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The stress of landing any interview after finishing university is pressing enough for fresh graduates without facing the excessive challenges of the job market. With the UAE’s competitive job market, the wait for finding a job or the perfect job can be testing for many young people aiming to start a career.
Yuting Wang, sociology professor at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), told Gulf News she became aware of the ‘waithood’ situation in the UAE after holding class discussions with students over her six years of teaching at the Department of International Studies.
Calling it “delayed employment”, Wang pointed out that the economic climate in the UAE is very much affected by the global market force. “As the demand for highly educated professionals increases, I think the ‘wait’ is going to be longer and longer for fresh college graduates, simply because the market is now becoming more demanding on credentials,” said Wang.
She explained that this means that college students will have to think ahead of time to plan for their future. They should either prepare to pursue postgraduate degrees, or take a more vocational approach in their preparation for the job market, said Wang.
She pointed out that whether voluntary or forced, delayed employment exists in the UAE for both Emiratis and expats, however to a lesser extent among Emiratis. “Fresh graduates here in the UAE often take time to find jobs they like, which is different from their counterparts in other countries, where the job searching process tends to start during the last year/semester of college, rather than after graduation,” said Wang.
Through discussion with students, Wang said she learnt that despite the growing economy in the UAE, fresh graduates often have difficulty finding jobs that would pay the rent. “This is especially true for expatriates, who are competing with applicants from around the world.”
University major and field of study have also shown to have an effect on the speed of finding a job in the UAE’s competitive job market. Wang pointed out that expatriate students who have majored in the field of International Studies, for example, tend to face a tighter job market than students in other fields, such as engineering, finance, and accounting. “It has to do with the structure of the labour market and the issue of eligibility for certain employment opportunities in the government and public sector. In these cases, the ‘wait’ is forced and involuntary,” said Wang.
Similarly, Dr Meenaz Kassam, associate professor, sociology at the Department of International Studies in AUS, said fresh graduates in specific fields have been facing frustration with the lack of jobs available despite the fact that they are qualified to take on positions in the work world after a short time of training. She highlighted fields in international studies as majors that equip students to “think critically, problem solve, work in a team, make thoughtful presentations and take on leadership positions”.
However, she highlighted majors such as engineering, business and architecture as fields that provide students with theoretical and practical training to enter the work force directly. “I wish more employers could realise the value of students who have developed their problem-solving and critical faculties as prospective employees that can be trained easily to perform well,” said Dr Kassam.
While universities stand aware of the ‘waithood’ issue among fresh graduates, they work towards narrowing the gap between learning in universities and practicality in the workplace.
Dr Kassam referred to universities’ compulsory internship programme that students must complete in order to graduate. “I think that it would help to maintain a greater relationship with organisations that the students interned at as they would have had a chance to recognise the worth of our students,” said Kassam.
Wang also pointed out that many universities are heading towards finding more pragmatic approaches in college education reform. She said college education needs to take into consideration the demand of the job market and respond to the changing characteristics of work.
“However, I believe the job market should not dictate college education. Otherwise, college loses its value as a place of generating knowledge and producing technological advancement,” said Wang.
Meanwhile, graduates who talked to Gulf News highlighted poor budgets and the need for previous experience as some of the common issues they faced when applying for jobs, experiencing the concept of ‘waithood.’
Mohammad Basim, 24, from Palestine, said he’s had a difficult time finding a job since he graduated with a computer science degree in May. “Most companies look for people with previous experience and that doesn’t apply to most fresh graduates,” said Basim. He said a difference in wages offered depending on nationality is also an issue he has faced after going for several interviews. While initially looking for a job in his field, Basim said he is willing to consider any job he comes across, as the search for a job has been prolonged.
Similarly, Sylvia Sarkies, 22, from Egypt, said she finally got her first paid job a year after she graduated. Obtaining her journalism degree in May 2014, Sarkies said she was offered unpaid traineeships and was told tight budgets were the reason she was not offered a job. Starting her career in a PR agency, Sarkies said going into a field different from her major has been challenging but very enjoyable. “Even though I am a journalism graduate, I work in PR now and it has proven to be very different to what I initially thought. I must say I am learning a lot of new skills,” said Sarkies.
Source: Jumana Khamis, Staff Reporter, gulfnews.com