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Soft Skills Spotlight: AUEs Comprehensive Approach to Developing Crucial Workplace Abilities

New Delhi: Educational institutions recognize the paramount importance of bridging the gap between academic knowledge and real-world application to equip students for success in the corporate environment. To achieve this, various strategies are employed, encompassing the development of soft skills, implementation of career counseling services, facilitation of internships, and establishment of mentorship programs.

These initiatives collectively ensure that students not only acquire theoretical knowledge but also gain practical experience, fostering a seamless transition from academic life to the dynamic challenges of the professional world. In this regard, Zain Khan, ObserveNow interacted with Dr Nikolina Ljepava, Department Chair Management, American University in the Emirates, UAE.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

What strategies does your institution employ to integrate practical, real-world experiences into the curriculum to prepare students for the corporate environment?

The American University in the Emirates (AUE) is highly oriented towards providing practical and hands-on experiences for its students, preparing them for the volatile and ever-changing job market. One of our significant institutional initiatives implemented several years ago is integrating practical industry practitioners’ workshops into our curriculum. This ensures that during their studies, students are exposed to practical examples, real cases, and hands-on activities delivered by leading industry professionals in the region. Industry collaborations are particularly crucial in our College of Business Administration.

AUE students can take internship placements during their studies. In most of our colleges, an internship is mandatory for graduation. This gives students a unique exposure to a real work environment, better preparing them for what awaits after graduation.

How do you foster the development of soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, among your students to enhance their corporate readiness?

There is a global shift in higher education, with the focus moving from an orientation on knowledge to an orientation toward skills development. In the contemporary market, which mandates lifelong learning to stay up to date with fast-paced developments, soft skills have proven to be a crucial distinction between good and exceptional graduates. At AUE, we place significant emphasis on developing our students’ soft skills. Soft skills development is integrated throughout our curricula – through mandatory courses at the beginning of their academic journey, which focus on soft skills development and further on through various activities. These activities include individual oral presentations, role-playing, and simulations aimed at mimicking real-life scenarios and developing their problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Most of our courses have integrated group projects where students must collaborate, make decisions, and solve problems as a group. This prepares them to work effectively in teams and practice problem-solving and assertive communication.

What support systems, such as career counseling, internships, or mentorship programs, are in place to help students transition smoothly from academic life to the corporate world?

Career counseling and internships enable a smooth transition from academic life to the corporate world. AUE has a designated career and internship office, which provides career counseling services and teaches essential skills such as resume writing, interview preparation, and job search strategies. In addition to the regular activities and those integrated within our pre-internship preparation course, AUE organizes various workshops related to career readiness and preparation for the job market. Furthermore, our Career Office supports our students in finding internships both during and after their studies. At our university, we also regularly host job fairs and recruitment events, where our students can meet potential employers, learn about different companies and opportunities, and apply for jobs or internship positions. All these activities are designed to complement academic learning and ensure that our students are well-prepared for their future careers.
Can you discuss any specific initiatives or projects aimed at enhancing the employability of graduates, especially in the context of the UAE job market? 

With its rapidly developing economic landscape, the UAE boasts a dynamic, diverse, and competitive job market. To enhance the employability of our graduates, we are focusing on skills development – both soft skills and technical and digital skills, which are essential for the contemporary job market. Many of our integrated industry workshops explicitly focus on developing these skills in students’ areas of specialization. The UAE market is also highly focused on industry collaboration and innovation. Through various industry collaborations, including lectures, workshops, event participation, field trips, and internship placements, we provide our students with networking opportunities that are essential for their future careers.

Kindly share examples of successful collaborations between your institution and local businesses or industries that have contributed to producing graduates with a strong understanding of the corporate landscape in the UAE.

As noted above, our university and College of Business Administration maintain active and extensive collaborations with a variety of local businesses and institutions. There are two examples that I would especially emphasize – the first one that we have at our college is collaboration with various professional bodies such as the Project Management Institute (PMI), Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Our concentrations at the College of Business Administration are recognized by these professional bodies, and our students have unique opportunities to gain valuable professional certifications during their studies. This enables them both to understand the corporate landscape and UAE business environment and also prepares them for their future careers by giving them a competitive advantage over other recent graduates. One of the values that we genuinely aim to instill in our graduates is the necessity of lifelong learning, and our collaboration with professional bodies and the connections that our students establish with them during their university journey strongly contribute to that.

Tags: Education