McKinsey Forward development program races toward milestone

01 February 2023 3 min. read

Launched in 2021, McKinsey & Company’s young professional development program Forward has already reached the 100,000 student milestone, with that figure set to double in practically no time.

McKinsey & Company’s Middle East and Africa skills-building initiative ‘Forward’ has now reached 100,000 students across the region – hitting the milestone just 18 months after its official launch.

However, the global strategy and management consultancy has quickly moved on from its early achievement, with almost double that number having now enrolled for the free, online course – in line with the firm’s ambitious aim of reaching a further 150,000 learners this year.

McKinsey Forward development program races toward milestone

“This is one important way we deliver on our commitment to enabling sustainable and inclusive growth – by upskilling hundreds of thousands of young people that need practical skills to thrive in the workforce, and in turn participate in fueling economies of the region,” said McKinsey senior partner Viktor Hediger. “We believe that begins with unlocking the potential of the region’s youth and building an inclusive workforce and community that reflects society.”

The six-month Forward program was designed to provide early-career professionals with practical and transferable cross-industry skills in business, leadership, and digital know-how, and targets those with post-secondary education and less than five years of formal work experience across three regions; the Middle and Pakistan, Africa, and Turkey and Azerbaijan. To date, graduates and enrollees have accessed the program from more than 70 countries.

One of those was Bedour, a graphic designer from the UAE, who prior to completing the program said she felt susceptible to creative blocks due to a lack of confidence and planning. Now, she understands failure to be a part of the development process and sees it as an opportunity, a mindset underpinned by the practical tools she gained through the program. “Forward gave me the confidence to be more decisive,” she states. “Today, it’s easier for me to start and finish a project.”

The Forward course has three components, a foundation and advanced level, split over the six months, and an ongoing network level. Delivered in an interactive, virtual format, the course begins by exploring foundational skills, and then moves onto applying those new skills to case studies based on real-world scenarios while encouraging ongoing reflection and peer learning. At its conclusion, graduates join an exclusive global network of young, life-long learners.

Forward leader May Wazzan believes that its this element of ongoing alumni connectivity which makes the program particularly impactful beyond just its practical content; “We know that this generation of young talent is beginning their careers in an increasingly complex, fast-paced world of work,” May states.

“Forward helps create a global community for young professionals to help boost their confidence, grow their careers, and build connections with people all over the world.”

Forward is just one of McKinsey’s regional youth development programs – reflecting the deep passion of Gassan Al-Kibsi, the firm’s former managing partner across the Middle East (and beyond), who cites his own privilege while growing up in Yemen in driving his desire to support local youth in their pursuit of success.

Among those initiatives in the Qimam Fellowship Program for promising young professionals in Saudi Arabia, which has been successfully running since 2018.