Emiratis reveal their 'amazing' experiences working in private sector

UAE nationals say they relish the opportunity to learn from others and develop their talents

Athari Al Hosani, right, is a guest services executive at Burjeel Medical City.
Powered by automated translation

Emiratis have spoken about their “amazing” experiences in the workplace, as part of the UAE’s drive to increase the number of locals in the private sector.

The National spoke to citizens who were working for private companies, having worked in the public sector until recently.

They are among almost 80,000 UAE nationals working for private companies. That figure has increased by 30,000 in the past six months alone, fuelled by the country’s drive to get local talent into private businesses.

Emirati Suhaila Al Hammadi, 26, is at the start of a teaching career that she describes as an “amazing” opportunity.

“I want to keep learning so I can motivate and help the children,” the teacher at Al Rayana School in Abu Dhabi told The National.

“I have a passion to obtain more knowledge and skills that will make me more respected as a professional.”

Ms Al Hammadi took up her new role earlier this year, having worked for government and private schools in the past.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 2021.

The opportunity to soak up the experience and expertise of colleagues from other cultures was a key factor in her decision to take up her role, she said.

“The training, and working with educational professionals, helps me advance my capabilities as a teacher,” said Ms Al Hammadi.

“This will increase the chance of my students gaining more knowledge from me.”

The latest figures for Emiratis in the private sector were released on Sunday after the deadline passed for companies with 50 or more employees to meet a 3 per cent Emiratisation target or risk Dh500,000 fines.

The government announced in February that firms were required to increase the proportion of Emirati workers by 1 per cent every six months.

This means they must reach a 4 per cent total by the end of this year, 6 per cent by the end of 2024, 8 per cent the following year and 10 per cent by the close of 2026.

Opportunity knocks

Athari Al Hosani, 25, is a guest services executive at Burjeel Medical City, a hospital in Abu Dhabi.

She takes home a monthly salary of Dh10,000, helped by the Nafis scheme, which provides a monthly salary top-up of Dh5,000 to Dh,7000.

““I had applied everywhere before I got this job,” said Ms Al Hosani, who holds a diploma in environmental safety.

“All I want is to work in my field. We are grateful to find employment and any job is better than nothing, but a job in my field of study would be ideal.

“Many Emiratis want government jobs, but I just want a job in my field.”

Ms Al Hosani began her current role in November last year.

Also working in the same hospital is Abdulla Al Hammadi, 28.

He was hired four months ago, coinciding with his wife giving birth to their first child.

Before joining Burjeel, the high school graduate had worked for a number of private companies, with his last stint being with a company manufacturing elevators.

“I was the only UAE national there,” he said. “I am always looking for a better opportunity, and I know I have been lucky to be able to find a job, but I must say that a part of it is down to how I apply myself.”

Whether Mr Al Hammadi remains at his current job remains to be seen.

“The private sector is a great place to grow and develop your skills, and it is time for Emiratis to be in the private sector,” he said.

“I don’t think without the Nafis support they would have joined in such large numbers.”

With the Nafis top-up, Mr Al Hammadi earns Dh12,000.

Changing perceptions

“Companies are starting to change their perception of Emiratis in the workplace,” David MacKenzie, group managing director with recruiters Mackenzie Jones, told The National.

“The old idea that people had around Emiratis wanting massive salaries and to finish work at 2pm is outdated.

“There is a lot of great (Emirati) talent emerging who are more concerned about how they can develop personally and progress their career than anything else.”

One of the challenges that remain is for companies to make themselves attractive to potential Emirati employees, he said.

“To make yourself attractive as an employer, you have to show Emiratis you have a plan for what the future looks like,” said Mr Mackenzie.

“You have to be able to show them how you can help to develop their careers and become better employees.”

Another employment expert said the Emiratisation programme was an opportunity for expats to give something back to the UAE.

“We should always be aware as expats that we are here to give back to the country,” said Claire Donnelly, senior consultant with Mike Hoff Consulting.

“In many ways, we are here to pass on our talent and experience and train up the Emiratis to the required standard to take over from us.”

Updated: July 11, 2023, 6:02 AM