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How the private sector sees the potential of UAE talent

Jasmine Al Kuttab and Ismail Sebugwaawo/Abu Dhabi
Filed on February 9, 2017
How the private sector sees the potential of UAE talent

Chief executives of private companies in the UAE express willingness to add qualified Emiratis to their workforce

Is it difficult for private companies to retain Emirati employees?

Sudhir Kumar Shetty,

President, UAE Exchange

As a UAE-based company, we have the obligation to take in fresh graduates, train them and give them a starting point. Even if these people leave in few years for better jobs, we are happy that we trained the local labour force. The vacancies they leave behind will again get filled by fresh Emirati graduates.

UAE Exchange has always been an active corporate citizen. We welcome the new Emiratisation plan and align ourselves with the vision of the Government of the UAE for the younger citizens. We select, train and absorb competent national talent into our corporate fold, where they get an opportunity to contribute to the success journey and build a career as a result of it.

Our constant efforts have made us the great place to work for the enterprising young Emiratis, who comprise of around 12 per cent of our workforce today.

We are sure that the national talent is capable of contributing immensely to the organisational goals and we reinforce our commitment of aligning ourselves to the vision of the UAE in nurturing its human resources." 

Is the limited English language skills of some Emiratis impeding their job prospects in the private sector?

Adel Al Kindi,

Senior project engineer, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company

Private sectors that are concerned about language barriers between themselves and the Emiratis should not even be allowed to operate in the UAE in the first place. In fact, private sectors should also learn and comply with the Arabic language, as this is an Arab nation.

I believe that the only way private sectors will attract locals is by equaling the salary packages to the government sectors. Even if some Emiratis claim that they do not need the money and benefits, the psychological factor of having a higher salary is what drives most Emiratis to join public sectors. In the UAE, there is a great sense of security that many other countries lack - which is job security.

Emiratis will always be in demand, because each company has a quota and a percentage that they must comply with when it comes to hiring locals.

For me personally and for many Emiratis that I know, we are guaranteed jobs right after graduating. 

What are some of the challenges for employing UAE nationals in the construction industry?

Adel Saleh,

Founder-president and executive chairman, Al Fara'a Group

The public sector has traditionally been, and remains, the employment market of choice for Emiratis.

Moreover, skills and expertise in certain areas were unavailable leading to employment of expatriates to supplement and support organisational functioning. The lack of incentives and schemes are required to encourage more young Emiratis to pursue vocational training.

Other apparent challenges include high turnover, high salary expectations, longer working hours, the perception of harder tasks and lesser time for vacation.

The construction industry currently is witnessing a very gradual increase of Emiratis, majority of them are in administration whereas few are more inclined towards technical jobs.

We have met many highly qualified and experienced Emirati engineers during interactions with our clients like Mubadala, Musanada, SEHA and other reputed consultants.

The recent decree issued by the Ministry will definitely see a marked increase in appointment of qualified Emiratis especially in the areas of data entry and occupational health and safety.

Why are many firms hesitant to hire UAE nationals?

Butti Al Neyadi,

Senior recruitment officer, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation

One of the main issues when it comes to hiring Emiratis, particularly the fresh graduates, is that they often have very high expectations when it comes to job title and salary packages.

However, older Emiratis tend to focus more on the benefits, such as health insurance for their families and school fees.

We all start from zero. So what is important is not always your qualification but your experience. That is what adds value to your resume in the job market.

Some fresh graduates would turn down an offer because they think the salary offered does not match their degree from foreign universities.

So job seekers should be open to all opportunities after graduating. If you are talented, it does not take long to climb the corporate ladder and reach a position where you will receive a remuneration that you are happy with.

How do you think the ministry's target to employ 3,000 Emiratis over a period of two years in the private sector across the country can be achieved?

Juergen Fiebig,

CEO, Continental Aviation Services, Abu Dhabi

The governmental Emiratisation drive decree does not come out of the blue. the government wants now to put the burden on the private sector companies to comply with their requirements.

It is certainly a good thing.

In my opinion, the big-size companies with vast infrastructure have no issues to hire the UAE talents. Their structure is wide enough to fit all different classes of employees. But the mid-size companies have been reluctant to employ UAE locals because there is a dearth of qualified young Emiratis that fits the bill.

I think the Emiratisation drive should also come with a change in the government strategy. UAE locals shall be trained more for the labour market; they are the future leaders of the country.

and the Government should already anticipate and establish leadership academies to give to its society the best tutelage possible.

We have also to consider that the private companies do not attract qualified Emiratis because the salary packages offered cannot compete with the governmental sector which offers many various benefits to its employees.

Hence, there is also a need to manage the expectations. 

How can private sector attract well-qualified Emirati job seekers? 

Khalid Al Muflahi,

Assistant director of athletics, New York University Abu Dhabi

If the government helped the private sectors in terms of salaries and benefits, then perhaps more Emiratis will be attracted to working in these organisations.

Living costs are rising by the day, therefore packages need to be fitting with today's expenses, whether in public or private sectors.

Usually, if an Emirati comes from a wealthy family, having a high salary is not often the first priority. Instead, the Emirati jobseeker will follow his or her passion - even if they end up working in private sectors with lower salaries.

However, if an Emirati is not dependent on his family, then having a high salary is vital, which is why he may be first attracted to the positions in public sectors. There is a certain stereotype on Emiratis, which could be a reason as to why private sectors might be reluctant. Yet on the other hand, there are hard-working Emiratis out there who break that stereotype.

From what I know, private sectors are obliged to employee a certain number of Emiratis, which they must comply with."

How can the private healthcare sector contribute to the UAE's Emiratisation drive?

Dr Shabeer Nellikodu,

Founder and managing director, Universal Hospital

There is a lot of Emirati talent in the country. We are looking out to hire them as we grow in line with the vision of the country's leadership. It is a welcome gesture by the government to give a push to Emiratisation.

Our hospital has significant number of Emiratis at leading positions. The COO and senior physicians in disciplines like dermatology, orthopaedics, gynaecology and rheumatology are a just a few examples of this.

We also employ trained and skilled UAE Nationals in many operational and administrative roles. As the country grows and more Emiratis enter clinical and non-clinical disciplines, we are looking forward to work with them in our organisation.

The country needs more physicians and we are happy to see the country's inspirational leadership drive. such a positive change.

Private hospitals like us recognise the advantages of having UAE nationals within our team, as they know the lay of the land and are more empathetic to the population.

What can Emirati students do to ease the job-hunting phase after graduating?

Jane Tatterton,

Manager of student careers and alumni affairs, Zayed University

Private sectors need to raise awareness and allow students to get to know them better, because many of the Emirati students don't even know about the companies and the opportunities they offer.

The key is active participation for Emirati students, because they must realise that as soon as they begin university they will need to start building their curriculum vitae. Students should be active on campus, take part in extra curricular activities and voluntary opportunities, in order to create a rich CV from early on.

We have a number of awareness events where employees come to the campuses and interact with students, in order to make jobs in private and public sectors equally attractive for them.

Every student at Zayed University must complete an eight-week internship before graduating, which will not only help build their professional skills, but also give them experience in the working world.

"Our Career Spotlight Annual event, where employers come to the campuses and profile opportunities for students and graduates, takes place on February 27 in the Dubai campus and on 5-6 March in the Abu Dhabi campus."

What are the challenges faced by Emiratis in finding jobs in the private sector?

Sonya Wells

Consultant at Robert Murray and Associates, Dubai

If large local private companies or multination organisations implement the government's quota system of employing UAE nationals or even start their own quota system and recruit at least one to two Emiratis in the respective departments, the government target can easily be achieved.

Unfortunately we do not receive many job applications from Emiratis as of today, they are keener to get into government or semi government organisations.

Most of the time it is the flexibility of the working hours in government jobs compared to the private sector jobs. For example public departments work until 2pm whereas working hours in the private sector are longer.

We have also noticed the benefits UAE nationals working for private firms get do not satisfy them as they are less compared to what their friends working for government departments get.

What can Emiratis look forward to when joining private sector entities?

Ali H. Al Madfaei,

First-Lieutenant Engineer, Chemical, Biological, Radiological Nuclear Officer, Abu Dhabi Police

As an Emirati, if a job in the private sector satisfied the self-actualisation that I require, which is to serve the country and the citizens, then the private sector position would fulfill all the motivation that I need.

Private sectors usually offer a more heterogeneous environment, comparing to public sectors, due to the multinational workforce they employ. Emiratis might therefore feel more encouraged to join these organisations for the sake of gaining experience with colleagues from various backgrounds, which in itself is an attractive learning opportunity and something they will gain for their future.

Compiled by Jasmine Al Kuttab and Ismail Sebugwaawo


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