CERT CEO outlines its role as an ‘agent of change’ for the UAE

CNME Editor Mark Forker spoke to Dr. Mohamed Baka, CEO of CERT, to find out how the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology, has played a key role in fostering and cultivating an ecosystem of innovation and technological progress across the UAE, and how the entity has really served as an ‘agent of change’ for the nation.

Can you give our readers a broader and more comprehensive overview of the history of CERT – and what the mission statement of the UAE-based educational entity is?

CERT is the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the largest higher education institution in the UAE. CERT was founded in 1996 with the mission to deliver innovative solutions and programs in life-long learning and technology development as a capacity-building partner for the nation.

As the UAE undertakes visionary agendas for economic diversification, CERT becomes an agent of change in the realisation of these transformative roadmaps, through our Training & Education, Consultancy and Technology portfolios.

We are committed to the initiatives to propel Emirati talent competitiveness and work closely with the public and private sector in talent acceleration programs to achieve this vision.

Our position at the convergence of academia, industry and government, allows us to activate these linkages to deliver economic and strategic value to our partners and clients, through human capital and institutional development.

From your perspective, what are some of the greatest achievements CERT has delivered in terms of aiding and accelerating the national development of the UAE since its inception in 1996?

CERT’s core mission is to design and deliver world-class programs to develop the nation’s workforce. We have trained over 50,000 UAE Nationals over the past two decades across different industries and professions, combining immersive and impactful methodologies.

Our large-scale programs overarch occupations in critical sectors of economic activity for the UAE, from oil and gas to healthcare, insurance, taxation, finance and banking, and AI.

Hallmarks of our Talent Acceleration strategies are the Emiratisation programs such as the National Training Program (NTP) with the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation and Train for Work with Mubadala. One of the latest achievements is the authorisation from the regulators for the delivery of the Diploma in Health Care Assistant, a novel qualification endorsed by the National Qualifications Authority.

These programs opened doors to untapped Emirati talent to enter or make midcareer transitions to vital occupation in new segments of the labor market.

As the training arm of HCT, the role of CERT has been well documented and championed by leading academics across the Middle East. However, what do you think it is that makes CERT so unique and differentiates them from other similar educational faculties that exist across the region?

CERT is a pioneer in large-scale talent acceleration programs in the UAE, with a unique, in-depth understanding and alignment to the country vision and national strategies. We understand the local and regional business dynamics and therefore focus on developing solutions for talent sourcing and placement, talent development, talent retention and performance management, that empowers industry and government to lead in the global arena.

CERT owes its success to the high standards of practice and our ability to connect to the vision of our partners to attract, support and develop their talent.

Our academic and industry experts design integrated end-to-end solutions and models for organisations seeking to set up Learning & Development programs via their own Talent development units, or via our centers across the seven emirates.

Our integrated solutions, encompass seven clusters, which may include all or some of the stages in the step up of an effective Learning & Development program for the organisation.

From formulation of the strategy and set up of Project Management Offices, to the design of curriculum and content development, recruitment and assessment of competencies, co-creation of career pathways, certification of their skills and sustainability of their knowledge acumen through enhanced On-the-Job Learning.

We know that training and education is a major component in the makeup of CERT, and in the IT and technology sectors there are growing concerns over a lack of talent that is needed to harness and nurture the capabilities of nascent and disruptive technologies. How are CERT leveraging their expertise and knowledge to help enterprises deal with this issue and enable the next generation of Emiratis to have the skills required to address this talent shortage?

A well-educated workforce is an invaluable asset for an organisation and the economic development of a country. In line with the strategy of the UAE to modernise the economy and increase AI investments, it becomes imperative to create a sustained and trusted Digital Talent pipeline.

We work side-by-side with our partners to design digital transformation pathways to ensure that Humans are in Loop of AI adoption.

Our focus is on increasing the awareness of key decision-makers and advisors at the enterprise level, about the risks and opportunities of AI technologies and leveraging the power of human intelligence at every stage of AI adoption, from design to deployment. CERT’s bench of expert consultants in AI enterprise integration, provide insights to employers in the recruitment, placement, and effective transition to digital and AI-related jobs.

This was the driver in the creation of CERT AI Academy, a strategic initiative launched in 2019, to equip learners with the skills to seize the opportunities of AI. We are committed to bridge the gap in AI knowledge and AI talent in the UAE.

Designed with a human-centric approach to innovation, our programs aim to prepare a national digital workforce in technical and non-technical fields. The AI Academy comprises five pillars: (1) AI Talent Acceleration, (2) AI knowledge transfer, (3) Enterprise AI Integration, (4) AI start-up incubation and (5) AI Programs for Digital Thinkers.

In this quest, we cooperate with global entities in the creation of competency frameworks and assessments to qualify digital talent across functions of procurement, HR and customer service, finance and accounting.

The Association of International Public Accountants (AICPA-CIMA), Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), TADAT Secretariat, Global Association for Research Methods and Data Science (GRMDS) are partners in the expansion of our digital skilling programs, qualifications and certifications

What are your future growth plans for CERT looking ahead to 2023?

As the demand for digital talent increases in the region, CERT is working dynamically to release innovations to deliver excellence in service to our partners and clients. The vision of the UAE to lead in 4IR is the driver of the future plans of CERT.

Our growth strategy relies on a dual approach of investing in enhancing our current Talent Acceleration programs while expanding our offerings to the creation of competence centers in line with the plans of the country in advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, and future technologies.

In September of this year, the UAE announced Operation 300bn-the UAE’s industrial strategy, which aims to stimulate the national economy by doubling the contribution of the industrial sector to the GDP by 2031. As part of this strategy, “create quality job opportunities in the industrial sector” is a call for action for CERT.

CERT’S applied research orientation and our ability to work with academic teams in scientific, empirical, and action research, will deliver a unique value to enterprise, by connecting these experts with industry, to solve specific challenges, sharing research infrastructure, equipment and resources.

The expansion of CERT’s network of academic, industry and government partners in advanced sciences and applied research will be key to our growth and the realisation of the visions of the nation.

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