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  • Al Karamah Training Institute will provide hands-on learning experiences in eight key industries
  • Initiative supports Abu Dhabi’s aim to provide an inclusive and empowering work community for those on the autistic spectrum

The Priory Group, the UK’s leading independent mental health provider, has joined with the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge to open a training institute for older students with special needs in the UAE.

The Al Karamah Training Institute (AKTI) in Abu Dhabi offers practical learning experiences and skills for Emirati young people aged 15 and above who have mild to moderate needs on the autistic spectrum.

The Institute supports the Emirate’s ‘People of Determination’ strategy, aimed at equipping students with skills to fulfil their work ambitions.

The AKTI will enable increased levels of independence and employment opportunities through a programme of vocational training in eight specialisms, including: Electronics & Robotics, Hydroponics & Aeroponics (horticulture), Culinary & Hospitality, Creative Arts, Business Administration, Print & Design, Gaming & E-sports, and Video Production & Editing.

A purpose-built campus comprises state-of-the-art specialist facilities including innovation rooms, a gaming room, a video production and editing studio, a specialist kitchen, creative studios and a sensory garden.

It will be run by Priory Education and Children’s Services, the education division of the Priory Group, in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), and will form an important addition to the Al Karamah School, which was launched by the Priory Group and ADEK in 2019.

Trevor Torrington, CEO of Priory Group, said: "Our educational work in the UAE is fundamentally about helping to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of our many students. We are proud and honoured to be extending the Priory Group’s outstanding working relationship with ADEK, which builds on the exceptional success of Al Karamah School. The extension of our education services through this new purpose-built facility draws on Priory’s expertise and experience, established over decades as a specialist education and behavioural care provider in the UK."

The institute was officially opened on Saturday 17 April – as part of World Autism Awareness Month – during a tour attended by Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi (DCD); Sara Musallam, Chairman of ADEK; and Ali Rashid Al Ketbi, Chairman of the Department of Government Support – Abu Dhabi (DGS).

Dr Al Khaili said: “We applaud the launch of [AKTI] and its efforts to support people of determination. This is the result of our wise leadership’s efforts to make Abu Dhabi an inclusive and empowering community for all and this inspiring new facility will contribute to the role of people of determination in our society. By enhancing educational infrastructure and boosting creative skills, people of determination can serve as motivators and catalysts for social transformation and foster a truly inclusive community.”

HE Sara Musallam, Chairman of ADEK, added: “We are dedicated to enabling high-quality education and future career pathway opportunities for the UAE’s Students of Determination, and are committed to empowering students to live independent lives. The opening of Al Karamah Training Institute underpins this commitment and is in-line with Abu Dhabi’s comprehensive People of Determination strategy. A progressive stride forward that extends options for families across the emirate, the new institute will provide critical vocational opportunities for students, which will provide them with the knowledge and skills to play an important role in our inclusive society.”

Ali Rashid Al Ketbi, chairman of the Department of Government Support – Abu Dhabi (DGS), said: “By facilitating complementary frameworks for private-public partnerships across the emirate, we are creating secure and sustainable pathways for students of determination to find lasting careers in Abu Dhabi’s public sector that will significantly aid the happiness and wellbeing of our wider community.”

AKTI has also partnered with industry leaders to create a cache of specialist certified vocational courses. The students are able to gain recognised qualifications from UK awarding bodies including the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) and the National Open College Network (NOCN). In addition, UAE employers, including Mubadala companies Strata Manufacturing and Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, have already enlisted as industry partners and committed to recruit and train Students of Determination within their workforces.

The Priory Group has already opened a Wellbeing Centre in Dubai as part of its mental healthcare portfolio within the Middle East region.