Tafawoq: Bridging the gap between industry and academia

by  — 3 September 2015

Director of Tafawoq Bader Al Jaidah, in an exclusive interview with The Edge’s Aparajita Mukherjee, speaks about how Tafawoq was founded and discusses the innovative learning approach it follows by bringing in both industry players and academic institutions, in addition to the company’s pivotal role in supporting the Qatar National Vision 2030.

Bader Al Jaidah, director, Tafawoq, tells The Edge, “Our learning portfolio caters to the needs of project professionals, who are at various stages of their careers, taking into account diverse roles and circumstances.”

Bader Al Jaidah is the director of Tafawoq, a regional project management centre of excellence that seeks to play a pivotal role in developing the competencies of project management professionals through a variety of learning courses and programmes.

Tafawoq has been a collaboration between Shell, Qatar Petroleum (QP), and Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) since its inception in 2011.  Qatar Shell and QP contribute to Tafawoq their accumulated regional industry experience in managing capital investment projects, while HBKU provides the academic home for Tafawoq.

Explaining the structure of the initiative, Al Jaidah mentions that each partner brings with them valuable expertise in their field.  “The collaboration between the private sector (Shell), the government (QP) and the academia (HBKU) brings to Tafawoq an exceptional combination of assets that provide project professionals with unique skills to enable them to deliver Qatar’s capital investment projects and lead its future sustainable growth in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030),” adds Al Jaidah.

In Al Jaidah’s opinion, by addressing all levels of project management competency from awareness, through to knowledge, skill and mastery, Tafawoq contributes to building local capacity for the delivery of capital investment projects across a range of industries.

The Tafawoq method of education is based on Shell Project Academy’s Pentagon Model, an internationally recognised programme which ensures that project professionals receive both an executive education and experience-based competency development. Al Jaidah tells The Edge, “Tafawoq also builds on QP’s extensive experience in building large-scale capital projects. HBKU has also contributed significantly by providing Tafawoq with a permanent home to ensure the centre’s continued sustainability and development of Qatar’s project management professionals.”

The Tafawoq integrated programme is based on the five internationally recognised dimensions of professional competency development, originally devised by the International Project Management Association (IPMA). The Tafawoq Pentagon Model adopts a five-dimensional approach to competence development (illustrated in the diagram above right).

At Tafawoq, the foundation of the participants’ knowledge will be laid through classroom instructions. Once attained, their learning will then be developed through practical ‘on-the-job’ experience, designed to allow them to master their newly acquired skills. Furthermore, to ensure their continued professional development, an established community of professionals who will support them through active coaching and mentoring will augment their learning process.

“Finally,” says Al Jaidah, “we offer international accreditation through the Association for Project Management (APM), where participants will be required to undergo an assessment of their newly obtained skill sets.”

Connecting the aims of Tafawoq with the QNV 2030, Al Jaidah says that one of the most important pillars of the vision is human capital. “Thus, when we at Tafawoq are engaged in training the participants, we are developing human capital,” mentions Al Jaidah, adding “Qatar, over the next decade or so, will have a huge pipeline of projects, especially around the 2022 World Cup, such as creating the rail infrastructure, the highways, the surge in housing demand, over and above the hydrocarbon projects and it made sense for us to aim to achieve excellence. This is why we named the initiative Tafawoq, which means excellence in Arabic.”

Speaking about the operational structure within Tawafoq, Al Jaidah says, the steering committee is a governing structure that comprises representatives from QP, Qatar Shell and HBKU who provide directions, review proposals and initiatives and approve the yearly budget.

“The continuous guidance of the Joint Steering Committee is critical for Tafawoq’s success,” says Al Jaidah.


Training programmes and beneficiaries

Tafawoq’s programmes cover the span of the project life-cycle, explains Al Jaidah, adding “and our teaching methods involve a blended learning approach comprising virtual learning, work-based activities and face-to-face instructions using live case studies, based on the internationally recognised and accredited Shell Project Academy (SPA) Curriculum, and QP’s extensive experience in building large-scale capital projects.”

Elaborating further, Al Jaidah informs The Edge, “Our learning portfolio caters to the needs of project professionals, who are at various stages of their careers, taking into account diverse roles and circumstances.”

The portfolio includes three key modules, according to Al Jaidah: a foundation module that provides participants with a broad introduction to the project management subject matter; a core module that will equip participants with advanced competences pertaining to project management, and a focus module that provides an in-depth training on critical topics related to project management.

In the words of Al Jaidah, “Tafawoq’s programme targets professionals who are eager to learn the basic principles of project management, as well as professionals who wish to develop and enhance their skills in the implementation of projects.”

The courses, says Al Jaidah, are open to Qataris and non-Qataris. So far, Tafawoq has an alumni of more than 450 project professionals from Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait who form the foundation of the first project management community in the region.

In the three years of Tafawoq, how has the training programme evolved? Although the Tafawoq method of education is based on the Pentagon Model, “our programme,” mentions Al Jaidah, “has further developed from the original SPA  curriculum to suit the community we cater for and to include live case studies based on the existing large-scale capital projects in Qatar. Taking into consideration that our teaching approach – blended learning – is a new concept in Qatar, we have included specially designed face-to-face coaching sessions throughout the virtual phase to assist the participants.”

In this context, Al Jaidah tells The Edge that their ‘Essentials of Project Management’ course has been awarded international accreditation by the UK-based APM in recognition of its growing reputation.

“This is an achievement we are greatly proud of.  The APM is an IPMA membership organisation and the largest independent professional body of its kind in Europe,” adds Al Jaidah.

Does Shell, as an international energy company, deliver this kind of training programme elsewhere in the world? Did Shell’s learnings from its international presence help in the Qatar programme?

“Indeed, Shell aims to transfer its international expertise and knowledge to Qatar,” says Al Jaidah. “Therefore, we bring our international high quality standards to everything we deliver in this country. Our programme is based on the success of the SPA that was founded in association with four of the top universities in the world – Cranfield School of Management (United Kingdom); Delft University of Technology (Netherlands); University of Texas at Austin/McCombs School of Business (United States) and Queensland University of Technology (Australia).”

Commenting on the role played by these universities in the course delivery by Tafawoq, Al Jaidah mentions that a facilitator from one of those universities co-delivers the programme along with an industry expert having extensive experience in the field, thus bridging the gap between industry and academia. 

Al Jaidah continues by saying that their teaching method involves a blended learning approach, “which is a new educational concept that we have brought to Qatar”. He points out that during the programme, this approach offers the participants the ideal mix of theory and practice to provide a quality learning experience which impacts business where it matters.


Achievements and plans

Tafawoq, according to Al Jaidah, is increasing the competence level of the project delivery community in Qatar at all levels. “This is clearly evident through the growing number of participants: Tafawoq had 50 participants in 2012, 150 in 2013, more than 350 in 2014 and over 450 in 2015.”

In Al Jaidah’s opinion, Tafawoq is playing a vital role in supporting the nation’s long-term goals as outlined in the QNV 2030.  Tafawoq, he says, is now being recognised as a hub for quality project management education within the Gulf Cooperation Council region. By way of citing the achievements, Al Jaidah says that individuals from Oman and Kuwait have participated in Tafawoq’s learning courses.

“Further in Tafawoq,” cites Al Jaidah, “we also cater for specially designed courses to suit the training needs of different organisations involved in the delivery of complex infrastructure projects. As an example, we have created and delivered a bespoke ‘Best Practice Risk Management’ workshop for Astad Project Management.”

In a continued cycle of improvement, Tafawoq recently received accreditation on its ‘Essentials of Project Management (EoPM)’ course from the APM. Tafawoq also hosts events and workshops throughout the year to explore challenging issues that could impact Qatar’s development. So far four events have been conducted successfully with more than 250 guests attending.

Through its regular community events and online portal, Tafawoq is actively contributing to an information sharing and knowledge-transfer platform, while laying the foundations for a thriving regional community of project management professionals representing different industries.

Tafawoq has been honoured as the best Corporate Social Responsibility initiative in Qatar’s energy sector at the inaugural Al Sharq CSR Awards ceremony.

As a blend of innovation and continuity, Tafawoq, in the opinion of Al Jaidah, looks forward to continuing to develop the project management competencies to be able to positively impact the society to deliver Qatar’s portfolio of capital investment projects in line with the QNV 2030.  Al Jaidah adds, “We aim to grow our programme offerings and grow our reach in terms of participants; not only from the oil and gas sector but also professionals within the infrastructure industry.”

Furthering on their course development plans, Al Jaidah adds that they plan to add two additional advanced courses to the core module in the coming years.

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