Emirati students embrace private sector apprenticeships for career growth

More than 1,700 young citizens were enrolled in the Professional and Practical Training programme from September 2023

RuÕya UAE National Career Fair. World Trade Centre, Downtown, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Young Emiratis who joined a national job training scheme for students in the UAE private sector have said it has enabled them to gain experience and shown them the benefits of working in the sector.

The one-year pilot programme, which was launched last year, helps prepare pupils in years 9, 10 and 11 and those in the final year of higher education for future careers in the private sector as part of the government's continuing Emiratisation drive.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, which is overseeing the drive in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Council, said 1,780 young Emiratis were enrolled in the first phase of the Professional and Practical Training Programme.

"The Ministry provided more than 3,400 training opportunities at more than 500 companies, and 1,780 students participated in the programme from September 2023 until the end of the 2023-24 academic year," the ministry told The National.

The private sector is a place where you can develop yourself and position
Abdulrahman Al Blooshi, 22, IT graduate from the Higher College of Technology in Dubai

The initial one-year trial is set to be expanded over the next five years to include all learners in the eligible age groups.

"The programme will strengthen the bond between Emirati students and private sector companies, and encourage them to search for jobs in early stages," the ministry added.

Abdulrahman Al Blooshi, 22, an IT security graduate from the Higher College of Technology in Dubai, said the programme provided real training to gain work experience.

He joined Etisalat in September last year and worked on a project related to 5G mobile networks.

The Ajman-based Emirati student said he worked from 8am to 4pm in Dubai for a month.

"The new training programme gave me real experience. It was a great chance for me to work with Etisalat," Mr Al Blooshi told The National.

"They treated me like a real employee and allowed me to work on a project about the use of AI to develop information transportation between networks."

He said he believed that working in the private sector was better than the public sector.

"The programme supported my idea and I'm now searching for a job in the private sector," he said.

"The private sector is a place where you can develop yourself and position while employees in the public sector sit on their chairs for 10 years. You can get more experience by working in the private sector."

While he feels the private sector is "perfect", Mr Al Blooshi said he wished it included an end-of-service financial bonus for students who finish the programme.

Training programmes can last from two weeks to three months, depending on the year group of the participant.

Emirati graduate Shaikha Humaid Al Shamsi, 24, who underwent a placement at ENOC for three months from September to December last year, told The National that the programme enlightened her about the advantages of working in the private sector.

"Before joining the programme, I wasn't looking to work in the private sector," Ms Al Shamsi said.

A guide to Emirati benefits in the private sector – in pictures

"I didn't know that working hours and holidays are the same in both sectors. After my training, my main concern now is to find a job in the private sector."

Ms Al Shamsi said that working in the private sector provides better work experience and salary than the public sector.

She said that ENOC offered her a position to work in the quality department in Dubai, where she can utilise her quality management degree in the field.

"I was visiting ENOC stations to check the quality and safety procedures," she said. "The company gave me the chance to work in innovation, retail and learn management sectors.

"ENOC employees were also very co-operative as they wanted me to get real experience."

Ms Al Shamsi also agreed that a financial bonus should be given to students enrolled in the programme as they are undertaking duties similar to any other employee in the company.

"Getting experience is more important but it would be nice to get a bonus," she said.

The ministry said those taking part in training will be entered into one of two tracks, including a "general track", which covers general high schools and advanced education and a "professional track" that includes all stages of secondary and post-secondary education.

The UAE's Nafis programme was introduced in September 2021 with a mission to ensure 10 per cent of jobs in the private sector were taken up by citizens by the end of 2026, as part of a major Emiratisation push.

The UAE wants Emiratis to play a significant role in the private sector, which remains a driving force for economic development.

Companies must increase their Emirati workforce by 1 per cent every six months under the campaign.

Employers in the UAE with at least 50 members of staff are expected to meet a 4 per cent target by the end of the year.

The Emirati employment rate will increase to 6 per cent next year, 8 per cent in 2025 and 10 per cent in 2026.

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Updated: April 02, 2024, 8:05 AM