Young Emiratis have been urged to pursue the jobs and careers that interest them rather than seek the highest salary available, the UAE's universities minister said on Tuesday.
Ahmed Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education, told thousands of Emirati students: "Many choose jobs based on the highest salary - if you do that, I guarantee that you won’t learn. Choose something you love."
He was speaking on the second day of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations.
On the first day, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the students the country is "betting on you" to succeed in an increasingly competitive world economy.
Dr Al Falasi was also frank with students that they have to show employers more than just academic achievement.
"We both have a responsibility. Ours is the ensure that when you graduate, we have [graduates] with comprehensive knowledge in everything. I graduated as an engineer but the market doesn’t want just an engineer, they want a speaker, someone who can present, plan. The demand today is for a comprehensive graduate who has good communication skills."
The minister also said he shunned the opportunity for a high paying government job after university.
"My colleagues joined the government and got higher salary. My salary was lower but the experience I got in the private sector and research for PhD gave me a lot of experience until I reached where I am today," he said.
At present, the vast majority of Emiratis work for the government and government-linked companies and only several per cent work in the private sector.
The minister also said students should be proud of homegrown private sector companies such as Strata, the aerospace manufacturer in Al Ain that produces wings for Airbus A380s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
"Whenever you go onto a plane, trust that it has a strong component made in the UAE by UAE nationals," he said.
Dr Al Falasi said too few graduates are coming out of universities with the right degrees and skills.
"We did a survey and studied the analytics of all graduates and there is a huge need for accounting and finance," he said.
"Also in engineering, there is a need for mechanical and technical engineers.
"And in education, there is a huge shortage in early years teachers and special needs teachers."
Nasser Al Hamli, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, who spoke at the same event, also told Emiratis that they need to be willing to undertake work experience to show employers they are willing to commit.
"Work experience is also very important. If you take the opportunity to take summer jobs will give your an advantage that others don't have," he said.
"Work placements also will teach you more about yourself. When you work, you know your advantages, strengths and how you can develop.
"And of course, many times your summer job will turn into a permanent job."