Last month, Dubai launched the New Media Academy as part of its mission to prepare a future workforce, capable of leading the rapidly growing field of digital marketing. The academy aims to train media professionals in the public and private sector in everything related to digital, in order to nurture social media content creators. Communicate spoke with Rashid Al Awadhi, CEO of New Media Academy, to learn more about the courses offered and the need for this institution today.
What was the inspiration behind the New Media Academy?
According to statistics, the contribution of anything related to digital media within the economies of the Arab world currently stands at 4% while the rest of the world stands at 22%. It’s a major problem and it’s no secret that we’re far behind when it comes to our knowledge of the complete picture surrounding digital media. So we created New Media Academy to help bridge that gap.
Every strategy that [the country] has planned is connected with the fourth industrial revolution, smart cities, AI, Blockchain, etc. Everything we talk about requires people to be [proficient] in the digital space. When we talk about digital, it’s no longer enough for someone to be proficient in only one area of digital such as – social media, UI and UX, SEO, etc. It’s important to develop people into a full-stack digital professional, which means an individual who understands everything from strategy, content creation, and distribution. You have to know how to use your phone, understand the basics of taking a video, editing it, distributing, observing analytics, creating some SEO keywords [to make sure it reaches the right audience,etc.] These skills are absolutely necessary in today’s digital age.
This is what New Media Academy aims to do- create the full stack digital professional. We have a goal to produce 10,000 full-stack digital professionals within the next five years and put them back into the market, to begin bridging the gap with the rest of the world. But we’re not going to be able to do this alone. We’ll need the support and partnerships from various entities in the region.
Why introduce this now?
There are a couple of reasons. One being, the strategies behind what’s going to happen post-Covid and what’s going to happen post-oil are going to be towards the digital economy. There was a report that was published in 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) titled, The Future of Jobs; which highlighted that by 2022, 50% of the jobs that we know of would no longer exist. They’ll predominantly be switching to digital jobs. The year 2022 is not that far behind, and we have a big role to play in order to help people get ready for when that happens.
Another reason is that the pandemic has exposed a lot of people who have been talking about digital transformation but when the moment came, were left confused about what to do. We have a big role to play [in educating them, on how to apply digital transformation within their organization.]
Finally, there hasn’t been any changes in the education curriculum in the last 40-50 years. It’s been the exact same curriculum. We believe our curriculum, the way it’s structured, and how it will be delivered will be at the forefront of [digital education.] We’re also planning to release a couple of new [courses and initiatives,] to be on track with the changing times.
Can you talk about the programs you’ve already introduced?
The first program is for government employees and it’s open to anybody within the GCC region. We have 100 seats available on the program and it lasts for six weeks. The program teaches you everything about content creation, strategy, distribution, etc. The objective of the program is to upskill or reskill employees in the government sector.
The curriculum designed for the program is very unique and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It comprises of three layers. The first layer comprises of expert academics in the field of digital media from around the world such as Matt Bailey and Juan Pablo Sanchez. Matt Bailey’s one of the top digital experts in the world and teaches a master’s degree in digital at Duke University in the US, while Juan Pablo Sanchez teaches the master’s in digital at Esade University in Barcelona, which is one of the top five digital programs in the world. Matt Bailey has also had a hand in developing our entire syllabus and will be delivering a lot of the courses as well. The best part about it is that it’s not an e-learning course. Students will have the opportunity to engage with these speakers [in real time.]
The second layer comprises of people who will teach you from real-life experiences in the field of digital. One of the people we have onboard is Caleb Gardener, who was the digital advisor to former President of the United States- Barrack Obama. Other people include experts such as Alex Hunter, who is the personal digital strategist of Sir Richard Branson and Neil Patel, an influencer of the web as credited by the Wall Street Journal. Basically, a layer of experts who have advised pretty much every major brand in the world.
The final layer comprises of content creators such as; Mark Weins, one of the most famous food vloggers in the world, Jacob Riglin, one of the top photographers in the world who used to work with Beautiful Destinations, the largest social media community space for travel. We also spoke with people who are experts on specific social platforms and invited them to share their insights about these platforms for the course as well. For eg – Brian Fanzo, a digital futurist will talk deeply about Youtube algorithms. There’s also an extra level we included with brands based in the region, to come and talk about great digital stories that happened in the region. Pepsico will be coming to talk about their influencer marketing campaigns in the region.
I dare say this course is equivalent to a master’s degree in digital media. But keep in mind our goal is to support government organizations with digital transformation. So we will have programs covering every aspect of this, and we can even customize to an entity’s requirements if needed.
The second program is for people who want to be full-time content creators. If you’re someone who wants to live the life of someone who’s constantly researching, creating, distributing, and engaging with content, this is the program for you. The program is for a tenure of three years, of which during the first two months, you will undergo academic training while we help develop a custom made strategy for your brand. During the remaining two years and eight months, we help build your personal brand, develop partnerships, monetize the brand, etc. We’re basically incubating the social thought leaders of tomorrow.