How does PDI collaborate with the private sector (or public sector) to ensure you are satisfying the demands of your clients, in terms of skills covered?
PDI began operations three years ago, and in this short period of time we have had the pleasure of working with some of Kurdistan and Iraq’s largest private sector companies, and have developed courses and provided trainings for government and non-governmental entities. The variety of courses that PDI offers and the range of clients that we have places us in a good position to understand the market needs and trends. Being in the professional education field means that PDI deals with different types of clients from individuals who seek to improve their English language skills, to businesses seeking consultation services or trainings, to professionals who look for career advancement by obtaining an MBA or knowledge/skill in a specific area. It is essential to understand the needs of each client so as to customize trainings and courses relevant to their needs. Therefore we apply a client-centered approach to everything that we do.

What forms of training do you find the most demand for, and where do you find PDI to be particularly strong within the human capacity development sector in Kurdistan?
As we all know, Iraq has seen years of conflict, which has adversely affected the opportunity for its people to gain knowledge and skills. Now, especially in the Kurdistan Region, the favorable security situation means that the Region has an opportunity to invest in its workforce. There is a great need for training in Kurdistan and we receive many requests for all kinds of trainings, ranging from language courses to field specific courses. Our MBA program and English language courses have proven to be very popular and attract a diverse student body due to the fact that these programs were part of the department’s initial offering. As PDI expands its portfolio, we are witnessing a rise in demand for courses such as Project Management, IT, Finance and general consulting work. PDI’s strengths lie in focusing on the clients and their needs in whatever field or area of training they may require. There is great demand for quality education and trainings in Kurdistan and we strive to meet the demands of our clients and the market.

The MBA program has witnessed growth every year since its inception in 2007. The curriculum of the program is comparable to other MBA programs internationally and at the same time designed to be relevant to meet local needs.

How have you found that Kurdistan’s human capital is evolving? Is the skills gap closing with increasing education?
The Kurdistan Region has seen explosive growth in industry, commerce and trade over the past decade. With this growth comes the need for an educated and skilled workforce. The trend over the past few years has seen many of the international companies relying on foreign workers for labor. However, there is an increasing realization that organizations in the Region need to invest in the local workforce, not only to maximize efficiency, but also to help the Region build human capacity. Education and training naturally play a great role in the development of the workforce, and it is evident that the Region needs to continue to commit to Human Capacity building. The skills gap is closing but at a very slow rate, more needs to be done to tap into the human labor potential that Kurdistan has to offer. Moreover, what is required in Kurdistan is to promote a culture of lifelong learning so that human resources of the Region can keep up with the ever-changing needs of business, whether technical or non-technical.

How has PDI been so successful in attracting high caliber students to the MBA program, despite competition from other Iraqi universities and, in the case of some top students, major foreign universities?
The MBA at PDI is a student centered, dynamic and interactive program that focuses on the main aspects of business and the working environment. The program is consistently updated and touches on current business trends and issues, analyzing real-life case studies. We have recently introduced three specializations to our MBA program: Project Management, Leadership and Finance. The MBA program strives for the highest standards, comparable to other MBA programs offered internationally. This means that students need not go abroad to receive a first-rate educational experience. The exposure to a new way of learning that is fresh and engaging will equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to further succeed in their careers.

The MBA program offers night classes for established professionals, but is also taking steps to recruit students straight out of AUIS’s undergraduate program. Who would you say is the target demographic for the program?
The enrollment process encourages applications from a diverse background of students, which complements the program by bringing together a broad range of experience to discuss and analyze business topics and issues. This mix in turn encourages debate and exchanges of ideas whereby students find innovative solutions and discover new ways of approaching work related matters. The target is both experienced business professionals and motivated young graduates. We aim to achieve maximum synergy.

Have you received feedback regarding the value-add the AUIS MBA provides professionals from the local business community? Does the curriculum of the program reflect any unique elements of the business environment in the Region?
The feedback received from individuals that have participated in the program, organizations and the community in general has been very positive. The MBA program has witnessed growth every year since its inception in 2007. The curriculum of the program is comparable to other MBA programs internationally and at the same time designed to be relevant to meet local needs. We have also redesigned our thesis requirement to focus on real industry problems, resulting in tangible benefit both to the student and their respective companies.

How does PDI’s association with AUIS affect or benefit PDI’s operations?
As a department of AUIS, PDI has the support of the university and draws on its physical and human resources to produce quality education and training for its clients. While AUIS educational offerings are based on a liberal arts system, PDI has a mandate to provide trainings and other educational offerings that may differ from the conventional liberal arts model. This gives PDI the flexibility to adhere to the liberal arts principles when needed and to divert where necessary. We believe, and this is supported by our experience, that PDI’s training and skills development focus compliments and adds value to the academic liberal arts curriculum of AUIS.

Does your location in Slemani play a limiting factor in attracting business for professional training, or candidates for your MBA program?
Although the AUIS is based in Slemani, the university, including PDI, receives many applications from all over Iraq and in some cases from abroad. The geographic location of the AUIS campus has not been a limiting factor because PDI is able to provide its offerings in locations of the client’s choosing. In fact, PDI has offered a number of trainings in Erbil, the Garmian region and across the Slemani governorate. PDI recognizes the opportunity to explore expansion outside of Slemani.