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The Dubai Expo 2020 is a mere five years away. It is projected to create nearly 300,000 jobs, with 90 per cent of employment opportunities between 2018 and 2010 expected to arise from small and medium-size businesses as well as large organisations involved in the event.
Pressure to grow a skilled workforce will only increase the closer we get to 2020, and while parts of this will be solved through attracting international talent, there needs to be an increased focus on the Emiratisation agenda.
Last year, Dubai announced plans to double the target for the number of UAE nationals employed in the private sector. But currently, the majority of Emirati university graduates choose to work in the public sector, which means the private sector is struggling to meet the desired Emiratisation percentage.
A major reason behind this is a lack of basic skills in areas including communication and IT literacy across sectors such as banking and finance. There is also limited awareness among UAE students on the need, demands and expectations of the industry. The public sector provides a more stable environment with attractive compensations and benefits for UAE nationals, something that the private sector seemingly lacks.
As a result, Emiratis are enrolling in programmes such as business, humanities and social science, and therefore generating a distinct gap in skilled Emirati workers across key knowledge-based economic areas, including engineering, health care, and science and technology.
A new initiative announced by the Emirates National Development Programme (ENDP) is hoping to reduce unemployment among Emiratis, and plug this skills gap. A large part of this effort is related to encouraging Emiratis to consider private sector careers — in 2014, the ENDP helped 1,258 Emiratis enter private organisations.
But with 25 per cent of Dubai’s population predicted to be in the age range of 15 to 24 by 2021, we need to be working together to help guide Emirati youth in order to boost Emiratisation levels. Starting at the root of the issue should be the first step.
The courses that Emirati students are selecting are not necessarily aligned with the skills gaps presented by the current market. Encouraging academic institutions and organisations to work together to help guide pre-university students in selecting the right courses is extremely important.
Appointing well-known personalities within science and innovation to visit schools throughout the country to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programmes, will inspire students, and raise awareness of the importance of these programmes in the economic development of the country. And offering course-specific scholarships, attractive starting salaries, rewards, and compensation frameworks for the required jobs — as well as instilling a culture of innovation and creativity among young Emiratis — will encourage productivity. Also, while contributing to the operational and financial success of the organisation, this will attract and retain Emirati talent within the private sector.
For this to work, collaboration between universities and industry is essential. Regular interactions will facilitate activities such as analysing job market trends, challenges faced by local and regional industries, as well as ways to bridge current job market gaps. At Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV), we hold a number of activities throughout the year to encourage these connections and promote partnerships between different institutions.
Another issue often faced, however, is ensuring the successful integration of Emirati employees with international private sector organisations. Global firms are competitive and working environments can often be demanding, so ongoing training and support is essential when it comes to Emirati employee retention. For example, developing individual career growth paths — to include regular discussions with HR, management, as well as skill-strengthening courses — will give Emiratis a real focus, and understanding of what needs to be done to continue to progress.
In addition, making sure that Emirati employees are involved in non-work related activities will help to encourage integration. Individuals need to feel comfortable in their workplace, and form bonds with colleagues, to encourage teamwork. This will ultimately enhance Emirati employee productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
In an ideal world, successful integration should work the same for any employee, regardless of nationality. But it is evident that Emirati students looking to work in the private sector need this additional support. We have plenty of young and engaged home-grown talent here, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are given the guidance necessary to succeed.
Source: Dr. Ayoub Kazim, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer is the Managing Director of the Education Cluster of Tecom Investments, a member of Dubai Holding