‘Create jobs for Emirati youth’

Sustainable employment, educational support and entrepreneurial approach crucial, Emirates Foundation summit hears.

Reem Al Hashemy, the minister of state, speaks on the second day of the event in the capital. Reem Mohammed / The National
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ABU DHABI // Tackling youth unemployment, improving access to education and encouraging Emirati entrepreneurs were all crucial to securing a bright future for the UAE.

“I say this is important, crucial, even vital, without being over dramatic. These are worrying times,” said Reem Al Hashemy, the minister of state, who was speaking on the second day of the Emirates Foundation Youth Philanthropy summit.

Ms Al Hashemy said all sectors needed to provide more opportunities for youngsters to help them find employment.

“We worry about the youth and specifically worry about creating productive and sustainable employment, which is a challenge for all world economies but especially for our own,” she said.

Figures by the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi released last year showed fluctuations in the unemployment rate for young Emirati women and men. For men, they were 7.3 per cent, 4.1 per cent and 5.5 per cent for 2005, 2011 and 2012. For women, they were 15.6, 16.5 and 18 per cent.

Encouraging Emirati entrepreneurs, even if they were already working, would greatly contribute to job creation and improving job satisfaction, said Abdullah Al Darmaki, chief executive of the Khalifa Fund.

With 61 per cent of those who received assistance from the fund employed in the public sector at present, Mr Al Darmaki said he was often asked why the Khalifa Fund helped those who were already working.

“We want to work with those who have experience in the field and understand what the challenges of setting up a business are,” he said.

“The fact that individuals are taking the steps to set up their business and finding out what it takes through the process is a success, regardless of whether they are profitable or not,” he said.

Other than the Khalifa Fund, budding Emirati entrepreneurs had few options to turn to for financial support, something which needed to change, Mr Al Darmaki said.

“Every time I talk to a CEO of a bank this funny conversation comes up, where they say let the Khalifa Fund take the hit for the first three years and then you can bring them to us. Entrepreneurs need to rub shoulders with the financial sector.”

Focusing on education as a tool to place Emiratis in the right field was also vital, said Maysa Jalbout, chief executive of Al Ghurair Foundation.

Ms Jalbout said the foundation, set up to support bright Emiratis who did not have the financial means or tools to achieve their potential, had the ambitious goal of providing 15,000 citizens with scholarships over the next 10 years.

“We tend to develop a cookie-cutter approach to reaching young people, but they have different needs and different talents,” she said.

The foundation found many Emiratis lacked basic skills that kept them from excelling, such as a low level of English language knowledge, or the confidence to apply to universities.

“Students have different requirements and we can’t look at them as innocent bystanders. We have to involve them in the process and ask them what they need,” Ms Jalbout said.