Emirates Skills aims to encourage more Emiratis towards vocational education and careers
Abu Dhabi: Khalid Al Ahbabi hammered the nail into the plank of wood, and stood back to look at his half-finished chest.
“I love working with big machines to carve intricate details on these pieces of wood. And I hope my passion wins me a prize this year,” Al Ahbabi, a 17-year-old Emirati, told Gulf News.
He was one of several special needs participants at the Emirates Skills national competition in the capital, which aims to promote vocational skills among Emirati youth.
“As the UAE heads to a post-oil future, these skills will become indispensable for the future generation to succeed. Through this national contest, therefore, we hope to attract more Emiratis towards skills-based careers, and also encourage others to develop their passions into viable professions,” said Ali Al Marzouqi, head of Emirates Skills.
The competition is organised by the Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (Actvet), which regulates vocation learning and experience in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
More than 400 Emirati students are participating in this year’s competition, which kicked off in the capital on Tuesday. There are 51 categories for participation, including baking, floristry, aircraft maintenance, cyber security, fashion design technology, landscaping and renewable energy systems.
The majority of competitors are aged between 17 and 22 years, but there are also seven contests that are only open to children between the ages of 12 and 15 years. In addition, six categories have dedicated sections for special needs individuals enrolled with the Zayed Higher Organisation for Special Needs and Humanitarian Care.
“We want our young Emiratis to embrace these skills, which not only align with our national industrial goals but will also help drive future development in the UAE,” Al Marzouqi said.
“From this competition, we will select our top competitors for the World Skills competition, which will be held in Abu Dhabi for the first time this October,” he added.
Al Ahbabi, who is afflicted by Down’s syndrome, said that it takes him about 18 hours to build a full-size wooden chest.
“But my work is coming along well and I am excited,” he said.
Nearby, Mariam Awadh, a 23-year-old special needs individual, said she hopes her pearl necklace and bracelet will clinch the top prize in the jewellery-making category.
Asma Al Sinani, a 23-year-old nursing student, was participating in the nursing and social care category.
“I enjoy my vocation, especially the opportunity to interact closely with patients and care for them. It gives mEmiratis