An Emirati man who was Expo 2020 Dubai's first employee with a disability is now thriving in a new role in the private sector.
Salem Bawazir was the first person with a disability to secure a job at Expo 2020 Dubai in March 2020. He worked as a human resources administrator at the expo.
In his role, he was proud to lead an inclusion programme aimed at recruiting and training people with disabilities.
However, when the curtain came down on the world's fair in March last year, Mr Bawazir had to search for another job.
He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child and has since refused to let his challenges hinder his career aspirations.
Following nine months of job searching, Mr Bawazir, 50, landed a job at Dubai-based Bayut & dubizzle, a real estate, marketing and advertising firm, as an employee in December with the help from ImInclusive, a career-matching app that connects people with disabilities with inclusive employers in the Middle East.
“I was looking for a job and received a message from them assisting me. I got their support to find my desired job with Bayut & dubizzle. It is my first job since Expo. I'm very lucky,” Mr Bawazir told The National.
He said he began his job search in March 2022 and applied for positions at companies and government bodies without success.
“Some didn't proceed with my application and others didn't respond,” he said. “I believe we need time to build the mindset of many employers and create a new generation that believes in equality and equity for all.”
Since December, he has been working in the learning and development team as part of Bayut & dubizzle's HR department.
“I have new exciting responsibilities and challenges, building accessible learning experiences for my colleagues in Arabic and English,” he said.
Mr Bawazir said the atmosphere at his new job was positive, friendly and welcoming.
He played a vital role in hiring people with a range of disabilities at Expo Dubai 2020, with many securing jobs in photography, finances, visitor experience and administration.
He previously worked for a books and stationery company, a hospitality firm and even started a small graphic design business.
Last year, he lined up with other jobseekers at the Ru'ya Careers UAE Fair at Dubai World Trade Centre.
“[Living with a] disability is not a barrier for me,” he said.
Eslam Elbahhar, team lead of learning and development at Bayut & dubizzle, told The National that companies in the private sector should invest in hiring Emiratis.
“It is essential for companies to prioritise and invest in hiring and developing local talent. Emiratis bring unique perspectives, skills and experiences to the workplace, and their contributions are valuable in driving sustainable growth and innovation in the UAE economy,” he said.
Mr Elbahhar said that he hired Mr Bawazir because he came across as enthusiastic, driven and self-motivated in his first interview.
“It was also great to discover how tech-savvy and creative he is in our training case study, further assuring us that he is the right fit for our team and will continue to build innovative digital learning and development experiences for our colleagues across the country,” he added.
Mr Bawazir believes his fellow Emiratis can be successful by working at private sector companies.
“To all Emirati job seekers and people of determination searching for jobs, the doors are open for you,” he said. “I believe that every one of you has the qualifications and skills to fit any suitable position you seek.
“With determination, you can achieve your goals and succeed in any field you choose.”
Tens of thousands of Emiratis have been successful in securing jobs in the private sector.
Official figures from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation show that close to 68,000 Emiratis are now employed in the country's private sector – with the workforce increasing by more than a third so far this year.
The UAE has embarked on a major Emiratisation drive to support local employment in the private sector, which remains a key driver of economic development.
UAE authorities last month reminded businesses that June 30 is the next deadline for private sector companies with 50 employees or more to hit their six-month Emiratisation target.
Employers must hit a target of 4 per cent of their staff being Emirati by January 1, 2024, rising to 10 per cent by the end of 2026.
Companies attempting to circumvent Emiratisation targets will be fined up to Dh500,000 ($136,160).