What holds the global jigsaw of ever-evolving challenges and opportunities together to guarantee energy security? Talent. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai said it best: "The development of human capital is the global currency of 21st century economies." Amid shifting sands, efforts by academia, industry, government and society must be uniformly focused on continually elevating this irreplaceable resource.
Key triggers of change include unprecedented digital advancements, low-carbon targets, the growth of the millennial workforce and greater global connectivity than ever before. Consider this against rising energy demand and the United Nations’ estimate that 1.1 billion people are without access to energy worldwide. Rising populations add to the pressure; the global population will rise from 7.6 billion people today to 9.7 billion by 2050.
These triggers are adding more twists and turns to the historic crossroad between academia, industry and talent. Each must rethink their route. Young talent today must be nurtured into the thought leaders of tomorrow.
Briefly exploring just one trigger – energy demand – illustrates the breadth of change. According to BP Outlook, the growth in energy consumption in the Middle East alone will soar with a 54 percent increase by 2040. This growth rate demands a proactive approach to energy management along the value chain, from production to consumption. The process has already started with increased enhanced oil recovery (EOR), more renewable power generation and subsidy cuts. But these are just the first steps as pressure from the triggers will inevitably intensify.
Talent with cutting-edge ideas, critical and innovative thinking – will play a pivotal role in enabling NOC’s like ENOC to ensure ambitious national agendas thrive. ENOC’s contributions to the UAE’s socio-economic success reflects its historic emphasis on talent advancement. Focusing time and funds on such endeavours underpins ENOC’s commitment to the UAE’s transition into a competitive and knowledge-based economy as per the UAE Vision 2021, as well as the Youth National Agenda and the Centennial 2071.
The thought leaders of tomorrow will be a vital link to mastering an exceedingly difficult balancing act: guarantee energy security for a rising population amid increasingly stringent environmental regulations, while preserving economic and civil prosperity. How best to achieve this tall order? Intellectual flexibility.
Education is a lifelong process; characterised by an ability to adapt and is pertinent to a successful workforce. The World Economic Forum (WEF) cites popular sources in a report stating that up to 60 percent of children entering school today will have job titles that do not yet exist. Take a moment to think back to when the job title ‘Social Media Manager’ was just emerging. Then, it was a niche role, largely dismissed. Now, such roles act as an integral component in corporate communications and marketing departments across most, if not all major companies. A similar pace of change is evident in the low-carbon job market.
Digitalisation, which falls under the umbrella of the 4th Industrial Revolution, is also quickly reshaping the status quo of many jobs. The need for greater efficiency to enhance production volumes at affordable costs is spurring the popularity of digital tools.
A more basic version of many of these tools has long been available, but recent advancements means reams of real-time data can be instantly processed to identify time and cost-saving trends. For example, seasonal energy demand profiles can be tracked more accurately to match supply to domestic needs, therefore cutting expensive import bills, thus, reducing wastage and improving energy bills. The same applies to more refined motor skills in the field of robotics. Such tools can explore solutions to hazardous incidents at oil rigs and field operations so that a human employee can refocus their efforts on other tasks, especially ones that require practical and emotional intelligence – traits that technologies do not have.
Students and employees must hone their minds to new skills; they cannot afford to be stuck in intellectual ruts. Methods to meet energy demand are becoming more complex which requires talents to evolve. Critical thinking, advanced communication skills and knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) are equally important.
To sustain long-term energy security, academia must modify curriculums so that young talent can successfully navigate tricky turns – more energy demand, low-carbon growth, and sustaining affordability – that are inevitable in the coming decades. This will also help the Middle East reduce its knowledge imports, as per the National Vision.
Through internal training and more streamlined dialogue with academia, industry can ensure that its workforce has the necessary tools to take the next innovative step in the journey of energy diversification. Industry must also leverage the potential of all employees, regardless of age. The term ‘millennial’ is used to describe anyone born between 1982 and 2004, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Those born between 1945 and 1964 are considered ‘baby boomers’. Those referred to Generation X are those born in ‘the middle’. Each typically has different skills that, when fully utilised, provides optimum performance. ENOC is very fortunate to have talent from all ages in its ranks.
The Global Energy Talent Index Report 2017 states that base salary is very important to 87 percent of respondents in the Middle East, but so is professional development (61 percent) and challenging projects (59 percent).
So, how can industry encourage employees to stretch their cerebral comfort levels in the united goal of ensuring energy security?
Government can continue to support academia and industry with clear national goals and directives, while students and employees must ramp up their own learning. More ambitious personal targets must be set: the higher the aim, the more achievement there can be.
If challenges abound, so do opportunities – those with intellectual flexibility will benefit the most from the latter. The choice is clear: wait in the wings of change, or stride centre stage into the spotlight of success.
An ever-thickening environmental rulebook is one of the key drivers of today’s changing educational norms. The proactivity of high-level conversations worldwide about how to be ‘green’ have long been hampered by debates about the scientific evidence of climate change.
But the establishment of the Paris Agreement in the French capital in December 2015 turned the tide, conjuring the most political momentum ever achieved for a global climate-related effort. The UAE ratified the Paris Agreement in September 2016, setting an ambitious low-carbon goal for energy companies. Many have already made significant headway.
The OPEC member also rapidly established itself as home to one of the cheapest rates of solar power worldwide, illustrating the value of diversifying energy resources to guarantee energy security. In 2017, the country launched the ‘Energy Strategy 2050’, which is considered the first unified energy strategy that is based on supply and demand.
The strategy aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050 and reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, thus saving AED 700 billion by 2050. It also seeks to increase consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40 per cent.
The ‘green’ job market has swelled worldwide in correlation to growing support from leaders in politics and industry. In the UAE for example, the energy efficiency sector is expected to be the single largest generator of new jobs and is projected to create more than 65,000 jobs by 2030. The UAE’s broader Green Growth Strategy aims to create 160,000 new jobs and boost GDP by 4-5 percent by 2030. To the west, EDF said the number of jobs in sustainability in the US reached 4.5 million in 2017, up from 3.4 million in 2011. To the east, the China National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) said in 2016 that its renewable energy sector employed around 3.5 million people versus 2.6 million employed in the country’s oil and gas sector.
This does not dilute the value of those working in the oil and gas market – the UAE and many countries promote energy diversification – but such edits to the global job market highlight the value of intellectual agility. Those who are able to adapt quickly will be well prepared; there will be many more rewrites before the century concludes.
Green jobs that will likely become commonplace include:
- Biofuel jobs
- Green aviation engineers
- Green car engineers
- Solar cell technicians
- Water quality technicians
- Material recyclers
Helping unlock the vast potential of Emiratis is key to creating an independent knowledge-based economy. Accordingly, ENOC is on track to achieve a 50 percent rate of Emiratisation by 2021.
The UAE ranks 35th in the Global Innovation Index – the highest in North Africa and Western Asia. Creating and nurturing talent is essential to creating an innovative ecosystem, as per the pillar 'United in Knowledge' in the country’s Vision 2021. Fostering an environment that triggers imaginative ideas and solutions – via creative programmes, training and mentors – helps underpin ENOC’s reputation as a reliable energy provider.
UN data shows that the UAE’s population could grow by 39 percent to 13.1 million people, Saudi Arabia’s by 37 percent to 45 million people and Oman’s by 26 percent to 5 million by 2050. As the number of residents grows, the value of NOC’s such as ENOC to provide an uninterrupted energy supply is paramount.
Globally, there are 201 million recorded unemployed persons. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) expects this figure to climb by another 2.7 million this year. There are a range of causes, which include a mismatch between academia’s teachings and industry’s needs. The growth of new job markets – digital innovation and renewables, for example – can be an opportunity to leverage this underutilised potential.
The WEF’s Human Capital Index measures the extent to which countries and economies optimise their human capital potential through education and skills development and its deployment throughout the life-course. The Index states that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region currently only captures 62 percent of its full human capital potential, compared to a global average of 65 percent. How to, at the very least, make the 3 percent jump to the global average, if not exceed it?