Private-sector companies can attract more Emiratis by offering clear career paths and a platform to develop their skills, experts have said.
But citizens must also have 'reasonable' expectations about starting salaries and have the confidence to cut their teeth in challenging roles.
Thousands of young jobseekers flocked to the Ru'ya Careers UAE fair at Dubai World Trade Centre last week in the hope of securing employment with more than 100 exhibitors, including many in the private sector.
One leading recruiter said Emiratis could thrive in private firms but must believe in their own abilities.
“Private sector companies can attract young Emiratis by showing them a career path of what they will do in the first five years and what salary they can reach," David Mackenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones, told The National.
"Show them their future and motivate them to gain their trust.
“Some Emiratis are concerned about joining the private sector because its judges people on hitting their targets. Others think they are unable to cope, which is wrong as they have the ability to succeed.
“There are brilliant Emirati jobseekers with excellent skills in the market."
'Dh25,000 starting salaries for graduates are rare'
Mr McKenzie said many Emiratis expecting the greater financial awards often found in the public sector may need to adopt a more realistic approach.
“Some junior-level Emiratis come to the market with high expectation to get a package range between Dh20,000 to Dh25,000 [$5,445-$6,806], but they need to be reasonable,” he said.
The UAE government last year set out ambitious plans to ensure 10 per cent of the private sector workforce was Emirati by 2026.
A series of incentives for both employees and employers has been announced under the Nafis programme, in an effort to recruit 75,000 Emiratis in that time.
The move is in line with the UAE's ambitious vision to harness the potential of local talent and make them a driving force behind the country's economic development, to which the private sector is vital.
Private companies taking centre stage at the careers fair pledged that Emiratis could expect excellent training programmes, good salaries and an enjoyable working environment.
'Investing in your career'
Citibank was assessing candidates for a wide range of jobs, including human resources, finance, consumer, online, trade and investment banking.
Mohammed Al Zarooni, senior vice president of the banking group, said its global presence made it an attractive proposition for Emiratis eager to broaden their horizons.
“Citibank is known as a global bank," he said. "This factor gives the chance to Emiratis to have international exposure.
“The idea of Emiratis always looking for jobs in the government sector is changing now. I think private is the way to go.”
He said Citibank offered employees a chance to grow their careers, both at home and abroad.
“We have a lot of success stories of Emiratis going and moving to other countries like Switzerland and US to work in our branches," he said.
"That international exposure is an important tool to attract Emiratis.”
Another financial services company, HSBC, has enjoyed success in attracting local talent.
It has recruited 60 Emiratis so far this year and aims to employ another 30 before the end of 2022.
“HSBC is in line with the new government changes towards Emiratisation,” said Amira Habib, head of Emiratisation at HSBC.
“With Nafis programme and government support, Emiratis have become more comfortable about starting their career in the private sector.”
Du, a semi-governmental telecoms organisation, is already well ahead of the curve with 39 per cent of its employees being Emirati and 47 per cent of leadership roles taken up by citizens.
Alia Al Serkal, head of people learning and growth at Du, told The National a good working environment was key to attracting Emiratis.
“We create more openness and everyone can be seen and accessible. We aim to help Emirati youngsters to develop their skills in different areas related to technology and telecommunication.”
Ducab Group, a semi-governmental manufacturer, offers training to Emirati graduates under its Bidayiti — 'My Beginning' — programme.
Every Bidayiti trainee receives a monthly salary, as well as health insurance and an opportunity to join the group as a full-time employee.
Participants receive practical training in various departments of the company.
Mona Fekri, chief human capital officer, said the training scheme was central to the company's "ambitions to empower and upskill national talent".