21 July 2016

Demand for online training in Middle East outstrips supply

Source: GulfTalent Survey. Piechart showing why people sign up for training.
Professional training courses delivered online are becoming popular across the Middle East, but the supply of suitable courses has failed to keep up with demand, according to research* by recruitment firm GulfTalent, which runs an online recruitment portal for the region.

Based on GulfTalent’s study, one in five professionals looking to take up training is seeking an online course. This represents a rapid transformation, considering that a decade ago online training was virtually non-existent. A further 62% of training seekers prefer classroom-based courses supplemented with an online component. Only 18% now seek the traditional classroom-only format.

The growth of professional online training could be attributed primarily to its lower cost and greater flexibility for participants. Professionals surveyed by GulfTalent reported having to budget on average US$1,000 for a classroom-based training course, compared with just US$500 for an online course. 

Although the demand for online courses is rising rapidly, the supply of courses has not kept up. According to the survey, 14% of those seeking courses with an online element are unable to find a suitable course for their needs, compared with only 6% of those seeking classroom-based courses.
The supply gap is even greater for those seeking online courses delivered in the Arabic language, with 23% of professionals seeking such courses unable to find suitable options in the market.

Traditional classroom-based training providers in the region are being hurt by the popularity of online courses. One of them told GulfTalent researchers, “Online courses have had a big impact on our business because they are so much cheaper. We are planning to offer our own online courses soon.”
In the meantime, with local supply still inadequate, the region’s professionals are resorting to international providers of online training in order to fulfil their learning and development needs.
International online training firms are independently penetrating the Middle East market, including by advertising their courses on career sites such as GulfTalent.
The plunge in the oil price and slowdown in regional economic activity seems to have had a mixed impact on the regional training market. Several training providers interviewed by GulfTalent reported a steep drop in demand for training from corporates, as companies look for opportunities to save costs. However, the drive for cost efficiency seems to be pushing many corporates towards greater utilisation of online training, further boosting demand in this area.

In contrast to corporate demand, demand from individuals paying for their own training is rising as more professionals seek training and certifications to improve their career prospects in an uncertain and increasingly competitive job market. According to the survey findings, motivations for taking up training include general skill improvement, which was the biggest factor for 52% of professionals, followed by securing a promotion, getting a new job, or making a complete career change.

GulfTalent’s survey found that the appetite for training was highest among the region’s IT and HR professionals, with roughly one in every two professionals interested in taking some kind of training. Lawyers reported the lowest demand for training, with only one in four planning to take up a course in the next two years.

In terms of subject areas, the survey found the highest demand for training to be for engineering and project management, due to the very high proportion of engineering professionals working in the region, followed by finance. Female professionals in particular went for HR, administration, business management and education.

When it comes to choosing a particular course, professionals surveyed cited the profile and reputation of the training programme as one of the most important factors in their decision. In particular, it was very important for them that they receive a certificate with global recognition. The most popular certificate is SAP's, followed by PMP and ACCA.

In the case of classroom-based training, location was also mentioned as a key factor, with about 75% stating a preference for training courses that are either near their home or close to their place of work. The fact that such proximity is not always available is further contributing to the growth of online courses.

*GulfTalent’s findings were based on a survey of 1,600 professionals in full-time employment, based across nine countries in the Middle East. Surveyed countries included the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. The study also drew on interviews with a number of leading training providers active in the Middle East.