Panel discussion on the prospects of vocational training in the Sultanate of Oman

As part of an integrated approach to expand its educational activities, Oman Educational Services (OES) has ventured with the German BFW, Berufsförderungswerk Kerpen (BFW NRW) to introduce an Apprenticeship Technical Training in Oman.

OES is the owner company of the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), the Finland-Oman School (FOS), the History of Science Centre (HSC), the Training and Smart Solutions Centre (TSSC), among others.

The Apprenticeship Technical Training in Oman will builds on certain aspects of the German Vocational Technical Training and will cater for young Omanis who would choose to follow a technical vocational path.

This project was presented during a workshop organised by OES on Tuesday 22 May at Grand Hyatt Muscat, in the presence of the German Ambassador to Oman, H.E. Mr. Thomas Schneider and representatives from governmental and private organizations. During the workshop, invited stakeholders discussed the opportunities and the challenges relating to the implementation of the Apprenticeship Technical Training in Oman.

H.E. Mr. Thomas Schneider, German Ambassador to Oman, pointed in his speech that “the Apprenticeship Technical Trainings are widely embedded in the German education system and labour market, where the training institutes and the private sector collaborate on providing vocational training solutions to school leavers and on-the-job employees to upgrade their skills”.

The first edition of the Apprenticeship Technical Training will be launched in August, with a focus on IT skills. It is targeted at young Omani school leavers, University and College drop outs, aspiring to build up a technical career in IT required for the development of various sectors.

Dr. Julio Saavedra, the Keynote Speaker from TTU noted that the focus on IT trainings is a pre-requisite for Oman to catch up with the 4th Industrial Revolution. He explained that “4IR is based on a confluence of technologies maturing at the same time”. Technologies are becoming entrenched in our society, through robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, Internet of Things, etc. Julio Saavedra concluded that “4IR requires a spectrum of technical IT skills which can only be developed through hands-on practical training in an operational environment”.  

The Apprenticeship Technical Training in IT, as devised in the German context, offers apprentices a combination of structured classroom training with job familiarization allowing them to practice the technical and soft skills in a real life setting. Mr. Björn Müller, Manager in BFW NRW advanced: “this approach can be replicated in the context of Oman too, with the help of the private sector”.

The Apprenticeship Technical Training in Oman by OES-BFW is envisaged to be structured over 3 years. The training will offer apprentices classroom learning alternated with weekly scheduled time in host companies. Thus, preparing apprentices to become autonomous IT technicians by the end of the training.

The success of the project will rely on the commitment of the private sector and the host companies that would choose to tie up with an apprentice during the duration of the training. Apprentices should be selected by host companies based on their future recruitment needs and plans to contribute in Omaninzation and ICV development.

“The success of such initiative requires a long-term relationship between the apprentices and enterprises” highlighted Heiderose Moose, Manager of Vocational Training in TSSC.

During the workshop, a series of challenges were discussed by the invitees. “There is a stigma attached to vocational study, people think of it as the alternative option if you don’t get the right marks to get into university” and “I don’t think young Omani are fully clear on what vocational training entails as the majority expect to work in offices.” Another voice postulated “the education system in Oman has to bridge the divide between academic and vocational study”.

OES and BFW NRW are all set to launch the project which should translate into more versatile IT technicians/specialists with a more all-round set of skills.

STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN SHELL ECO-MARATHON 2019

Shell Oman, together with GUtech and Caledonian College of Engineering signed an ‘Agreement of Commitment’ for the institutions’ participation in next year’s Shell Eco-marathon, one of the worlds’ leading energy efficiency competition. The competition requires engineering students from around the world to design, engineer, and build energy efficient vehicles to be tested during the Eco-marathon, determining whose vehicle can go the distance on limited amounts of fuel. GUtech Professor and Deputy Rector for Academic Affairs, Dr. Armin Eberlein, Caledonian Professor Dr. Ahmed Hassan Al-Bulushi, Shell’s Country Chairman in Oman Chris Breeze, and Shell Oman Marketing Company CEO Mohammed Mahmood Al Balushi all signed the agreement.

Chris Breeze, Shell Country Chairman in Oman said, “We are excited to be signing this agreement with both GUtech, and Caledonian and look forward to their participation in the Shell Eco-marathon. There is a lot of growing talent and innovation in Oman and through their involvement in the Shell Eco-marathon, students are gaining experiences they may not get in the classroom, but more importantly, they are realizing the power they have to make a change and their roles as participants working towards global energy solutions. It is our responsibility as energy leaders, to not only work towards solutions amongst ourselves, but to mentor and inspire our youth, who will inherit the world, and who want to make it better.”

Mohammed Mahmood Al Balushi, CEO of Shell Oman Marketing Company stated, “Shell Eco-marathon provides an opportunity for the new generation of innovative leaders from Oman to engage in a global dialogue on the future of energy transition and sustainable mobility. This initiative is meant to inspire innovative thinking and creativity which are embedded in the way Shell Oman operates.”

Students compete with over 100 students from nearly 20 countries throughout Asia and the Middle East. Participants take their vehicles to the track in the Mileage Challenge to see which vehicle can compete to go the farthest on the least amount of fuel. In preparation of the competition, students are challenged to design, build and test energy-efficient cars, pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible.

“We are privileged to have Shell’s support for GUtech’s participation in the Shell Eco-marathon over the past 5 years. The program has made a significant impact to our teams, allowing us to refine and improve our designs from year to year. As a result, we were the best team from Oman in last year’s Eco-marathon Asia, achieving 3rd place amongst the Diesel engines,” said Dr. Armin Eberlein.

The 2019 Shell Eco-marathon will be GUtech’s 5th consecutive year and Caledonians 3rd year to participate. In 2015 the GUtech team was the first team from Oman to participate in the final competition in Manila, they were fifth in the diesel category. In 2018, GUtech finished taking third place in the prototype diesel category and a commendable 17th place out of 30 in the prototype internal combustion class.

 

Promoting Excellence – The Oman Association for Quality in Higher Education held a workshop at GUtech

HALBAN Under the auspices of H.E. Dr. Abdullah Mohammed Al Sarmi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education, The Oman Association for Quality in Higher Education conducted a launch event on the international accreditation of higher education institutions at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). More than 100 experts in the field of accreditation and quality assurance participated in the unique one day workshop.

In recent years, many institutions in the GCC have established a quality center or a quality assurance department. In Oman the Oman Accreditation Authority was founded in 2010. Initially it was named Oman Accreditation Council, founded in 2001. “The international or national accreditation has been creating awareness on quality in higher education. One of the challenges is to balance the tension between accountability and independence of the institution,” said Dr. Narimane Hadj Hamou, Founder and CEO of the Centre for Learning Innovations and Customised Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS) based in the UAE. Dr Narimane gave a talk on Accreditation in the GCC Region: Developments, Challenges and Future Opportunities”. She stressed that it is important to consider the creation of a GCC ‘think tank’ that will work on a common GCC framework to establish joint standards promoting for example student mobility in all GCC countries. “The accreditation is a commitment to quality. It is not a specific task but a continuous quality improvement. The accreditation is important to attract the best students and to find the best faculty members.” Said Dr. Ali Al Badi, Associate Dean for Postgraduate Studies and Research at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).

In addition, the accreditation encourages and supports ethical behaviour by students, faculty, administrators and professional staff. It enhances a positive work environment. “It promotes a collegiate environment while trying to respond to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues,” said Dr. Hatem El Masri, Director of Quality Assurance and Accreditation Office at the College of Business, University of Bahrain. Such social responsibility issues include diversity, sustainability development, environmental sustainability and globalization at large. The accreditation also includes aspects regarding intellectual contributions from academics as well as student, academic and professional engagements for example through guest lectures. The AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is mission-driven, it is based on principles rather than on rules. According to Dr. Hatem the AACSB accreditation is the largest and most widely recognised business accreditation in the world, more than 780 accredited schools worldwide.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) supports technical education worldwide. “This accreditation is a proof that a programme has met essential standards that are valid worldwide to produce graduates that are ready to enter the critical fields of applied sciences, computing, engineering and engineering technology” said Dr. Nabil El Kadhi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buraimi. During the closing session the board members of OAQHE said that further joint meetings and events are planned in the near future.

At GUtech all BEng and BSc study-programmes are accredited by the Oman Accreditation Council and by ACQUIN, an international accreditation agency based in Germany.

Caption: Group photo with HE. Dr. Abdullah Mohammed Al Sarmi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education (center) and Prof Dr. Armin Eberlein, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at GUtech (center) along with the board members of The Oman Association for Quality in Higher Education.

© GUtech / Text: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet; Photos: Umaima Al Zadjali

 

 

 

The German Minister of State of the Federal Foreign Office visits GUtech

HALBAN H.E. Niels Annen, the Minister of State of the Federal Foreign Office and member of the German Bundestag and his accompanying delegation has visited the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) today afternoon. They were welcomed by Prof. Dr. Armin Eberlein, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, Prof. Dr. Michael Jansen, Founding Rector of GUtech and Claudia Schmidt, Representative of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as well Dr. Manuela Gutberlet (PR Manager). The delegation had a tour around the campus and visited the GUtech Eco-House. During their visit they discussed the German-Omani cooperation in the field of higher education and how to enhance this cooperation.

© Text: GUtech/ Dr. Manuela Gutberlet; Photo: Umaima Al Zadjali

Celebrating Diversity and Talents – An International Day at GUtech

HALBAN An international cultural day was held at GUtech on Tuesday. The event included a ‘Global Village Bazaar’ with games, exhibitions and food from various European, Asian and Latin American. The event was organized by the English Club and the International Student Club. The GUtech English Club held a talent show with music performances in the afternoon. The International Night included songs in various languages and music composed by GUtech students, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi dance performances as well as a karate performance and an international fashion show.

“Universities tend to be the most diverse places,” said Dr. Armin Eberlein, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at GUtech during his welcome speech. “Inter-cultural intelligence including cross-cultural understanding and the ability to engage with the world at large is becoming more and more important in today’s globalized world” he said. The Vice-Rector added that the curiosity for study-programmes often extends to more curiosity about other cultures and ways of living. Last year 134 GUtech students were sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). They attended workshops, excursions or conducted their Bachelor thesis at German universities. GUtech students come from 23 different countries and 24 different nationalities work at GUtech.

© Text: GUtech / Dr. Manuela Gutberlet; Photo: GUtech/ Aysha Farooq

Creating new city districts – Students from the British School Muscat experience life at GUtech

HALBAN Designing a future district of Muscat that was the task given to five high school students on the first day of their work and study experience days at GUtech. In the department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design the students got some insights about the work of architects and urban planners. Within a few hours the students developed their own models of future city districts and they presented their ideas to a small jury of staff members. “What the students have learnt today is to realize a diversity of designs. We give them the freedom to use their ideas to create their own designs and develop the areas where they thing that should be new features for all society – within “Muscat – future city”, said Petrit Pasha, Lecturer in the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design who supervised the school students.

All students integrated renewable energy resources in their urban models. They realised a mix of residential, work and leisure areas all located close by the sea and they. Shabrina Wiendrarko who won the competition introduced two main opponents, Oman as a Tourism hub and Hydro Energy. She thought of a hotel resort and hydroelectric power generation beside the sea. Jeffery Oguni designed a futuristic style of houses connected by several bridges. He also included houses made of so-called ‘solar bricks’ that store solar energy. Zidan Rafliansyah integrated solar panels on roof tops to decrease CO2 emissions and pollution. He also integrated public parks and office buildings with a view to the sea. Rokhy Musthofa created a model with high-rise buildings and a seaside promenade shaped like an Omani khanjar. Rafif Suwardoyo thought about electromagnetic trains used as public transportation, public swimming pools and other social activity buildings such a University and a sports hall. The students said that they wish to present their urban ideas to their school colleagues in the coming weeks.

For all students it is their first experience at a university. During three days at GUtech the school students are familiarized with different departments, study-programmes and the overall student life on campus. “The aim of the Year 10 Work Experience is to give the students an insight into the real world of work and develop their personal, social skills and confidence. It allows students to learn about the different roles and structures within an organisation. At the same time it is a unique opportunity to learn more about themselves and discover what really interest them by finding out about different occupations and job groups. This will allow to develop future career plans and enhance their career aspirations,” said Ajay Khushalbhaia, student counselor at the British School Muscat. The second day they will be in the Engineering department and the third day in the Department of Applied Geosciences and they will get a chance to attend the international event at GUtech in the afternoon.

GUtech offers Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor programmes in Mechanical Engineering, Process Engineering and Environmental Engineering as well as Bachelor of Science programmes in Applied Geosciences, Computer Sciences, Logistics, International Business and Service Management, Urban Planning and Architectural Design. All programmes are taught in English and are internationally accredited by ACQUIN.

(c) GUtech / Text & Photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and Petrit Pasha

International Night to be held at GUtech

HALBAN The International Student Club of GUtech will hold an International Night on campus on 1 May, between 2-8 pm. The event will include a Global Village Bazaar in the afternoon with games, cultural exhibitions and food from around the world, to be organized in cooperation with the English Club at GUtech. According to the organizers, visitors will be asked to pick up an individual passport at the entrance. For each completed activity, they will receive a stamp in their passport, which they can submit for a raffle at the end of the event. Those with the most stamps have a chance to win prizes from the event sponsors Diamantine, Le Petit Paris and Tamrahoman. Between 6 to 8 pm performances will be held in the GUtech amphitheater including international traditional dances, martial arts presentations, musical performances, a fashion show and an original play. The International Night will be open to the public and the entrance will be free of charge.

The Oman Drilling Project – Expert shares his research with GUtech students

HALBAN Two third of the Earth’s surface is made up of oceanic crust, which forms at mid-ocean ridges and is recycled into the mantle via subduction at convergent plate boundaries. During each phase of its 200 million year lifecycle the oceanic crust plays a key role in global geochemical cycles, including the carbon cycle. The inaccessibility of the seafloor makes it difficult to study. However, fragments of ancient oceanic lithosphere that have been tectonically emplaced on continental margins provide access to complete cross-sections of seafloor. These exposed sections of oceanic lithosphere are called ophiolites. The Samail Ophiolite in Oman is the largest, best-exposed section of oceanic lithosphere in the World.

The Oman Drilling Project (ODP) is a comprehensive international drilling program that aims to sample the whole ophiolite sequence, from oceanic crust through to upper mantle, in a series of boreholes. Data collection includes analysis of rock core, geophysical logging, fluid sampling, hydrological measurements and microbiological sampling. The geoscientist, Dr. Philippe Pezard, University of Montpellier (France) is currently leading the geophysical logging of the boreholes. He shared his experience and information about the equipment used with students from the Department of Applied Geosciences at GUtech. Some students visited one of the project’s drilling sites last week.

After completion of the international research project, a large number of scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines will use the new datasets. The ODP will address long-standing unresolved questions and undertake frontier exploration of subsurface weathering processes that lead to natural uptake of CO2 from surface waters and the atmosphere, and the nature of the subsurface biosphere in areas. Drilling operations started on December 25, 2016. Intense logging is performed currently. The ODP is funded and supported by a consortium of international institutions, including GUtech.

 

German Geoscience students discover Oman´s beauty and tranquillity

A group of 27 German Geoscience students from the Universities of Bonn, Aachen and Cologne visited the Sultanate recently. They were accompanied by Valeska Decker and Prof Gösta Hoffmann from GUtech and Bonn University (Germany) as well as by Dr. Daniel Felten. Dr. Daniel is the coordinator of the joint geography and geoscience-network called ABC/J-Geoverbund. “We conducted the Oman trip for the third time,” said Dr Daniel. “It is a very positive experience for our students to come to Oman. It is not only the beautiful landscape and fascinating insights into geological processes but also the very rich culture of the people which makes the country a perfect destination for such an educational trip.” Dr Daniel who personally participated the first time, further lined out that he was very curious to visit the country himself. “The students gave very positive feedback in the last years, produced amazing videos on youtube and posted incredible photos on social media. “This year the students blogged about their experience.” Although the blog is in German www.geoverbund.de/omanblog, the pictures already illustrate the group’s huge interest in the country  and its people.

The students also benefited from Prof Gösta’s experience who recently published a field guide on the geology of Oman. “For me it is always a pleasure to guide visitors through the country. Especially Europeans expect to only see sand deserts. When we take them to places like Wadi Shab or to the Hajar-mountains, their perception changes completely.” Prof. Gösta who also guided a trip for the German Geological Association earlier this year further added “This is the most rewarding work I can think of. As the responsible person I am basically busy all the time, but looking into happy faces throughout the day and hearing the laughter during the evening at the campfire are very rewarding motivations for me to run these trips.”

Valeska lined out that “It was easy to conduct this trip to Oman. The Sultanate is one of the safest countries I have ever visited. We were in the good hands of our local partner from Golden Highlands who took care of all the logistics during the trip and also gave us a lot of understanding of the Omani culture.” “We will definitely come back to Oman next year,” said Dr Daniel, before the entire group departed the brand new Muscat International Airport.

Greening Omani Wadi Beds – An Omani-German Student Project

HALBAN A group of Urban Planning and Architectural Design students from GUtech have conducted a joint urban planning project with twelve students from the University of Technology in Dortmund (TU Dortmund) in Germany, Department of Spatial Planning. During the two week project the students have developed a water sensitive urban design and a sustainable water management system in the capital Muscat. The project was supervised by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholz, Fly-in professor at GUtech and Professor at the University of Technology in Dortmund (Germany).

“Our main research question was regarding „how to integrate wadis as green public spaces into the urban structure of Muscat considering a sustainable water management and a flood protection concept. Our aims were to create a ‘Green Concept’ for the Greater Muscat Area in order to overcome the separation of neighbourhoods and to connect these neighbourhoods with each other through public green spaces within wadi beds, while making use of huge undeveloped urban areas. In addition, as a strategic approach the so-called wadi parks could replace the neighbourhood parks and create more building land in future. Moreover, a sustainable water management and flood protection system could be integrated along with flood protection measures,” said Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholz.

As part of the study-project the group of Omani and German students conducted various field visits to wadi Al Khoud and wadi Al Khuweir. A total of 12 urban planning proposals for creating public parks, while respecting the flood protection and low level interventions as well as the danger of destruction after a sudden flash flood during the winter months. A total of five expert interviews were conducted by the students including experts from the Botanical Garden, the Directorate of Gardens at the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and Haya Water. In addition, the students conducted a questionnaire survey with inhabitants of Al Khoud and Al Khuwair and a total of 300 interviews with the local community in both areas.

Finally, the results were presented during a two-day workshop at GUtech last week. The results included shaded sitting areas and playgrounds at the fringes of the wadi and in protected areas as well as low-cost interventions in the wadi bed itself that serve as sport fields, jogging lanes and walkways. The aim was to  keep the wadi as natural as possible while protecting its functional and aesthetic aspects. The results are open to the public and interested researchers. For more details kindly contact: Wolfgang.scholz@gutech.edu.om

© GUtech/ Text: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Scholz; Photos: GUtech/ UPAD Department