What are the prospects for the growth of technical training in Qatar?

MACLEOD: If you read the Qatar Vision 2030 documents and the National Development Strategy, we are here to help Qatar transition from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. Technical skills have to be a big part of that. We see that we have an increasing role. If you look at the development of the State of Qatar, the development in industry, business, and huge events such as FIFA 2022, the role of a college is squarely important in helping with the technical skills and development of the work force that will need to help the state with that transition to a knowledge-based economy. A technical skills college is absolutely essential to that development.

In what ways do you co-operate with other stakeholder’s in the community, such as employers and other educational institutions?

MACLEOD: We take connecting with our stakeholders very seriously. Our most important stakeholders are business and industry. A college as an educational institution has to be connected to the community which it serves and in our case, our sponsors and our business and industry partners are very important to us. We constantly engage with them to make our programs responsive and relevant. Here in Qatar, that becomes a challenge because Qatar is changing so rapidly. It’s one of the fastest growing economies on the face of the earth. In one way we don’t want to just be responsive, we want to be ahead of that curve; to look ahead, to be connected to all the planning committees and other stakeholders here in Qatar in planning the future of Qatar, and to be ready to respond with relevant programs when they’re ready for them. It’s a challenge but it’s also an opportunity and something we really enjoy; being a college and being connected to this fabulous development happening in Qatar.

What are the key challenges in engaging young Qataris in non-university education?

MACLEOD: One of the key challenges for a college, particularly a Canadian college, is that our credential is a diploma. That’s a bit of a challenge for our students, their parents, and our sponsors to understand what exactly that means. We've worked hard to educate all those people on what our diploma means. I think for the most part, we've overcome that because the quality of our graduates really overcomes that. Our sponsors are very pleased with the graduates that we’ve given them over the last number of years. Particularly for parents and students, it’s a challenge to understand that a diploma is not a dead end; it is part of an educational continuum. It can indeed help them get a job in the work place here but it can also be used to go on to degrees, master’s programs, etc. There are articulation agreements in place for all those pathways. It’s been a challenge for us but I think after 9 years of being here, the community here in Qatar realize the quality of the content and the value-add of the diploma. The other thing is that our diplomas are all accredited. We have various industry accreditations as well as association accreditations. That adds value to the diploma for both our students and for the sponsors.

The notion of a college education is something that is somewhat new to the Middle East, let alone Qatar itself. Our employers absolutely understand what that means. Because our programs are based on employer input, obviously we are giving them students with skills and abilities that our employers are looking for. Absolutely, over the years, they understand that and are very appreciative of that. In the broader context, in the community, establishing what a college education means and what it can mean, again, that takes time and it’s a matter, in our case, of graduating top quality graduates who have gone on to do different things and have become leaders of the companies that they've been with. We bring them back all the time as models for our students and champions of CNA-Q. So it is a challenge but the notion of a college education being a transition is very important for us and very important for a lot of our students. Recognizing that with open access being the hallmark of college education, we provide a lot of student support, in terms of English acquisition, science and math skills, getting them ready for a college education, and then all the way through their college education ensuring that they succeed. Every year we have more and more students. Our enrollments are going up. This year we had our largest class ever. So we are getting more students and more of them are succeeding.

How would you describe the level of human capital presently available in Qatar?

MACLEOD: We have quite a range of students. Most of our students are sponsored by employers before they come here. We have 5 different schools, the largest being the schools of engineering and business. By definition a college is well connected with business and industry. We have industry councils for all of our programs. We work with them to sponsor students. In addition to sponsoring students, a big part of our partnership with our industry and business partners is about their input into our curriculum. We are not only responsive to their needs but also relevant to their needs. Our curriculum and our programs change constantly. So we are in close consort with them on our programs. The students come in at various levels. Another hallmark of a college education is that it is open access but also very supportive. I always see a college, and particularly here in Qatar, as a bridge or a transition. Most of our students are transitioning from high-school to a world of work and they are sponsored by employers before they come here. Others are transitioning to higher education so we provide educational pathways for them to go on and do degrees. In all cases, we see ourselves as a bridge and a transition for all our students. What we've seen coming with our students are high quality students coming out of the high-schools here as well as some adult students that we have come to us.

In what ways is CNA-Q involved in research? What new research initiatives are planned or underway?

MACLEOD: A new initiative that CNA-Q is involved in is with our office of applied research. We’ve just signed an agreement with QEERI (Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute). They are establishing a lab here at CNA-Q that will do environmental and energy research. We already have a few instructors doing research in that area. We have some great labs. This will see probably upwards of 20 world class scientists in energy and environment here at the campus. We’re actually renovating our labs and offices to accommodate them as we speak. A lot of collaborative research will come out of that and present opportunities for our students. Our students are already doing research. Actually, two of our students just received first prize in the Qatar Foundation Research Awards Banquet this year. They had a project on green homes. They've actually been doing a lot of research on energy sensors in villas, achieving up to 20% energy savings in villas. That’s the kind of research we’d like to see happen here, applied research. So that’s an exciting initiative for us.