x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Emiratisation must reach a new stage for it to succeed

Debunking the myth of Emiratisation: Khalid Al Ameri writes about why he thinks more nationals aren't joining the private sector.

As a senior in high school, I remember waiting for my father to arrive from work with the daily paper. One particular day, he read an article about promoting Emiratis within the private workforce.

My father was always quick to remind me to study and work hard, as it would be up to our generation to lead this country to prosperity. There was always a look of concern on his face when he said this - as a banker, he would always mention how hard it was to attract Emiratis to the private sector due to the lower pay, long hours and cultural clash. This is pretty much the same argument every university professor or high-paid consultant has used to tackle the issue of Emiratisation.

Such professionals are brought in today to conduct in-depth research on the issue, yet continue to point out the exact same problems. I am no expert on the matter, but I have a few simple suggestions for possible solutions.

First things first: education. Sheikh Zayed once said that "the real asset of any advanced nation is its people, especially the educated ones, and the prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education".

Today's leadership continues to deliver on this vision by providing its citizens with opportunities to top-notch educational facilities, both locally and abroad, and setting up entities to monitor and grow the education sector. Therefore, reaching the standard of education necessary to enter the work force doesn't seem to be the issue. So how is the private sector looking to build upon the talents Emiratis have acquired at university? In my view, private sector companies that have great training programmes internationally do not seem to be bringing the same programmes and expertise into the local job market.

A successful local model the private sector could learn from is Mubadala's, which requires incoming analysts to pass several benchmarks: pass Level 1 of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, intern with top investment banks and consulting firms, and undergo intense on-the-job training programmes with top global corporations. This is the type of on-the-job training Emiratis need to put them on par with their peers locally and globally. Emiratis have to believe that no matter where they are in the world, they can perform alongside the best out there.

Secondly, I support the idea of "the right Emirati for the right job". Emiratis are a passionate people, which is a strong trait passed down from our leadership and embedded in our daily lives. Give Emiratis a sense of responsibility and reason for the work they are doing, and they will deliver time and time again.

There has been a trend among companies within the UAE of hiring an Emirati for the sake of being Emirati. From personal experience, a communications company tried to hire me as a customer service representative after I had just completed an unrelated course in the UK. Instead of wasting their time trying to lure an Emirati into this position, why don't they take the proper time to hire an individual with a passion for customer service? The private sector in the UAE needs to have a strict Emiratisation strategy, placing Emiratis in positions where they can grow, develop and eventually become leaders in their field, rather than embark on an aggressive recruitment drive of national secretaries or public relations officers to meet their quotas.

Last but in no way least, there need to be more role models. In my research, I tend to find a lot of articles covering the hardships of Emiratis adapting to the private sector, but little coverage on the success stories. Reading a recent article in The National, A champion of the private sector, which covered the experience of the Emirati and family-owned Al Ansari Exchange, was a breath of fresh air. There are several other stories of young nationals succeeding in the private sector: Abdulfattah Sharaf was nominated as the first UAE Chief Executive of HSBC, and Abu Dhabi's Salem Rashid Al Noaimi became the youngest CEO of Waha Capital at the age of 32.

These individuals are prime examples of role models for young Emiratis looking for a career within the private sector. To promote greater entrepreneurship, the private sector could borrow a page from the UAE's public sector. Abu Dhabi's Entrepreneurship Forum and the Dubai Celebration of Entrepreneurship last year both acted as platforms for young minds to share ideas and garner support for start-ups.

Due to the incredible growth and transformation of our country, the gaps between the public and private sector in terms of working hours, wages and culture are becoming smaller. So to all the advisors, professors and consultants consistently repeating that these factors are the cause of a lack of Emiratisation in the private sector, we get it. Let's get to work.

Khalid al Ameri is an associate at a development company based in Abu Dhabi