Steering the UAE’s youth towards science

steering the uaes youth towards science Steering the UAE’s youth towards scienceAbu Dhabi, UAE: In the quest to diversify the UAE economy, one Emirati sees himself as a middle man who can connect the nation’s human capital with opportunities that are becoming available.

With a continuing focus on the areas of science, technology and innovation, Majid Al Mail, head of the Abu Dhabi Government’s Innovator initiative, wants young Emiratis to be aware of the growing number of career options in emerging fields.

Born in Dubai, Mr Al Mail was brought up by parents who were keen on nourishing his young mind with a constant supply of books.

“Being exposed to that kind of influence early on really gave me the inspiration and confidence to continuously learn, to seek more information, to try to understand things in a better way,” he said.

The eldest of four children, circumstances gave him the duties of a role model, providing guidance and support.

“That helped shape parts of my personality, in the sense that I like to learn but also support other people, and guide them as much as I can,” said Mr Al Mail, a father of two.

An interest in technology seeded at an early age was fuelled by video games and computers, and his remote-controlled cars would also fall prey to his “inquisitive mindset”, as they were disassembled for analysis.

Studying chemical engineering at Arizona State University “had a huge impact on the person I am today”, he said.

There, exposure to a different culture giving him a wider perspective.

“That had a tremendous impact on my thinking. It reinforced my passion for science, technology and innovation, but also continuous learning,” he said.

After working in the oil and gas industry, followed by time in finance, he landed his current role as a senior manager with the Abu Dhabi Government’s Technology Development Committee.

At TDC, he has helped to set up and develop Abu Dhabi’s Innovation Hub, a service that aims to support high-tech start-ups.

Mr Al Mail said a major aspect of embedding cutting-edge technology into the nation’s economic growth is harnessing local talent and offering guidance, something he said was not as readily available when he was preparing to enter the workforce.

When he was concluding his studies in Arizona a decade ago, the process of diversifying away from oil was gathering momentum, offering young Emiratis new career paths.

“A lot of fresh graduates were asking, ‘What do I want to do’?” he said. “In my peer group, there was a lack of awareness of what we wanted to be.

“We had just started embarking on the economic diversification plans, so we had huge industries coming online, which required a lot of skilled Emiratis,” he said.

“Sometimes, it’s not always a good thing to have too many options. It’s confusing and it can be distracting.

“I think we need to refocus not only on empowering people to make better choices, which is important, but also to make sure that we start early on.”

He is confident the Innovator initiative, an annual event showcasing the latest inventions by youths and recent graduates, is playing a role in attracting young minds to new industries.

“We are blessed with leadership here that understands diversification is not a luxury, it’s a must,” he said.

“We need people to be more aware of the options.”

During the last Innovator event – a showcase of more than 100 exhibits along Abu Dhabi’s Corniche – held in March, the public was able to catch a glimpse of what is being created, things such as homemade 3D printers, babysitting robots, medical devices and gadgets to aid the visually impaired.

“A lot of people did not believe that we have such talent in the UAE,” he said.

“I want them to reach their full potential. We are here to open those doors for them.

“This is what led me to my role here at TDC.”

© The National

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