Young Emiratis explore private-sector job opportunities

Young citizens say support to develop skills is more important than salary when starting out in a career

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More Emirati graduates say they are choosing to enter the private-sector workforce straight from university in a bid to gain real-world experience.

As private sector firms continue to receive help from the government to hire more local talent, dozens of companies have opened up hundreds of roles ready to be filled by Emiratis.

Speaking to The National at the Career UAE jobs fair on Tuesday, young Emiratis said they were increasingly inclined to look for work in the private sector due to greater opportunities.

I don’t mind working in the private sector as my main target is work environment.
Salem Al Shamsi, university student

Many said flexible working and support to develop skills were more important than salary when starting out in their careers.

Salem Al Shamsi, 21, is studying cybersecurity at Dubai University. He said working in the private sector would allow him to develop his skills at a quicker pace by shadowing more experienced workers.

“I’m searching for opportunities in the cybersecurity and ethical hacking sector,” he said.

“I don’t mind working in the private sector as my main target is work environment.” He said it wasn't about salary.

“I want to have my own cybersecurity consultancy company in the future,” he said.

Salem Al Shamsi says working in the private sector will allow him to develop his skills. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National

Fellow jobseeker Buti Al Ameemi said the old view among some locals was to join the government sector as it offers “less work hours and better salaries”.

But nowadays, he said, young Emiratis crave experience over money, which is something the private sector offers.

“Some job seekers think about the salary and work conditions. I want to gain real-world experience first,” he said.

“Then maybe later I will look at finding a job in the government sector.”

Exhibiting at the three-day career fair this year was the Emirates Group, which is looking to fill up to 500 roles with Emirati candidates.

Enoc Group also reiterated its commitment to supporting Emiratisation careers fair by offering more than 80 jobs across downstream and corporate divisions within the company. The group said this year it achieved 50 per cent Emiratisation.

Shamsa Yousef, a human resources graduate from the Higher Colleges of Technology, has been searching for work since 2020.

She attended the fair in the past but was unable to secure a role.

Buti Al Ameemi is looking for work in the private sector. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I had put my resume into some government and private sector companies but I only managed to get a temporary summer job,” she said.

“Today, I applied for many with the hopes of getting an interview.”

With the sweeping programme of reforms and financial incentives to drive private sector opportunities for both young and experienced Emiratis in the UAE, Ms Yousef said she was optimistic about finding employment.

“Before, I wanted to work in the government sector due to working hours, but now working hours became kind of the same across the board,” she said.

“The environment in the private sector is better as they provide training to develop our skills. I just applied for a job with Emirates Airline.”

Shamsa Yousef at the UAE Career Fair. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National

The fair, which is being held from September 20-22 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, is themed 'The Future of Work’.

It features more than 100 exhibitors in an attempt to draw more UAE citizens to the private sector by displaying a variety of roles on offer.

Shama Al Marzooqi, an Emirati engineer, has been working with Ducab Group, a semi-government manufacturer, for three years.

She was studying electromechanical engineering at Abu Dhabi Polytechnic when she visited the fair in 2019 and was subsequently offered a scholarship with Ducab.

“They offered me a scholarship and gave me the opportunity to develop my skills and implement what I learnt,” she said.

Shama Al Marzooqi now works for Ducab. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I’m studying to get my master's degree in engineering management now.”

Mona Fekri, chief human capital officer, said the Group employs 74 Emirati engineers, and Emiratis occupy 60 per cent of the Group’s executive positions.

“They are playing a significant role in Ducab’s success, while 37 per cent of all positions at the company are now eligible for Emiratisation,” she said.

“Ducab is committed to supporting national talents by offering more job opportunities.

“We have training programmes and are offering grants to enlist promising and talented young Emiratis, prepare them to work in the industrial sector, and support them to develop their knowledge and skills.”

Updated: September 20, 2022, 8:11 PM