The unemployment rate among the Saudi youth  is rising despite the growing number of job openings. While employers say they find it hard to fill jobs with qualified workers, youths complain of lack of training programs that will help them gain experience .
"Companies should provide the youth with training programs, because if they reject us, how are we supposed to benefit ourselves ? How are we supposed to be productive otherwise, and how are we supposed to become professionals at anything?" wonders Hana A.J., a Saudi fresh graduate of political science from the American University in Beirut.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia has decreased over the years. However, the lack of training programs in the country has become a major reason many Saudi youths are still unemployed.
A.J. says that training programs would at least take the youth off the streets and make them productive. "We are the future generation that can possibly develop and make a difference in our country," says A.J.
"If we are rejected from that, we will resort to unprofessionalism and more trouble, since free time only creates room for trouble." A.J. says there is tough competition for jobs, and all companies want the best. "Training programs and volunteer works are the answer to making the youth competitive, more productive and help finding themselves in the professional arena," says A.J.
According to Hashim Al-Zain, project developer at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, training programs enable youth to hone some of their skill sets and learn, in most cases, marginal skill sets.
Al-Zain is also a motivational speaker who inspires young Saudis to innovate and become creators instead of merely consumers.
He says there is a widespread misnomer that in order for one to get ahead, one needs abundant training. "I beg to disagree," says Al-Zain. "This conventional way of thinking uses the outside-in approach, where people tend to focus on cramming as much information as they can in the shortest time possible and hope they could recall the information at the right time and place. This approach is limited and requires a complimentary approach, the inside-out approach." The outside-in approach, according to Al-Zain, is "performance = capacity + knowledge", while the inside-out approach is "performance = capacity &interference".
Al-Zain says, in other words, that people don't realize that they know more than they think they do.
"What they lack is the faith, fire and focus that are complemented by the required knowledge that one obtains through traditional schooling.â€ Many youths complain that the core subjects being taught in the traditional educational system do not help in flourishing the skills that are now compulsory in the knowledge-based work force.
"Skills such as critical thinking, leadership, problem solving, responsibility and decision-making come into account when companies hire employees,"says Amna Musali, a Saudi MBA student.
Musali outlines that educational institutes do not focus on most of such skills.
According to Sara Trabulsi, HR planning manager at Nesma Holding Company, the benefits of training programs are unlimited. "Training programs are important for companies to prepare employees to meet the challenging needs of their jobs," says Trabulsi.
Nesma Holdings is one of the few companies that provide their employees, both Saudis and non-Saudis, with training programs.
"Training programs should cover topics that can contribute to an employeeâ€™s development needs as identified during his or her annual appraisal, and in line with the requirements of the employeeâ€™s position as defined by the job description,"says Trabulsi.
She says that other important benefits include improved productivity levels, increased loyalty to the company, higher self-confidence, career growth opportunities, higher retention rate and a higher job satisfaction level.
The cost of the training, according to Nesma, depends on the number of trainees identified every year.
"They are always worth the cost," says Trabulsi.
To support her comment, Trabulsi recalls: "Once a CEO was asked why he spends so much money on training employees when they might get trained and leave the company. He replied: "What if they don't get trained and stay!"