Etihad commits to 100 students

Airline will introduce 100 young Emiratis from Zayed University to a long-term career program including jobs and training.

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ABU DHABI // Etihad Airways is to take on up to 100 young Emiratis a year from Zayed University for placements, jobs and training. The initiatives are aimed at helping the airline increase its proportion of Emirati employees from the current seven per cent to at least 10 per cent by the end of next year. Yesterday a three-year memorandum of understanding was signed by James Hogan, Etihad's chief executive, and Dr Sulaiman al Jassim, Zayed University's vice president.

Dr Riana Smith, Etihad's vice president for learning and development, said the agreement for internships, student sponsorship and summer work would help the company "source high potential students". The company was interested in sponsoring Emiratis through a tourism master's degree at the Zayed University. "If we can find talent at undergraduate level and sponsor them, that would be a good win for us," she said.

Etihad will offer other Zayed University graduates a six-month training programme covering marketing, finance, sales, network planning and operations. Fourth-year interns will be taken on for work placements, there will be summer work for students and some third- and fourth-year undergraduates will receive sponsorship. Dr Jassim said the agreement represented "a wonderful commitment" by Etihad to developing Emirati staff. "I am looking forward to seeing more of our students working at Etihad," he said.

Dr Smith admitted it would be "a challenge" for Etihad to achieve its targets because of the attractive salaries and packages the government sector was offering. But she said applicants would be attracted by the fact the company's training programmes were accredited, so employees gained qualifications as well as experience. "Up to now we're very fortunate in that we've attracted very high-calibre Emiratis. We have a very, very rigorous recruitment process. Because it's so robust we get the best of the best," she said.

Etihad has 6,600 employees, but this will increase to 27,000 with a doubling of its route network by 2020. The airline also has a pilot cadet programme for Emiratis, a graduate training scheme and an engineering training scheme for UAE nationals.