The Ministry of Finance is targeting raising its Emiratisation level to 95 per cent in the next five years as the first batch of students from its undergraduate scheme start work.
Fifteen Emiratis will enter the workforce this year after completing the ministry's sponsored programme for high school graduates. A further five to six expatriate staff will be replaced by nationals, said Younis Al Khouri, undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance.
It will bring Emiratisation levels from 63 per cent now to 70 per cent by the end of the year. "We have a programme that started four years ago and the first students will graduate this year," he said.
Arabian Gulf states have accelerated plans to hire more of their nationals as a bulging youth population enters the job market.
The Government has been striving to drive up the level of Emiratis in both the public and private sector. It launched the Absher programme last year, an initiative designed to create thousands of jobs for nationals in the public and private sectors every year over a five-year period. It has also made 2013 the Year of Emiratisation.
Four years ago the Ministry of Finance set up a programme to sponsor Emiratis studying finance and accounting to find employment in the ministry.
The initiative has since been expended to include students studying economics and information technology.
"Five years ago we were at 55 per cent Emiratisation," said Mr Al Khouri. "In five years hopefully we can reach 95 per cent."
The ministry employs about 300 staff in areas including finance and accounting, economics, support services, international relations, communications and IT. A further 15 students from its sponsored programme will enter the workforce next year.
The ministry's move comes as a wave of other state-owned and government-linked companies increase their percentage of nationals. Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, said in January it planned to hire more than 500 Emiratis this year, about 20 per cent more nationals than last year.
Emirates Aluminium, one of the region's largest metal producers, is also seeking Emiratis to fill 318 positions, while du, the telecoms company, will be recruiting 60 Emiratis during the year for entry-level posts.
The Ministry of Finance was one of the first government federal bodies to introduce a sponsored programme to train local recruits. After launching the scheme in 2009, it sponsored 20 students in 2009, 15 in 2010 and 11 in 2011. This year will be the first year the students start employment.
But the Government has made it clear it also wants more nationals to join the private sector, with the aim of having 20,000 Emiratis signing up with private companies within five years.