Preparing Oman’s Graduates in a Season of Rapid Growth

Oman Global Logistics Company Newsletter interview with Professor Costas Chryssou, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Enterprise & Engagement at Muscat University

 

With fast growth underway in Oman’s logistics sector, the need for competent workers is at an all-time high. The industry offers varied types of work that should translate into popularity with job seekers, but the reality has been somewhat different. Often, work in warehouses or transportation tends to be associated with unpleasant working conditions and a less than attractive career path.

What will it take to change society’s view about some of Oman’s most valuable jobs? Will educational programs or other initiatives help inspire a new generation of skilled workers?

To find some answers, we interviewed Professor Costas Chryssou, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Enterprise and Engagement at Muscat University.

Professor Chryssou is an entrepreneurial senior executive with several years of experience in technology and innovation management, research and product development, and the creation and commercialization of intellectual property. He has worked for academia and world-class multinational corporations, and has gained international consulting experience working with several public and private sector clients and SMEs worldwide.

 

Are the employment demands of Oman’s logistics sector growing? What skills and functions are expected to be in high demand?

The transport and logistics sector is undergoing rapid change in Oman, offering a significant source of employment now and in years ahead.

According to Frost and Sullivan’s market report in June 2016, with all of the noteworthy road, rail, aviation and maritime developments underway the transport and logistics sector is expected to experience a compound annual growth of 6.9% by 2020 and beyond.

This will drive demand for jobs in engineering; planning; management of people, projects, functions and products; finance; marketing; sales; customer service; strategic planning; research and development; information technology; as well as health and safety.

These jobs will require specific skill sets required in various roles in each industry as well as the more general skill sets for problem-solving and team work.

 

What are the most promising career opportunities in the logistics sector?

The transport and logistics industry is multidisciplinary. People with diverse backgrounds, degrees and experiences are needed in fields such as engineering, sales, marketing, finance, mathematics, business studies, languages and HR. But there are many other opportunities available to people without a degree or vocational training. It is possible that interested people can join the sector at any level and work their way up.

Certain qualifications are required for management positions and having a degree or another higher education qualification can accelerate career progression. Bachelors and Masters degrees still distinguish their holders from the competition.

Some specialty areas represent top priorities for the logistics sector. Technology has played and will continue to play an important role in the transport and logistics sector, including the further development of RFID technologies, e-logistics, and track-and-trace capabilities for shipment management.

 

How will the availability of logistics programs support Omanisation?

Bearing in mind the current demand for skilled personnel in the transport and logistics sector, and its anticipated growth over the next decade, the provision of vocational training, undergraduate and postgraduate programs in the Sultanate is currently limited.

Muscat University, a new private university in Oman, is changing this and has launched high quality educational programs across three faculties: the Faculty of Business and Management, Engineering and Technology, and Transport and Logistics.

Starting in September 2017, Muscat University will offer a BSc in Logistics with Supply Chain Management in partnership with Aston University. They will also offer two Masters Degrees; one in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and one in Air Transport Management, offered in partnership with Cranfield University in the UK.

 

It is debated whether or not local graduates are meeting the industrial needs of Oman. How can we improve the connection between education and industry?

As the Muscat University Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Engagement, I have met with several business leaders in Oman, across various industries and sectors. I asked them which skills are lacking in their new graduate hires, and the normal response is, “…they lack communication skills, critical thinking skills, presentation skills and team work…”; all the soft skills that graduates should have.

At Muscat University, we believe that we can provide the logistics industry with career-ready graduates by aligning our educational programs to the current needs of the Sultanate and by offering degree programs that are informed by industry. A few examples of tailored, industry-specific opportunities are:

  • Collaborative activities such as work placements and industrial research projects enable students to closely work with local and regional businesses.
  • Flying faculty from Aston and Cranfield Universities will bring cutting-edge industry knowledge to students enabling student projects to be directly relevant to future employment.
  • Guest lecturers currently working in the transport and logistics industry will interact with students providing a first-hand look at the contemporary thinking and challenges industry faces.

 

What are the main challenges of logistics growth in Oman, in relation to employment?

The significant growth that Oman is experiencing as it aims to become a regional hub for logistics means that there will be a supply gap at the junior, middle and senior professional levels that businesses will experience.

Universities and colleges in the Sultanate can alleviate these constraints by offering high quality, relevant educational programs to students, equipping them with the necessary skills that employers need. By strong collaborations that facilitate knowledge and technology exchange between industry and universities, the sector will grow sustainably and will provide a strong economic diversification pillar for the Sultanate of Oman.

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