Companies renew their push for Emirati workers as the school year comes to an end, but "blue-collar" jobs are proving more difficult to fill.
UAE private sector aims to enrol more young Emiratis
As the school year draws to an end and students attend career fairs, companies are launching Emiratisation drives to try to persuade them to consider jobs outside the public sector.
Etihad Airways has embarked on a recruitment drive to hire and train 200 Emirati graduates and school leavers as pilots, managers and engineers.
Etihad employs 520 Emiratis, comprising 13 per cent of the total number of the airline's employees.
"As the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, we are responsible for recruiting the highest calibre of UAE nationals who will be able to continue Etihad's vision throughout their years of employment," said Dr Salwa al Nuaimi, the vice president of Emirati talent acquisition at Etihad.
First Gulf Bank has also announced a partnership with Abu Dhabi Tawteen Council to develop training programmes for young Emiratis.
The bank will offer temporary positions to between 300 and 500 Emiratis throughout its branch network to help to market its activities. The hope is that First Gulf can attract more nationals who would otherwise consider public-sector employment as their first port of call.
"Whenever we go anywhere they won't approach the banks for jobs, because nobody told them what the bank does and what the challenges are," said Huda Abdulla, an executive vice president at First Gulf.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank is on target to increase the numbers of Emiratis in its workforce, currently one of the highest at 44.5 per cent, with increased recruitment of graduates and school leavers.
Alongside insurance, banking is one of the key areas of focus of the UAE's Emiratisation drive although other industries are becoming involved.
Emirates Aluminum, or Emal, is seeking 90 staff to expand its workforce at Al Taweelah, where the company's smelter is based.
The company has shortlisted 160 school leavers for career programmes that include technical and general administration.
However, companies in other industries report greater difficulty in attracting Emirati staff. Ducab, a cable-making joint venture between the governments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai with about 1,000 staff, has attempted to target nationals at shop level, where only 3 per cent are Emirati.
Ahmed al Shaikh, the chairman, said getting Emiratis into "blue-collar" jobs was not easy. "Even [in] that category, which is mostly not accepted by UAE nationals, we are even trying to bring them to that level … We try to get into contact with them in high school," he said.
Retaining the new Emirati employees could also prove to be a challenge, said Dr Salim Sadek, the vice president of strategy and development at UAE Academy, an organisation with schemes to help Emiratis into the workforce.
"All companies with no exceptions are trying to improve the retainability of their staff," he said.
* Additional reporting by April Yee