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    BAU and Huawei Collaborate to Boost Jordan's Digital Skills

Reading guide: Jordan's development is reliant on human resources, and it has faced great talent development challenges for over a decade. The country's digital economy is growing, so its digital transformation needs are escalating. With talent development in the digital field now a priority, the Jordanian government has launched a serious of initiatives, and its projects with Huawei are among the most important.

A landlocked Middle Eastern country with limited natural resources, Jordan's economy relies on human resources, so the importance of talent development is self-evident. With a population of about 10.83 million, 50% of the nation's potential labor force works overseas, resulting in a severe 'brain drain.'

Economic Development Demands Digital Expertise

In recent years, Jordan has also faced two other major challenges: firstly, its overall unemployment rate has risen year by year, with youth unemployment reaching 40% from 2007 to 2017. The other increasingly pressing issue is that the nation urgently needs to digitally transform, given that its digital economy is rapiTo address these issues, the Jordanian government has launched reforms to develop digital expertise, and it has set several goals to achieve by 2025: become a global innovation center, with the support of global IT partners; have a pool of world-class specialists who use technology for scientific and industrial innovation; ensure Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grows by 3% to 4% annually through the development of the nation's digital economy; and add 130,000 to 150,000 new jobs.

To meet these targets, in 2015, the Crown Prince of Jordan set up the Crown Prince Foundation, which aims to help young Jordanians improve their vocational skills and ensure they are equipped to work in scientific and technology innovation as well as startup businesses.

Another important factor in meeting these goals will be Jordan's higher education institutions, with the nation's 10 public universities, 19 private universities, and 51 vocational colleges all playing a crucial role.

The fifth-ranked university in Jordan, Al-Balqa Applied University (BAU) is a government-established comprehensive university. As one of Jordan's top universities, it has a responsibility to develop ICT talent and support digitalization in the country.

From Testing to Teaching

Aiming to fulfill that responsibility, BAU entered some of its students into the Huawei ICT Competition of 2017, when the first edition in Jordan was held. BAU's students were very enthusiastic and capable, with one group even ranking in the National Final's top three.

Then, in 2018, BAU participated in the competition again, and its team made it to the Global Final. During the Global Final, I was invited to attend the lecturer seminar in Shenzhen. I shared my teaching experiences with teachers from other countries and visited the Huawei ICT Academy in Shenzhen, helping BAU to gain a deeper understanding of Huawei's ideas about its talent ecosystem as well as how it intends to provide training courses and certifications for other enterprises.

At the beginning of the 2019 autumn semester, BAU began building a Huawei ICT Academy within its Salt City campus and developing courses for it. As well as providing BAU with lab equipment for its courses and training for teachers in the academy, Huawei also worked with BAU to devise courses to help the university apply the latest industry application knowledge to theoretical teaching and daily teaching activities of relevant majors. The idea was to ensure that BAU students could learn and be qualified for the industry as quickly as possible.

During the course development process, BAU explained to Huawei the needs of its computing-related majors: BSc Computer Graphics and Animation, BSc Computer Information Systems, BSc Computer Science, BSc Cyber Security, BSc Software Engineering, BSc Web Engineering, and MSc Computer Science. Huawei then consulted with teachers of its datacom, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cloud courses. Eventually, both parties agreed on a series of courses.

BAU made two of the courses compulsory for all majors, and planned to make AI and cloud computing compulsory for multiple majors. In the process of this collaboration, BAU's Huawei ICT Academy became the first in the world to work with Huawei on course development as well as the first to make any Huawei courses compulsory and to include the scores for Huawei's courses in its university credits system.

"The courses explain Huawei's advanced ideas, devices, technologies, and standards," a BAU student said. "Most importantly, the courses also include many hands-on experiments and industry use cases, which have improved our practical capabilities, broadened our horizons, and enabled us to understand the industry's needs and the actual scenarios the technologies are applied in."

BAU's students are able to follow the original major programs while having the added benefit of following Huawei's courses, which are more vocational — geared toward meeting the industry's needs. And by March 2020, Huawei had integrated datacom, AI, and cloud into six BAU majors, and trained 170 ICT specialists in those fields for BAU.

To date, Huawei has also trained teachers at BAU, with 45 of them completing Huawei Certified ICT Associate (HCIA) courses in Datacom, Cloud Computing, and AI.

Moving Forward with College-Enterprise Cooperation

With Huawei's continuous innovation and its investment into the talent ecosystem and the ICT industry, BAU is more confident than ever about collaborating with Huawei on training. Because of that confidence, BAU will expand both the breadth and depth of its cooperation with Huawei. The aim is to continue improving teaching quality through developing courses and labs as well as training teachers to produce more ICT professionals — shouldering BAU's responsibility to boost Jordan's digital transformation efforts.

Student and Faculty Points of View

Prof. Abdullah Sorour Zoubi, President of BAU: BAU's faculty and students have greatly benefited from collaborating with Huawei since 2017, when the first ICT competition was held. As an applied university, BAU has always believed in cooperating with industry-leading enterprises to acquire the latest knowledge and apply it to teaching. The establishment of a Huawei ICT Academy, with collaborative course development, was an important milestone for BAU.

A student from BAU's School of Internet Technology: The courses explain Huawei's advanced ideas, devices, technologies, and standards. Most importantly, they also include many hands-on experiments and industry use cases — which have improved our practical capabilities, broadened our horizons, and enabled us to understand the industry's needs as well as the actual scenarios that the technologies are applied in.