The most common complaint of young Emirati job seekers is the belief they are overlooked in favour of expatriates in the private sector. The most common concern expressed by private companies, on the other hand, is a perceived dearth of highly-skilled Emiratis to fill their needs.
Education has been the primary means to bridge the two sides of this problem. But as this newspaper's Business pages reported yesterday, there's another solution to bringing more nationals into the private sector: broaden the search.
Headhunters and job vacancy web sites in the UAE are increasingly targeting Emiratis, both recent graduates and long-time degree holders, who are looking to enter the workforce or move up the ranks in their current jobs. Recruitment firms like Bayt.com are now even tailoring jobs to Emirati candidates.
"Emirati professionals today are vying for all jobs on an equal footing as non-local professionals ... based largely on merit and ability," said Amer Zureikat, the vice president of sales at Bayt.com.
And it's not only resident Emiratis who are being wooed to compete for private sector jobs at home. The global recruitment web site Monster.com last year launched a "Return2Home" initiative that lists specific job opportunities for UAE nationals.
It's not clear how many Emiratis are returning home as a result of such efforts, but it's reasonable to believe some are. This would have obvious benefits, not least ensuring that new recruits come already armed with both global experience and awareness of local culture. Moreover, nationals trained overseas can help transfer their expertise.
In a nation where expatriates outnumber citizens by a margin of 9 to 1, there is a great need to increase the percentage of nationals in the workforce. There is also, however, a need to maintain a healthy balance of expertise during any shift. For the time being, foreigners will continue to share their expertise in oil and gas, nuclear technology, aviation and other fields. As National columnist and development consultant Khalid Al Ameri wrote on these pages last year, "Emiratisation relies on workplace training", much of which comes from experienced expatriate managers.
But ultimately, it is Emiratis who will drive the future growth of the UAE. If finding tomorrow's local leaders today means taking the search online, and around the world, we're all for it.