x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE nationals urged to learn a trade

Technical skills would help Emiratis launch their own businesses, says Essa Al Mulla.

DUBAI // More Emiratis should take jobs as carpenters, masons or mechanics so they can learn the skills they need to eventually start their own businesses, says Essa Al Mulla.

Mr Al Mulla, the executive director of the Emirates Nationals Development Programme (ENDP), said: "I want to see UAE nationals work in these very simple jobs, but not just to be a mason, a carpenter or a mechanic forever.

"I want them to start learning the skills, improve them, and then become entrepreneurs.

"They will establish their own businesses - the carpenter will have a carpentry workshop in the future, the mason will have a construction company and the mechanic will have a car workshop. This happens at the moment, but not at the level we are looking for."

The idea was welcomed by Mey Alleem, a 25-year-old Emirati from Sharjah, who studied mechanical engineering before taking a job in the field.

"This is right," she said. "I want to get more experience and maybe I'll start my own business, maybe I'll widen my horizons. I'm learning from people and learning from my position, but later I could do something on my own."

The ENDP, the organisation Mr Al Mulla heads, was set up in 2005 to place Emiratis in private sector jobs and to reduce unemployment among locals.

It operates in all the Emirates but has a particular focus on Dubai.

Mr Al Mulla said there was a growing need to find private sector jobs for Emiratis because the Government had started to reduce its manpower.

"From 2010 Dubai started reducing employment within the Government. They said, 'We have 50,000 or 60,000 employees, but the actual work requires just 45,000.'

"This extra number required a lot of people to think about how they could bring it down.

"It needs a reduction of 7 per cent on a yearly basis, that's been going on since 2010, and the aim is to get down to 45,000."

In 2009 the ENDP launched a black list of Emiratis who it felt were not serious about wanting a job. The most recent figures show that this number has risen from 500 then to more than 800.

Candidates are given a number of chances but are blacklisted if they fail to turn up for interviews, turn down a job offer without giving a good reason, or continually change the sector they say they are willing to work in. Those blacklisted receive no help from the programme for six months.

"The blacklist is very good for us, it sends a very clear message to everyone," said Mr Al Mulla. "To the private sector we are saying we are taking action against those who are not serious.

"If we divide the 800 into the 30,000 who are registered in our database, it only represents two per cent of the total.

"Some of those listed say, 'You are not giving us a chance to get a job, so we're telling you we'll get jobs'. And they have, so we're happy."