Drawing youth to private sector ‘is key to growth’

Emirates Foundation hopes to match graduates with businesses at Dubai internship fair.

Emiratis upload their resumes at the inaugural Kafa’at Internship Fair at Dubai World Trade Centre on Monday. Victor Besa for The National
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DUBAI // Young Emiratis’ attitudes towards working in the private sector are changing but more needs to be done to wean them away from Government jobs, which remain the first choice for many.

More than 2,000 Emirati men and women attended the inaugural Kafa’at Internship Fair at Dubai World Trade Centre on Monday.

The two-day event, organised by the Emirates Foundation, brought together young Emiratis and 50 private businesses offering internships that could lead to full-time jobs.

“We are seeing more young Emiratis now considering jobs in the private sector but much more needs to be done,” said Talat Sheerazi Goldie, vice president of human capital at Gulf Capital.

“There need to be committees set up between the public and private sectors to agree things like salaries, benefits and work hours.”

At the moment packages offered by Government jobs tend to exceed those available at private companies.

“What we try to convey is that although the work is hard and the hours are long you can get so much more from a private sector job, like experience and learning to work under pressure,” she said.

“But the private sector should also not see Emiratisation as a quota-filling exercise and actually engage and train these young people.”

Emirati Ibtesam Al Marzouqi is head of recruitment for Union Coop. She began her professional career at Dubai Health Authority before moving into the private sector.

“I’ve been in the private sector now for around six years and the experience and skills I’ve gained have really helped me,” she said.

She admitted the longer hours and a more demanding work environment came as a shock but also provided her with the chance to learn and develop.

“I can say that I’m more skilled and have much better experience because of it and that is something we try to promote to young Emiratis,” she said.

According to the Emirates Foundation, three quarters of Emirati graduates say a lack of experience is a major challenge in finding a job, with 73 per cent saying their university did not do enough to identify career opportunities.

Quay Fahnestock started Gulf 3D Technologies specifically to employ Emiratis.

“We have a small team at the moment and have a couple of Emirati employees and I’m looking for more,” he said.

“Eventually we want the company to have 70 per cent of the workforce Emiratis.”

Dr Ahmad Belhoul, Minister of State for Higher Education, said it was important for the development of the economy to get more Emiratis into the private sector.

“We are seeing that there is a skills gap between what private employers require and young Emiraits about to join the workforce,” he said.

“By providing internships they will get an understanding of working in the private sector and develop the skills needed to be an attractive job candidate.”

Amel Mahdiessa, 25, who graduated from the Sharjah Women’s College last year, previously worked for a private sector company but is now looking for something in the public sector.

“The two years I spent there were a great experience but the hours weren’t flexible enough,” she said. “In the public sector the hours are less and for me that is the main thing.”

For Tariq Blooki, 21, a final-year law student at St Joseph University in Dubai, the experience gained working in the private sector would be invaluable.

“For me the salary is not as big a deal because it is something I love doing, so the private sector would be best for me,” he said.

Abdullah Salem, 18, a student at the Higher College of Technology has his sights on a public sector job.

“For me the main thing is that I want to serve my country and I think working in the government would be the best way of doing that,” he said. He said lower salaries and longer working hours put him off applying to private businesses.

“The Kafa’at Internship Fair offers hundreds of training opportunities for young graduates in the private and semi-governmental sectors,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, managing director of Emirates Foundation.

“We strongly believe that through such training opportunities we will be able to support our youth develop the leadership and practical skills required to penetrate and thrive in the job market.”

nhanif@thenational.ae​