Middle East Career Development Conference focuses on Guiding Youth to Meaningful Careers

Research suggests there is an opportunity to help students become more self-aware to maximize career success

Press Release

“Finding Passion: Leading Young People To Meaningful Careers” was the theme for this year’s edition of the Middle East Career Development Conference (MECDC) that took place late last week at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

The event, curated by UAE-based human capital consulting firm, The Talent Enterprise, gathered over 100 career guidance professionals from 40 UAE universities and high schools, to explore how educators and employers can help youth in the region choose careers they can thrive in.


NYU Abu Dhabi places a high value on our students' career development, and each individual's unique aspirations and journey, so it was a pleasure to host the 5th edition of MECDC.

NYU Abu Dhabi Assistant Dean of Students and Founding Director of the Career Development Center Hazel Raja

“We’ve found that over 50% of youth would not study the same subjects again if given a choice” says David Jones, CEO and Co-Founder of The Talent Enterprise. “Part of it is because they select their areas of study based on the external environment: friends, family, society, etc. The aim of the conference this year was to look at how we can help students identify their innate strengths and learn to leverage them when selecting a degree and navigating in tomorrow’s workplace.”

In fact, a recent GCC survey conducted by The Talent Enterprise found that while 84% of students believed they were self-aware, only 61% of employers found youth to be self-aware. This mismatch between student and employer perception has been seen in other noteworthy research. Soraya Benchiba, Research Assistant at Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, a keynote speaker at the conference, reported that in their recent study amongst 3000 Arab youths, “80-90% (of students) are confident in math, English, research, and presentation skills” while “1 in 2 (of the employers surveyed) must provide extra training to Arab graduates.”

Mohamed Madawala, Director of Partnerships at Higher Colleges of Technology, the UAE’s largest university, who participated in the Employer – Educator Discussion Panel mentioned, “I see a lot of young UAE graduates. The ones who do very well in their education and early careers, and maybe they haven’t found their passion per se but they have that enthusiasm that comes from doing something they are good at and enjoy. Understanding one’s strengths to cultivate that enthusiasm is critical.”

Huda Alhammadi, a recent graduate currently working at Leading Islamic Bank in the UAE echoed this sentiment during the Youth Discussion Panel, “In university, we tend to make decisions based on pragmatic things like money and employability while also getting influenced heavily by our social circle. Once you start working though, you realize that people who do really well in their careers are the ones using their natural strong points. Of course, you may change jobs along the way, you will get opportunities and setbacks, you will learn, but you’ll be on the right path.”

Other notable speakers and panelists included Craig Austin, Group Head of Talent Management and Learning & Development from RAK Bank, Rami Al Jaber, Manager of Corporate at American University of Sharjah and Brigitte Sitzberger from Masdar.

It was a great way for career guidance professionals to engage, network and knowledge-share while also getting some of the latest GCC insight in education and youth in the workplace..

Student Experience Officer at Heriot Watt University in Dubai Kathryn Taylor

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.