Reem Beljafleh and Shaikha Ahmad of DUBAL receive Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak and visitors to the company’s booth at the inaugural Scholarships Exhibition
Dubai Aluminium Company Limited (DUBAL), the entirely state-owned enterprise whose Jebel Ali operation currently ranks one of the world’s largest single-site primary aluminium smelters, is widely regarded as the industrial flagship of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE); and an employer of choice in the region.
An avid supporter of the UAE’s Nationalization Strategy, which aims to increase the employment levels and professionalism of the Emirati people in the public and private sectors, DUBAL has implemented a National Development Programme that includes an array of initiatives to enhance the employability and career prospects of UAE Nationals.
Investing in young talent
A case in point is the DUBAL Scholarship Programme, through which the company invests in the university- and college-level education of UAE Nationals to enable them to hold supervisory roles upon graduation. Preference is given to students studying the degree courses required for targeted positions within the company’s overall smelter operations. Accordingly, preference is given to students studying engineering – particularly Mechanical, Electrical or Chemical Engineering. Scholarship opportunities are also provided to some students in Civil, Electronics or Computer Engineering; and in business-related disciplines such as Marketing, Finance or Accounting. An aggregate score of at least 85 per cent in high school academic evaluations is required, along with a positive attitude to life and evident personal commitment to self-development and career ambitions.
“Our Scholarship Programme began operating officially in 2005 and currently provides benefits to about 50 students enrolled at seven preferred local universities, notably American University of Dubai, American University of Sharjah, Higher College of Technology Dubai, Higher College of Technology Sharjah, UAE University, University of Sharjah and Zayed University,” says Ibrahim Nassir (Executive Vice President, Director: Human Resources, Organisational Effectiveness & Corporate Services). “Each of our scholarship students receives 50 per cent of his/her tuition fees; and a monthly stipend, paid on a sliding scale, whereby senior students receive substantially more than their first-year counterparts. Once granted, the scholarship is continuous throughout the student’s degree course – provided a grade point average (“GPA”) of 2.5 is maintained. Also, scholarship students who achieve high GPA scores receive additional financial rewards, recognised and paid on a semester basis.”
Importantly, all recipients of a DUBAL Scholarship must work for DUBAL after graduation for a period of time equal to or greater than the period of the scholarship. As an incentive, AED 500 of the monthly stipend (per student) is retained by DUBAL and paid to the student on successful completion of six months’ service at DUBAL after graduation. “Our scholarship students are also expected to work for DUBAL at least twice during the summer vacation period for the duration of their scholarship, so as to obtain practical training and work experience,” says Nassir. “This entails up to five weeks’ student employment per academic year.”
He goes on to say that DUBAL automatically includes the scholarship students in its greater corporate family. “From the moment a student receives a DUBAL scholarship, he/she is treated similarly to an employee,” Nassir explains. “Our students receive DUBAL health insurance, a personal copy of our monthly employee newsletter, and seasonal greeting cards for key events such as Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha. We also visit them on campus at least twice a year, and keep in close contact with them with a view to developing long-term relationships.”
Once graduated and employed full-time at DUBAL, the scholarship students are enrolled in the company’s Graduate Trainee Programme (GTP). Another of DUBAL’s National Development Programmes, the GTP an 18-month on-the-job training intervention that enables young UAE National graduates (whether recipients of a DUBAL scholarship or not) to assume a role as one of DUBAL’s first line supervisors within a relatively short time frame. “We do our best to offer our scholarship students a challenging, yet rewarding career path so that the benefits of the programme are mutual,” says Nassir. “By targeting the best talent available and providing excellent personal career growth opportunities, the DUBAL Scholarship Programme is effectively the first step in our leadership pipeline. It also contributes meaningfully to our ambitions for DUBAL to be the employer of choice for the region.”
An internal scholarship programme is also in place at DUBAL, which aims to promote education at all levels in subject areas that are beneficial to the company. According to Nassir, 22 DUBAL employees currently hold such scholarships and are enrolled for full- or part-time courses. “Diverse programmes are being followed, including PhDs, MBAs, masters and bachelors degrees, chartered management accountancy and the higher national diploma,” he says.
Awareness of the DUBAL Scholarship Programme was raised among university students recently during the inaugural Scholarships Exhibition, held at Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre on 29 and 30 May 2011. Held under the patronage of H E Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (President of Zayed University, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research), the event uniquely focused solely on scholarship programmes and was the culmination of the graduation project conducted by three students at Zayed University.
Through this and other promotional opportunities, DUBAL has already attracted 198 applications for scholarships for the academic year commencing in September 2011. “This figure confirms the positive corporate image and reputation that DUBAL holds among young UAE Nationals,” says Nassir. “It is also indicative of a strong desire among talented and hard-working students to start their working careers at our company.”