Emiratis need more practical training in the private sector, experts and UAE nationals agreed yesterday. Their comments were in response to the Minister of Labour's description this week of a mismatch between jobs being created in the economy and the skills held by Emirati men and women.
Some said UAE nationals were largely unequipped with skills needed to work in the private sector. Many blamed the private sector for not hiring them and not giving them on-the-job training they needed. Others said nationals were stigmatised in the private sector, where western workers are preferred.
"UAE nationals don't have any problem with their skills but the problem is that the private sector is resistant in hiring them," said Noora Al Bedur, the director of the Employment and Skills Development Centre of the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority.
The lack of training in the private sector, Ms Al Bedur said, left Emiratis reluctant to move away from the public sector. She said it was a social responsibility for every private company to train Emiratis. A link between education and the private sector was vital, she said.
"There should be co-operation between the private sector and higher-education institutions and the ministry in order for graduates to have the necessary skills the private sector requires," Ms Al Bedur said.
"What do you expect when hardware is being taught when the job market requires software skills? Private companies need to be more transparent about what they require from UAE nationals." Ms Al Bedur was responding to the statement by the Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, on Monday that the integration of Emiratis into the private sector is a bigger challenge to the UAE than the fallout from the global economic downturn.
He told in a meeting of labour ministers from the Group of 20 leading and emerging economies that the country needed to tackle the different levels of job security that exists in the sectors. Mr Ghobash he said the fact that civil servants were unable to transfer benefits to the private sector was a challenge he wanted to "minimise or eliminate".
The Ministry of Labour was looking at creating an unemployment insurance scheme to provide more security for people in the private sector, he told the delegates.
Dr Ingo Forstenlechner, an associate professor in the business and economics department of UAE University, said: "Indigenous unemployment is the most pressing policy challenge in the UAE and the whole GCC today. "There are way more jobs being created than there are unemployed citizens but these jobs are not created at commensurate skill levels or sectors.
"The solutions require potentially painful and far-reaching changes to the labour market and migration policies, whether it is a shift towards knowledge and capital-intensive work as opposed to labour-intensive work, or it is enhancing research and education."
AG, 23, an Emirati, said he faced many challenges looking for a job in the government and private sectors. "I have been to too many interviews but there was a sense of dishonesty from HR," said AG, who got a job with a private telecommunications firm after a six-month search. AG receives training at his company to meet his job requirements.
Ali Mohammed, 34, who works with the government after being unable to find a job in the private sector, said there is no lack of skills among Emiratis. "There are many recruitment agencies who said they were hiring locals but when I approached them they said 'We don't know what you're talking about'," said Mr Mohammed, who worked in the government sector for 13 years before seeking a private-sector job. "Some would say I have the right qualifications but they don't hire locals or say I am overqualified."