ABU DHABI // Thousands of Emiratis flocked to the Tawdheef jobs fair yesterday - but too many lacked the skills employers wanted.
Most of those at the event, at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, had similar qualifications in administration, management, business and communication.
But many employers said they were seeking graduates with advanced degrees in technical subjects.
"We get people with master's and bachelor's degrees," said Zulfa Al Qasemi, the recruitment section manager at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.
"But most of them are in communication, HR, and administration - fields we already have too many people in."
She struggled to find UAE nationals with qualifications in agriculture or veterinary medicine.
Although 70 per cent of the authority's staff is Emirati - with a target of 75 to 80 per cent by the end of the year - most are in administrative roles. Ezzat Abu Hassan, the group business development manager at Sawaeed employment, said there were too few applicants for technical positions.
"Get me 50 Emirati technicians and I will get them a job overnight," he said.
"But get me three Emirati master's graduates in administration and it would take me at least a month."
Demand is especially great in areas such as aviation, oil and gas, construction and technical support.
"I have one technician for every 500 administrators," said Mr Hassan. "We would love to educate locals on fields they should go into."
Emiratisation experts fear a growing lack of fluency in the Arabic language could be a barrier to the programme's success.
About 70 per cent of graduate vacancies now require applicants to be bilingual.
Human resource managers agree that the general level of education had improved substantially in recent years, particularly in English and computer skills.
But a representative from Tawteen council, who asked not to be named, pointed to a mismatch between educational pursuits and market demands.
"English and computer skills are improving, yes, but we have thousands of education, geography and history graduates," she said. "Where will they work?"
She believes that educational authorities "should stop teaching these subjects, we don't need them".
The fair also highlighted Emiratis' continuing preference for the public sector. Stalls run by hotels reported only a trickle of interest, despite their eagerness to employ UAE nationals.
Most admitted the level of Emiratisation in their companies was close to zero.
Meanwhile, the heavily decorated booths offering jobs in the armed forces and police were as popular as ever.
"We prefer these fields, the ones that are stable and prestigious in society," said Humaid Al Saeedi, 19, from Al Ain. "Of course government is better, but companies like Etisalat and du are also good because they are well-known and have many Emiratis."
All companies said they were seeking to increase their Emirati workforce, with dozens of jobs reserved for UAE nationals.
The exhibition continues today and will be open to expatriates tomorrow.