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Khalid Al Ameri: Creating more Emiratis for jobs, not the other way round
March 08, 2015
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Emiratisation is an initiative created by the UAE government to ensure the employment of Emirati nationals across different sectors in the workforce. The initiative is a constant priority on every government entity for obvious reasons, and the private sector is in a constant battle to try and attract talent for lower wages, longer hours, and less benefits.

Let’s take a high level view of Emiratisation. The government remains the employer of choice and is constantly creating more entities and jobs for a growing workforce; many of the youth believe it is saturated. Private sector representation by Emiratis is in the single digits depending on what sector you’re in. Finally from an entrepreneurial perspective approximately 2 per cent of UAE nationals are interested in starting their own business.

So is Emiratisation a success? Well it depends on how you define it. If you define Emiratisation as a social policy to ensure that Emiratis have jobs, access to basic needs, and in many cases a very healthy lifestyle, then the answer is yes. However if you view Emiratisation as an initiative to build Emirati leaders and diversify the workforce then it is still a work in progress.

Our leaders and our government are pushing innovation throughout the UAE in a big way. Government processes and education systems are being used to test new and creative ways of building an economy driven by knowledge, and our human capital must be prepared. That is why Emiratisation is so important, but a new form of Emiratisation, let’s call it Emiratisation 2.0.

Emiratisation 2.0 does not start with government authorities and companies creating more openings for Emiratis. It starts at the beginning with the education system namely schools and universities. Emiratisation 2.0 invests in counsellors to identify the students’ interests and professional ambitions, mentorship and internship programmes to offer guidance on various careers, and entrepreneurial workshops and incubators to allow students to build personal projects into potential companies.

The objective of Emiratisation 2.0 is to flip the formula, to create more Emiratis for jobs, rather than traditional Emiratisation that created more jobs for Emiratis. We are building our human capital to become employable and productive citizens from the ground up, rather than dealing with the issue when they hit the job market. We are being proactive, rather than reactive. More importantly we are harnessing the dreams of our youth at a young age, and giving them the opportunity to bring those dreams to reality.

So why should we even bother starting Emiratisation 2.0? For three reasons, first in the long run it could save the government money by decreasing their role in job creation. Secondly, public and private companies gain experienced Emiratis and have less turnover because they have sought their roles proactively, through counselling and mentorship, rather than being there until a better offer shows up. Last but certainly not least, our youth become more productive because they are doing work they love and have trained for since they were students.

Emiratisation is in place for all the right reasons, to ensure Emiratis are employed and have access to opportunities. But in the faster paced and ever changing world it has to be so much more than that, it has to get our youth thinking about how they are going to play their part in the growth and success of their country. We need a workforce that is creating the next big thing rather than waiting for it, that is when you know Emiratisation has been successful.
 
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The author is a columnist on education and youth development.

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