ABU DHABI // Raytheon, the international defence company, says it would happily hire all the Emirati graduates willing to work in the industry.
"We'd hire every homemade graduate," said Kevin Massengill, the vice-president of Raytheon in the Middle East and North Africa. "Raytheon and its partners in the UAE industry would hire every engineer that comes out of school."
He was speaking at a technology forum yesterday in the capital, held in partnership with the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training, the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT).
It featured demonstrations of some of Raytheon's advanced systems, including the Silent Guardian, otherwise known as the "pain ray", naval and missile defence systems and intelligence systems.
The company wants science and engineering graduates in partner countries to make up for a shortfall of suitable graduates in the US.
It also sees hiring in the UAE as part of its duty to a country in which it has operated for decades, said Mr Massengill.
However, he said, there are few suitable graduates here. He gave the example of a local defence-related project that needed 150 Emirati engineers, but could only muster seven.
He put the shortage down to the country's infancy and demographics. "The UAE is a tiny country. It's small, thinly populated with enormous appetite," he said. "Look at what Sheikh Zayed has done. He covered a century in 30 years."
The dearth was not, he said, for lack of resources - it takes years to develop a culture of getting children sufficiently excited about engineering to go through the necessary years of study and training.
Moreover, the defence industry has to compete with other industries like oil and gas and nuclear engineering for young Emirati talent, he added.
The Raytheon demonstration illustrates how the HCT is partnering hand in hand with global technology companies, said Dr Simon Jones, the director of HCT's Abu Dhabi Men's College and also the director of its Research, Innovation and Graduate School.
Through Raytheon's assistance, HCT this week has begun a Master's programme in Engineering, with an emphasis on systems engineering. The programme is being implemented in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University of the US, and has already attracted 26 Emirati students, according to Dr Jones. The programme complement's HCT's ongoing undergraduate degree in engineering.
The programmes are envisaged to help the emirate cultivate new skilled workers in its ambition to develop a homegrown aerospace and defence industry, one of the key sectors in the Government's 2030 development plan.
"Raytheon recognises that in any advanced economy, hi-tech businesses need a cadre of scientists, engineers and technicians," said Dr Jones. "All of our experience has shown that it is important to get students as young as possible, to educate them of the opportunities and support them."
The emphasis on corporate partnership also includes alliances with other aerospace firms such as Boeing, Thales, EADS and Airbus, Dr Jones said.
Boeing has helped shape science curricula for the university and also brought in motivational speakers such as former astronauts to help foster an interest in science, technology, engineering, and maths. Thales, meanwhile, has, for the past five years, partnered with HCT, providing support for research and training.
Ibrahim al Qubaisi, a chemical engineering student from Abu Dhabi Men's College, was impressed by the air defence systems he saw. He saw working in defence as "beneficial to the country in the future".