Youths without ‘professional exposure’ could lose out on jobs, career experts say
ABU DHABI // Career and HR experts have said that employers looking to hire graduates want to see “professional exposure” in the workplace on a candidate’s CV, as well as academic credentials.
Without demonstrating experience of working life and the practical skills gained from part-time jobs and work experience, students could be overlooked for full-time jobs, they say.
“Top academic credentials alone aren’t enough to impress employers any more,” said Mike Hill, chief executive at Prospects, which runs the UK’s leading student and graduate careers advice and opportunities website, prospects.ac.uk. “They want candidates to be able to demonstrate experience of working life, practical skills and to know you can cut it away from the comforts of student life.
“Working part-time, as work experience, or volunteering, are all great ways to help you to stand out and demonstrate your willingness to make things happen, which can make all the difference.”
Zack Abdi, managing director of the human resources consultancy Provectus Middle East, said many youths in the UAE don’t have the “street smart” of their peers in the Western world because of a lack of work experience.
“I, as an employer, know they don’t have many of the life skills or core skills they require for the job,” he said. “People want certain skills and you can only get those skills by working - it is as simple as that.
“It would be wonderful to see all the children get the opportunity to get in the working environment and also be given the opportunity to work as part of a team.”
Mr Abdi feels a lack of career counselling in schools contributes to the problem. Also, if they do get a work experience opportunity, many companies lack the formal structure to engage the intern and show what the working world is like, he said.
“There is no one to properly provide them with the development framework,” he said. “You sit there like a sack of potatoes for three months and finish your assignment and then you are back in the classroom. What did you really learn?”
With youth unemployment and underemployment in the Middle East among the highest in the world and a growing “youth bulge” in the UAE’s population, creating greater work opportunities through part-time job and internships is “critical”, said David Jones, CEO of HR consultancy The Talent Enterprise.
Research carried out by the company suggested many self-awareness and character strengths - critical for youths starting out in their careers - are low in the UAE by international standards.
“In many cases, private-sector employers are less interested in qualifications and increasingly focused on learning agility, resilience, grit, collaboration, self-efficacy, growth mindset and other employability-related character strengths,” said Mr Jones. “Early work experience and internships are critical in this regard.”
Mr Jones said that elsewhere in the world, most students gain some part-time experience by working in the evenings, at weekends or during holidays.
“Without it, the character strengths, employability skills and working values so prized by employers are likely to remain underdeveloped in this region,” he said.
Hamza Zaouali, managing director of Iris Executives, a recruitment company specialising in Emiratisation, said there needs to be a mindset shift to give both Emirati and expatriate youths more “professional exposure”.
He said companies believe there is not a lot of return for the investment when it comes to internships.
“The thing that is frustrating a lot of employers is that they feel they don’t really win anything,” he said. “The internships are one or maybe two months - sometimes just weeks - and by the time you train someone in any job, they are immediately gone.
“Internships haven’t really been promoted as helpful for both sides.”
Updated: March 12, 2016 04:00 AM