Emiratisation offers opportunity to be 'star of the UAE story', says education expert

A change in mindset is imperative to making Emiratisation a success, experts believe

Educator Martin Spraggon thinks students benefit more from problem solving than sitting traditional exams characterised by rote learning. Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government 
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Emiratisation exists to help teach Emiratis that they are the protagonists in the story of their country, a leading education expert has said.

Martin Spraggon, the associate dean of academic affairs at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, believes Emiratisation is "a fantastic opportunity, if addressed smartly”.

"It's very important for the UAE to invest in Emiratis. I think Emiratisation is a great initiative as it builds in-house capability, as opposed to relying on exogenous competencies," said Mr Spraggon.

“A main challenge to the Emiratisation initiative is that it’s a matter of creating a culture and mindset among people here. They need to understand that they should be the protagonists and stars in the success of their country as opposed to relying on external knowledge. This will take time.

"I think more and more Emiratis are embracing the legacy they need to carry on."

Many Emirati alumni at his institute have expressed interest in pursuing higher studies at top universities such as Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The educator, who has lived in UAE for 13 years, said he has seen Emiratis "embracing the challenge".

The National has previously written about staff retention posing a challenge to Emiratisation.

A 2017 study found that almost half of the 500 companies surveyed say their Emirati employees quit within three years. The survey revealed that 46 per cent of companies said the average employment of Emiratis was less than three years.

Omaira Al Olama, the Emirati managing director of ALF Administration, a training company that prepares Emiratis for the workplace, said that the biggest hurdle on the path to Emiratisation is the lack of willingness from seniors to train young people.

Clarity is required on what Emiratisation means and entails for Emiratis as well as UAE residents, she said.

"People need to understand what Emiratisation means. It doesn’t mean that Emiratis will be taking over all the jobs — this is the mindset that has come through with a lot of the community.

"A lot of expatriate managers and Emiratis over the age of 45 or 50 believe that the younger generation will come in and take their jobs. People view them as threats.

"Emiratisation is not a right or privilege. It’s about developing, training and the consistency of an organisation. That’s Emiratisation," said Ms Al Olama.


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Staff retention is big challenge to Emiratisation, study finds

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She also said that Emiratisation meant residents and Emiratis working together for the development of the nation.

"It means to train and develop Emiratis so that they can work alongside residents and Emiratis who have had years of experience.”

Ms Al Olama warned that another big challenge is that Emiratis who are joining the workforce face a backlash from residents and older Emiratis.

"They think 'why should I develop and train you when you are going to take my job?'

When a young Emirati does get a job they are not trained adequately, "seniors don’t want to train them because they think these young Emiratis will take their jobs".

"This is not true at all. If that mindset doesn’t change, nothing will change."

In February, the government asked companies to prioritise Emiratis over residents for jobs in about 2,000 companies as part of a drive to push more UAE nationals into the private sector.

Four-hundred job roles were selected by the Ministry of Emiratisation and Human Resources that Emiratis would be preferred for.

Officials said companies would not be compelled to take on UAE nationals, but give them an interview or opportunity they may not have otherwise been given.