination mechanisms among career guidance providers in schools, colleges, universities and employment organizations in public and private sector organizations.
  • Culturally appropriate on-line career guidance products and services delivered through national high quality career planning portal.
  • Strong career culture among all key stakeholders including employers, educational institutions, parents, etc.
  • Standards and processes for professionalization of career guidance in terms of, for example, qualifications framework, approved professional development programs, codes of practice and ethics and establishment of a society for career guidance professionals in Qatar.
  • Strong links among educational institutions, labor market and career service providers to fine tune the demand for, and supply of, national human resources.
  • Well-integrated and easily accessible labor market, education and career service information systems.

6.2) The Career Aspirations, Guidance and Mobility: Achieving “Quality Qatarization” is the second research paper produced by QCF in 2015. The objectives of this paper were to:

(1)assess qualitative perspectives of Qatari youth and diverse education and employment stakeholders of career guidance services and needs of the labour market in Qatar and
(2) identify key challenges and policies now needed to address structural, institutional and cultural issues to meet career aspirations of Qataris, needs of the economy and QNV 2030 goals.
Based on qualitative data collection and analysis, the paper offers sound sets of findings and recommendations. Some key messages based on these are as presented below.
  • Overarching messages from Qatari youth on aspirations, challenges and needs
    • Qatari youth have strong willingness to work but limited career awareness, employability skills and work preparedness – and have continued public sector employment preference.
    • Mandatory, voluntary, paid and unpaid internships are available to increase skills - but lack of guidance leave youth confused, with limited participation and impact from initiatives.
    • Many youth belatedly recognize the value of career advice to support employment decision-making and were disappointed they were not made aware of career services whilst studying
    • In the absence of formal career guidance, youth turn to parents and others – perpetuating high government/public sector employment, low skills and career-focus.
    • Youth demand is high and latent demand may be higher for formal career guidance and there is, therefore, a felt need to address structural, institutional and cultural aspects of an integrated career guidance system for Qatari youth.
  • Overarching messages – education, employment, business and policy stakeholders:
    • Education does not integrate career guidance, employability and skills into curricula.
    • No mandatory requirement for Career Centers to engage students through expert advisors.
    • Educators highlight Qatar needs career guidance counsellors in career centers, high schools and universities to provide nation-wide services to students, employees, entrepreneurs and the inactive to increase employability and skills via programs, events and web services.
    • Employers are committed to human development and ‘Qatarization’ – large and emerging industries face challenges of high salaries, retention and parental influence, highlight lack of youth motivation, skills and focus on prestige and ‘job’s rather than careers.

    Drawing on such strong messages, the paper provides research-based evidence in support of the following sets of issues, challenges and ways forward for empowerment of Qatari youth: “Despite education investment, increasing education levels, diverse opportunities and ad hoc skills initiatives in Qatar: (1) near 90% Qatari government sector employment persists, a mismatch between skills and qualifications of youth and the needs of the economy, and only 33 percent female employment. Public and private sector employers highlight youth have limited career focus, skills and work preparedness resulting in employers and the economy gaining limited benefit from rising education levels. Qatar needs to address structural, institutional and cultural career guidance challenges to meet youth aspirations to make informed education and employment decisions, achieve Quality Qatarization and deliver QNV 2030 goals for a sustainable knowledge economy.

    6.3) “Career Guidance: Bridging the gap between education and employment transition in Qatar” is the title of the third paper. This paper was based on the activities of Qatar Career Forum 2015, which was organized by Qatar Career Fair Center in collaboration with various stakeholders. Through four focus group discussion and validation meeting, forum participants expressed and shared views, perspectives and insights related to career guidance challenges in Qatar. Reflecting on such experience, and based on discussion of best practices within the State of Qatar, forum participants were also able to put forward key strategic structural, institutional and cultural policy recommendations related to developing a national level career guidance and education-to-employment system in Qatar.

    The forum’s overarching strategic messages for career guidance recommendations were as follows:

    Despite prevalence of some good examples of career guidance practices in education institutions and various employers, Qatar does, nonetheless, need to::

  • Establish a central, national level, career guidance entity to regulate and manage career guidance in Qatar
  • Integrate career guidance into the education system so as to meet youth’s expectation, and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the education and labor market systems
  • Provide adequate number of qualified career counsellors in education, training and employment sectors. Here, professionalization of career counselors and support staff is an important issue which should not be compromised.
  • Career guidance needs to be accessible nation-wide and to that end:
    • Organizational capacity and effectiveness of existing career centers have to be improved in order to develop offer and assess quality career guidance programs.
    • Students, job seekers and other target groups should be mobilized to make adequate use of existing and future career guidance services on life-long basis.
    • Career awareness campaigns need to be carefully designed, implemented and evaluated
    • Young Qataris need to access education and employment advice, gain skills, internship and other services which would help them to maximize benefits associated with various types of youth empowerment opportunities at their disposal.
    • Information and communication technology (ICT) should be integrated within existing and future career guidance systems. Existing ICT infrastructure in Qatar and the high level of technological literacy among Qataris provide adequate foundation for developing relevant, national level, career advising and career management skill development portals
    • Career guidance policies and programs need to engage diverse stakeholders, e.g. public and private sector employers and Qatari youth and parents, to ensure a cultural shift to address career guidance challenges, ensure positive and sustained impact and to meet youth and employer needs.
    • For assessment of the impact of career guidance in Qatar, policy and decision makers need to address the following types of challenges related to measuring return on investment (ROI) in career guidance. Key among these challenges are the following:
      • Adoption of “hard measures”, not soft measures” of the “cost and benefits” of career guidance- a situation which requires development of tailor-made constructs, methods and measures capable of generating relevant and accurate “cost-benefit” data needed for evaluation purposes.
      • Development of policies and processes required for integrating career guidance as a powerful means for maximizing the value of Qatar’s education and labor market systems and minimizing the cost involved.
      • Assessing the value of career guidance for preparing highly skilled Qatari youth and placing them in responsible employment positions- this will add a quality dimension to the “quantitative measures” adopted by the existing Qatarization quota system.

7. Platform’s Breakout sessions, roundtable discussion, workshops and ways forward

The major discussion and learning part of this year’s platform will be carried out through four breakout sessions, two roundtable discussion groups and three skill and knowledge acquisition workshops. The breakout sessions will target specific career guidance topical areas highlighted by the empirical evidence provided by QCF’s three research papers indicated in section six above. As outlined below, the research findings pertaining to each of these topical areas will be presented within separate groups, and each group’s participants will review the findings presented to them, engage themselves in an interactive and reflective process of questions and answers as well as debates, suggestions and actions needed in order to further develop career guidance in Qatar. Table (1), below, presents the four breakout sessions as per relevant stakeholders and topical areas.

Table (1)

Breakout Sessions As Per Stakeholders And Topical Areas

  #

Topical Area


Stakeholders
  1

Development of career guidance policies and strategies at various levels

Career guidance policy makers, decision makers and researcher
  2              

Building the organizational capacity of existing career guidance centers

Career guidance policy and decision makers and other centers’ management and technical staff

  3

Professionalization of career guidance practitioners

Career guidance policy makers, decision makers and practitioner
  4 Integration of information technology into career guidance practices ICT professionals and career guidance policy makers, decision makers and practitioners.
For discussion enrichment purposes, each group of stakeholders will include representatives of other stakeholders groups such as students, parents and practitioners.

In addition, two round table discussion groups, composed of career guidance policy makers as well as other stakeholders, will be organized. One group will deal with issues related to, for example, value, expected outcomes, challenges and ways forward related to investment in career guidance. On the other hand, the other group will concentrate on presentation, discussion and evaluation of a proposed Qatari youth empowerment program. This is an internationally recognized “Life and Business Skills Development Program” experimented with, and adapted to an Arabian context.

Moreover, two separate groups of male and female secondary school students will be provided with hands-on, skill-building workshop entitled “Discover Your Dream Career”. In a complementary manner, a selected group of students’ parents will participate in a workshop entitled “Parents as Career Coaches for Their Children”.

Furthermore, a plenary closing session will be devoted to the presentation of the views, insights, perspectives and ideas produced by each of the four breakout discussion groups. Based on such outcomes, QCF will develop and disseminate the platform’s annual report, generate feedback on, and approval of this report, follow-up on ways forward through actions items associated with the validated report and coordinate with stakeholders in order to arrange for next year’s platform.

8. Platform’s Program

The Career Guidance Stakeholders Platform event will be a one-day event hosted on May 16th 2016 in Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC). The platform’s program is presented in Table (2) below.

Table (2)

Career Guidance Stakeholders Platform Program
Date Time Schedule
 

Monday, May 16th, 2016

In QNCC
08:00 a.m.- 08:45 a.m. Registration
09:00 a.m.- 09:45 a.m. Opening plenary session
9:45 a.m. -10:00 a.m. Coffee break
10:00 a. m.-11:30 a.m. Four Breakout Sessions:
1. Development of career guidance policies and strategies at various levels
2. Building the organizational capacity of existing career guidance centers
3. Professionalization of existing career guidance practices
4. Integration of information technology into career guidance practices
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 noon Dhuhr Prayer and Lunch
01:00 p.m.-02:20 p.m Round Table Discussion and Workshops:
1. Investment in Career Guidance in Qatar: Value, Challenges and Ways Forward
2. Life and Business Skills Development Program for Empowerment of Qatari Youth
3. “Parents as Career Coaches for Their Children” Workshop
4. “Discover Your Dream Career Workshop”- for female Secondary School Students
5. Discover Your Dream Career Workshop”- for male Secondary School Students
02:30 p.m. – 03:00 p.m. Closing plenary session