ABU DHABI // A year ago, Manea Al Ameri quit his job in an Al Ain factory where he felt isolated, neglected and unchallenged.
“I felt like a stranger in my own country,” said Mr Al Ameri, 22. “I was surrounded by expats and was the only Emirati technician there. They didn’t want to help me or train me and the salary was bad.”
He was one of thousands of talented young Emiratis who took their hunt for a brighter future to the three-day Tawdheef Employment Fair yesterday.
Mr Al Ameri is now completing his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, but people from all levels of education were at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre for the fair’s opening.
They visited hundreds of booths representing companies and government departments that were on the lookout for young Emirati talent to recruit and nurture.
The State Security Department booth was crowded with those holding high school diplomas.
“The military sectors are targeting high school graduates where they train and develop skills,” said Fatima Muhammed, event organiser.
Other companies were looking for people with specific skills.
Etihad Airways wanted candidates with a statistical and network-planning background, said Mona Walid, vice president of talent acquisition.
“We are looking for someone who enjoys working with numbers,” Ms Walid said.
Khaled Al Hosani, human resources administration manager at Petrofac Emirates, said his company was seeking graduates with degrees in business, engineering, human resources and marketing.
“We don’t have a specific preference,” Mr Al Hosani said. “We focus on Emiratis for the job. That is the main reason for establishing this company, to hire Emiratis.”
Formed in 2008, Petrofac is the first UAE joint venture company to provide engineering, design, procurement and construction services for onshore oil and gas, refining and petrochemical projects.
It also offers internships and a sponsorship for engineer students, Emirati and expatriate.
First Gulf Bank was at the fair to build on its impressive Emiratisation record. Almost a third of its more than 1,000 workers are nationals.
“Our vision is to create a pipeline to create an Emirati pool,” said Abdulrahman Saqr, senior vice president of human resources at the bank.
The company was looking for fresh graduates, experienced people and those willing to work and study at the same time.
Engineers and architects were in high demand at the fair.
Etihad Rail, created in 2009, is looking for experienced employees who can help to establish the company, said Mohammed Al Marzouqi, its executive director. Thirty-five per cent of employees are Emirati.
“We are targeting 40 per cent,” Mr Al Marzouqi said. “We want to be in line with Emiratisation.”
Several graduates said they had interest in the oil and gas sector
Mahra Al Messabi, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, said: “This sector is more stable economically and I can guarantee a good salary.”
But many graduates are finding that employers seek specific talents.
“I would rather do something I know,” said Ahmed Al Baloushi, 23, who has a bachelor’s degree in media studies and is looking for an administrative job. “But most companies want engineers or technicians.”
Mr Al Baloushi said this is his fourth jobs exhibition in two years.
“I applied to both private and public sectors, even in hotels,” he said.
His frustration was echoed by Badreya Salem, 23, who graduated in 2011 with a diploma in business studies, and has been looking for a job ever since.
“I applied to many companies, (but) they don’t want a diploma,” Ms Salem said. “And I don’t want to complete my studies.”
She said she preferred the public sector because of the pay, but would take whatever job she could get.
“Maybe if I got a job I would be motivated to continue my studies.”