Skills drought leaves Gulf aerospace ambitions on dark side of moon

Alfred Worden is just one of 21 people who have ever been to the moon.
Updated 22 November 2017
0

Skills drought leaves Gulf aerospace ambitions on dark side of moon

DUBAI: Among the throngs of executives arriving at the Dubai Airshow last week, few will have recognized the grey-haired guy in the green US flying jacket strolling among the stands.
Col. Alfred Worden, at 85, was older than most at the exhibition – but as the command module pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission, he is just one of 21 people who have ever been to the moon.
He arrived in the UAE four days before the event began to talk to school kids in Abu Dhabi with the aim of inspiring young minds to think about a career in aerospace.
He believes it is vital to encourage more children in the region to take up so-called STEM courses – science, technology, engineering and maths.
“Because that is the future of the human race,” he said at the event.
More specifically, it also represents the future of the region’s nascent aerospace industry, which in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is part of a broader push to add high-value jobs beyond the oil and gas sectors.
Top executives from aviation companies attending the Dubai Airshow have highlighted the challenge facing them as they seek to a build world-class industry in the region but are thwarted both by a lack of school leavers and graduates in STEM subjects as well as a shortage of vocational training in practical aviation engineering skills.
In the US of the 1960s and early ’70s, astronauts were the rock stars of their era — inspiring many kids to focus on that career from an early age. The average age on mission control when Worden went to the moon was 26.
But for a generation that has grown up without the excitement of the moon missions, it has become harder to attract youngsters into the sector.
It is a problem that also extends to the wider aviation industry and is even more acute in the Gulf states where the prospect of well paid jobs in the public sector has historically encouraged a career in government-related jobs for many school leavers.
At a space conference at the Dubai Airshow, UAE higher education minister Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al-Falasi acknowledged the impact that talking to a real astronaut had on school kids in the Emirates.
He told Worden: “The amount of influence you have with school children is worth more than five ministers put together.”
Since establishing a space agency as well as a mission to Mars, the UAE has been able to attract more school leavers into relevant degree programs – but as in neighboring Saudi Arabia, it has been a challenge to build a pool of local skills big enough to match the requirement in industry.
“We have seen an increase of students in STEM – but specifically in technology and engineering – the science and maths parts or STEM have been lagging,” said the minister. “We have far more engineers than scientists.”
Saudi aviation executives also bemoan the shortage of graduates with the skills needed to build the aviation and aerospace sector that is a central plank of the Kingdom’s economic vision.
Yahya Homoud Al-Ghoraibi, the CEO of Riyadh-based Alsalam Aerospace Industries, believes the real problem is not identifying the graduates but finding the people with the necessary vocational training to perform the work.
“This is a challenging item because we are looking at a high number of people to support the vision,” he told Arab News. “In the Kingdom, we have a lot of engineer graduates — the shortage is in the technical background.”
Ziyad Abdulaziz Almohaimeed, the CEO of Riyadh-based Mas Aviation Services, agreed that there were not currently enough graduates with the skills that the industry needs
“There is a lot of pressure on all companies, especially in defense and aviation, to establish local capability,”
Those localization targets become ever more challenging in industries such as aerospace and aviation when there so many companies chasing so few graduates with the required degrees and training.


Egypt says Israel’s Jewish nation-state law undermines Middle East peace

Updated 21 July 2018
0

Egypt says Israel’s Jewish nation-state law undermines Middle East peace

  • Egypt on Saturday said a new Israeli law giving Jews the exclusive right to self-determination in the country undermined the chances for peace
  • The law, which was passed on Thursday, has drawn rebuke from the EU and was denounced by the Palestinian Authority

CAIRO: Egypt on Saturday said a new Israeli law giving Jews the exclusive right to self-determination in the country undermined the chances for peace in the Middle East and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The law, which was passed on Thursday, has drawn rebuke from the EU and was denounced by the Palestinian Authority and Arab citizens of Israel as racist legislation.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt announces...its rejection of the law passed by the Israeli Knesset on the “national state for the Jewish people” law ... for its ramifications that consecrate the concept of occupation and racial segregation,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It undermines the chances for achieving peace and reaching a just and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian issue,” it said.
It said the law would also have a potential impact on the right of Palestinians displaced from their homes in 1948 when Israel was founded, and their descendants, to return to their homes under United Nations resolutions.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to forge a peace treaty with Israel under the US-sponsored Camp David accord that provided for the Jewish state to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula.
But relations between two countries remained lukewarm, with Egypt demanding that Israel quit other lands it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, including the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem.
On Friday, Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, the most prestigious Sunni Muslim institution, denounced the Israeli law calling it “a step that reflects repugnant racism“