x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE entrepreneurs in the making

Injaz-UAE is a non-profit organisation preparing Emiratis for entrepreneurship. Results from a recent survey show its programmes have had a far-reaching impact on its participants.

Hessa Qabanji is the CEO of E-Go, a company that makes environmentally friendly car trash bags. She is one of the students who attended a workplace skills programme.
Hessa Qabanji is the CEO of E-Go, a company that makes environmentally friendly car trash bags. She is one of the students who attended a workplace skills programme.

DOHA // Hessa Qabanji, 23, does not want to wait for months or years for the right job to come her way.

After taking part in a workplace skills programme this year, the second-year student at Dubai Women’s College is confident she can pave her own path to employment.

“I do not want to be another graduate with an academic degree knocking at every employer’s door,” said the Emirati student, who is taking a network engineering degree.

“I now have faith in my skills and I think I can do and succeed in whatever I want.”

Ms Qabanji was part of the Injaz-UAE entrepreneurship and workplace skills programme that introduces young people to self-employment concepts while teaching critical and problem-solving skills and connecting them with industry volunteers to develop business ideas.

She has since been approached by the Khalifa Fund to take forward her E-Go Trash Bag business idea, a waterproof waste disposal bag for vehicles.

Injaz-UAE, a non-profit organisation that is part of the Junior Achievement Worldwide programme, has trained more than 15,000 students in state schools and universities with the help of professional volunteers with practical courses.

A recent impact survey of more than 800 students in the programme found a change in perceptions and aspirations for their future.

About 73 per cent said owning a business creates jobs and fosters economic growth, and 93 per cent understood the important of competitive edge to secure a job.

Ninety-one per cent of respondents said if they failed at something, they would try to work out why so they could succeed the next time, and 79 per cent said they could adapt to new situations.

Sulaf Al Zubi, chief executive of Injaz-UAE, said the figures reflected a 30 per cent increase in confidence among the students who have passed through the programme.

“There has been a significant shift in terms of attitudes,” she said.
“We know not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but they are clear about their skills and ability. They also agree to work for small and medium enterprises now.”

Youth unemployment in the Mena region has escalated to 25 per cent, and 14 per cent of Emiratis do not have a job.

The problem is more pronounced among Emirati women, where the unemployment rate in the capital is about 42 per cent.

“The very low participation of women in the labour force and low employment levels are widely considered a missed opportunity for economic growth and development,” according to a recent report on competitiveness in the Arab world.

Fareah Al Saqqaf, founder of LoYAC, a Kuwaiti youth development organisation, said Arab youth must be encouraged to create their own opportunities. “They should not wait to find a job,” she said at the World Innovation for Education Summit in Doha yesterday.

“Although they might graduate in sciences or other disciplines, they should also try to find a living through their hobbies, like art.”

Ms Al Zubi said practical workplace programmes such as theirs motivated young women to build their own careers.

“A lot of Emirati women want family-friendly career options, and creating their own ventures makes them productive members of society but helps to keep that balance at the same time.”

Amna Sedeq Al Ahmed, 22, has started an events management company with the help of mentors she was introduced to through Injaz.  “I learnt a lot of things that one can never learn in the classroom – managing a team and how to manage money and be competitive,” said the Zayed University student.

“It is long hours of work but at the same time provides flexibility to me for when I have children.”

Ms Al Ahmed is in the process of expanding her business to incorporate corporate event organising. “We will be approaching small companies and presenting our proposal. I have got a taste for it now, and I like this. Even if I fail, I will do it again.”

aahmed@thenational.ae