Enhancing the partnership between universities and the private sector

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Dr Haifa Jamal Allail

Dr Haifa Jamal Allail, Effat University president, together with Prof Rainer Speh, Siemens Saudi Arabia chief technology officer, tell Cyrus Tabatabaei how Effat University and Siemens are contributing toward achieving the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia has taken great strides towards achieving the goals of its socio-economic development, taking into consideration the investment in its greatest assets – its people and youth in particular. The youth constitute more than 50% of the total Saudi population. The Saudi government’s continuous investment in human resource development is a key aspect of the kingdom’s nine development plans and has been amplified by a number of national programmes in support of the Saudi Vision 2030.

The Deputy Crown Prince, HRH Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al-Saud, published Vision 2030 under the guidance and support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Saudi Vision 2030, which is based on the three pillars of developing a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation, emphasises the development of local talent as the backbone of the country’s overall development. To achieve a thriving economy, the vision outlines a number of specific goals which include education and training, increasing women’s participation in the workforce and talent development.

The collaboration between educational institutions and industries, especially in the private sector, is one of the important means by which these goals can be achieved. In this article, the case for collaboration is between Effat University, a non-private Saudi female university established in 1999 carrying the legacy of HRH Princess Effat Al-Thunyyan, the late wife of late King Faisal Al-Saud, renowned for excellence in teaching and learning, and Siemens, the global technology powerhouse that continues to stand for engineering excellence, innovation, responsibility, quality and reliability since 1847. Siemens has been active in Saudi Arabia for nearly 90 years and the company’s relationship with Effat University provides an excellent example of an effective partnership between a major industrial stakeholder and an academic institution to achieve the goals of Vision 2030.

Your education is your job

Vision 2030 seeks to close the gap between the skills requirements of industry and the output of the education system. Effat University and Siemens therefore signed a memorandum of understanding and partnered to, among others, prepare and equip graduates for the job market.

Effat University has the mission to prepare its graduates to become tomorrow’s competitive leaders and continues to work diligently on developing and nourishing partnerships with employers to ensure that graduates are equipped to serve a continuously changing local and international environment. Siemens conducts business along the electrification, automation and digitalisation value chains, and cultivates mutually beneficial relationships with universities across the world. Siemens is a proud corporate citizen and the company’s partnership with Effat University is another milestone in developing local capabilities and skills to address the kingdom’s priorities. In addition, Siemens’ knowledge transfer, internships and joint curriculum development are a true testament to a mutually beneficial relationship. Together with its shareholder and partner, E.A. Juffali and Brothers, the company is committed to fostering a long-term relationship with Effat University.

In addition to offering students and graduates internships and job opportunities, the partnership with Effat University has paved the way for several initiatives that include exclusive recruitment events and workshops, research and development cooperation and guest lecturing. In order to continuously ensure that the curriculum is in line with developments in industry, Siemens is working together with Effat University to develop and adapt its curriculum. The university’s new energy engineering master’s programme is one example.

Effat University encourages long-life learning among its students. The Effat Ambassador Program(EAP) is therefore ideal to develop students personally socially, academically and professionally, and to graduate individuals who are ready to assume the responsibilities that they are expected to uphold in their careers. To further support Effat students’ transition into the job market, Siemens has hosted two innovation workshops known as Siemens Day events with over 100 students who were introduced to the company’s portfolio and career prospects. The first workshop was headlined “How would you like to live in the year 2030?”, while a second workshop focused on “How to make the kingdom cleaner and greener”. The workshops allowed the students to apply their theoretical learning to propose out-of- the-box solutions, guided by an industry expert. The workshops sparked much excitement and discussion amongst the student groups.

This type of partnership between an educational institution like Effat University and an established stakeholder like Siemens aims to drive workforce localisation in Saudi Arabia. Siemens has sourced at least nine interns since the beginning of the partnership with Effat in March 2015.

Effat University has around 88% Saudi female students, all of whom receive internships in their fields of specialisation before entering a job. The university also helps to find employment opportunities for its students through its Career Development Office, annual Career Days and partnerships with local and multinational industries.

Arja Talakar, CEO Siemens Saudi Arabia (front, 2nd from left) and Prof Dr Rainer Speh, CTO Siemens Saudi Arabia (front right) with students and staff from Effat University


Employment of women

As highlighted in Vision 2030, providing opportunities for all citizens is one of the key cornerstones to achieve a thriving economy. Saudi women represent 50% of university graduates and their inclusion in the workforce will contribute to the development of the Saudi society and economy. The vision aims to increase women’s participation in the local workforce from 22% to 30%, and this resonates with Siemens and Effat University.

Siemens’ culture of inclusion, tolerance and diversity is reflected in its proactive approach to hire and develop men and women in the kingdom. Siemens currently employs over 50 women in fields ranging from, but not limited to, computer engineering, supply chain management, human resource and finance. Diversity is a key driver to innovation and enhanced performance in the workplace. To further increase female representation, Siemens actively recruits at career fairs such as those hosted by Effat University.

Effat University is a great supporter of women’s education and their active contribution to national transformation and development. This goes back to the institution’s roots which were nourished by HRH Princess Effat Al-Thunyyan, known also as Queen Effat, who established Dar Al-Hanan School, the first school for girls in the kingdom in 1955. Following her establishment of Effat College, which became Effat University in 2009, as the first non-profit private college for women, the institution researched the possible programmes that the market really needed. As a result, Effat University offers unique programmes that seek to address the needs of the labour market. Electrical and computer engineering program is a good example.

Talent development

Vision 2030 is about economic transformation and diversification. The kingdom has been historically dependent on oil revenues to fuel economic development. Although it remains an essential pillar of the economy, the country is diversifying with attractive propositions in fields such as renewable energy, transport, healthcare and manufacturing.

Of course, this direction calls for talent development, not only in existing industries, but also in new fields. Practically, it means new career fields and opportunities, and that is why Siemens has local talent development at the heart of its localisation strategy. This approach is good for society and for business.

The kingdom’s energy and water infrastructure, for example, is developing continuously. The need for broad-based and specialist knowledge and skills are imperative and that is why Siemens provides world-class training to engineers, technicians and project managers. The company applies a project management methodology and learning system – known as PM@ Siemens – which is internationally accredited and equips talent to manage projects of varied sizes across the globe.

In addition, young people are required to learn faster in a very challenging global environment. Siemens in Saudi Arabia therefore initiated accelerated talent development initiatives to prepare and equip talents for leadership functions. The company provides graduate training programmes through its parent company in Germany. These are business and leadership programmes for high-potential Saudi employees to explore different cultures and learn new experiences abroad. The graduates of Effat University, like other Saudi educational institutions, can benefit from these leadership programmes.


Effat University, being well-aware of changing market needs and the role of educational institutions to create the next generation of leaders and experts, has introduced new programmes and tracks like Product Design under their Design Program.

Siemens is among the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, and is a leading supplier of technologies and solutions for sustainable energy, smart mobility, advanced manufacturing and world-class patient care. From the very beginning, Siemens has been proudly delivering innovative solutions to customers, partners and the society, thereby significantly contributing to the development of the kingdom’s infrastructure and supporting Vision 2030. The company employs over 2,000 people in the kingdom.

The partnership between Siemens and Effat University represents a successful collaboration. The focus is on educating and training young talent, especially women, to contribute towards the future development of the kingdom in line with Vision 2030. This fulfils the mission of Effat University in its quest to produce well-rounded and competitive leaders that are personally, socially, professionally and morally responsible – and that resonates with Siemens.

Dr Haifa Jamal Allail joined Effat University in 1998 and began her tenure as president in May 2008. She is one of the winners of 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 and the winner of the Distinguished Arabian Woman Award in 2005. A respected author and researcher, she is well known for her expertise in privatisation and women empowerment. She is the author of a number of articles, and has developed and taught undergraduate and graduate courses on topics such as public administration and public policy. Before joining Effat University, Dr Jamal Allail was the first dean of the Girls’ Campus in King Abdulaziz University. She was also a visiting scholar at John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2001. In addition, Dr Haifa participated in the Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration in Bryan Mawr College in 2000. She is a native of Saudi Arabia, and has received a PhD in public policy from the University of Southern California.

Prof Dr Rainer M Speh is chief technology officer(CTO) of Siemens Ltd, headquartered in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, since 1 February 2015. Before that, he worked in the Infrastructure and Cities Sector as well as in the Business Unit Power Plant Controls of Siemens as their CTO for more than 15 years. From 1985–1999 he held several positions at ABB AG and AEG Aktiengesellschaft in Germany. He received his professorship from the Technical University Kaiserslautern, Germany, in 2014, and is lecturing since 1996. He earned his PhD from the Technical University of Darmstadt in 1985, where he also studied electrical power engineering from 1975–1980.


QS thanks Dr Eman Mohamed, assistant professor and dean of quality assurance at Effat University, and Dana Al-Juffali, Siemens Saudi Arabia project manager for their valuable input.