x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Trending hashtag sparks Emiratisation debate on Twitter

Khalid Al Ameri started the #UAEOpportunities hashtag which quickly picked up steam, prompting varying responses and views about Emiratisation.

ABU DHABI // A trending hashtag on the social media site Twitter is on the search for Emiratisation success stories.

After reading a news article on the lack of opportunities for Emiratis that was published in The National this week, Khalid Al Ameri started the #UAEOpportunities hashtag, which quickly took off and drew responses from high officials and business owners.

Mr Al Ameri, a 29-year-old Emirati MBA candidate at Stanford University, tweeted: "I don't think I can write or handle another article on the lack of private sector employment amongst the Emirati community."

He continued tweeting to his 6,476 followers on Sunday: "It's obvious there's a problem, but it goes far beyond lack of opportunity from the private sector, or lack of motivation amongst Emiratis."

Mr Al Ameri said that after years of Emiratisation topping the Government's agenda, many knew what was obstructing it, whether it was low salaries, long working hours, or the misperception that Emiratis are not up for the task.

Responses quickly confirmed perceptions, many of which where held high up the business chain.

Joe Akkawi, co-founder of pazmarketing, who tweets under the twitter handle @JoeAkkawi, said his firm did not approach Emiratis due to their "unrealistic salary expectations which boutiques can't meet".

"No problem paying for talent. We just can't justify fresh graduates [some cases] asking manager/director salaries," he tweeted.

Tariq bin Hendi, who tweets under the handle @TariqBinHendi, said a first step would be to "stop viewing Emiratis as a group of imbecilic people that need years of competence training".

Others tweeted that Emiratis were unwilling to work weekends.

"Even if it is a great learning experience doing meaningful work?" Mr Al Ameri argued back.

"We know the negatives, but we never hear of the positives," he said. "Of internships or what the private sector is doing for the community. The hashtag was a start for people to come and share their experience."

An unexpected response came from Muna Al Gurg, a director at the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group and chairwoman of the Young Arab Leaders group. In addition to a shadowing programme, she said the Al Gurg group supported internships and provided Emiratis with training.

Amid other "default negative responses", an official from telephone company du responded to the hashtag.

"At @dutweets we nurture Emiratis to a career that empowers them with the right tools for a bright future!" Dr Mansoor Anwar, the director of Medical and Occupational health services at du, tweeted. "The talent pool at @dutweets captures all employees at all grades and enrols them in customised trainings. The organisational culture at @dutweets ensures an ecosystem of engagement and creativity!!"

Other posters suggested moves for Emiratisation to succeed.

Amer Al Kindi, who tweets under the handle @ameralkindi said: "Reform higher/technical/high school edu, support Emirati start ups, Open Professional Development to all, and TRUST Emiratis!"

Ms Al Gurg said it was necessary for role models within companies to mentor young Emiratis.

Najla Al Midfa, who tweets under @najla_almidfa, said instead of having recruitment companies, universities should collaborate with businesses to spread awareness among students.

"With meaningful work and an opportunity for great development it will encourage people to perform their best every time. If every work is the same, then why not look for the highest pay," Mr Al Ameri tweeted.

In an interview, he said: "What people want is to have meaningful work. The purpose of the hashtag was to help companies learn from each other, and if a company is doing something good, to go and check it out for themselves. We cannot just keep complaining."

osalem@thenational.ae