Developing a national skills base is gaining increasing importance in the UAE. As such, Tanmia, the National Human Resources Development & Employment Authority, has teamed up with New Horizons to push a training program geared towards school leavers.

Emiratisation initiative Developing a national skills base and producing an IT-literate generation of students and graduates is gaining increasing importance in the UAE. As such, Tanmia, the National Human Resources Development & Employment Authority, has teamed up with New Horizons to push a training program geared towards school leavers.

The Tanmia and New Horizons initiative is focusing on equipping school leavers with the basic technical and soft skills expertise needed to enter the workplace.

Describing the deal with New Horizons as a “strategic relationship,” Tanmia’s director general, Yousuf Abdullah Abdulghani says the contract was the result of “the increasing demand for IT [skills] and the need for effective participation of UAE nationals in the labour market.”

“Tanmia’s role is not only creating an employment opportunity for them [nationals] and enhancing their chances of finding a job, but also trying to proactively work with the education institutes to ensure that the generation to come will meet the market requirements in terms of skills and competencies,” he explains.

The national authority is planning a two-fold strategy to stoke demand and supply both in the private sector and among the UAE nationals themselves. “We like to stimulate the nationals to work in the private sectors and also stimulate the private sector interest and trust in nationals,” he explains.

Tanmia and New Horizons carry out an assessment process to identify “those students that require training,” says Ahmed Al Sirkal, training manager, Tanmia.

In the initial phase of the ‘Tanmia National Program for Job Seekers’, 30 students will be trained over a 14-week period. The students, who will be split into two groups of 15, will complete 346 hours of training during this period. Tanmia will also cover the training costs for the selected participants.

The core components of the course will be: computer training, soft skills, business English training, job simulation training and technology based training.

According to New Horizons’ CEO & president, Fahd Al Othman, the course has been developed from similar initiatives carried out by the company in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

“In 1995, when we started out in Kuwait we realised there was a similar [unemployment] problem of locals not finding jobs. We realised that we had a role to play there, and that with the retraining program we could probably tackle the situation,” explains Al Othman.

New Horizons spent $1 million establishing a research & development centre in Kuwiat and customising the original US-based solution for the market.

“We realised that we couldn’t just transfer the exact program, we had to do lots of adaptations to match the local problems and issues. As a result we came up with the career development program that cover about five or sixdifferent majors within information technology,” Al Othman explains.

Both Tanmia and New Horizons underline the importance of soft skills in establishing a work ethic and self-motivation among the UAE’s future workforce.

The course will also provide students with an insight into business organisations, time management, communications and public relaitions skills.

Al Othman also stresses the cultural and political difficulties of establishing a localisation program for the workforce.

“Everybody can localise, and everybody can come up with a policy and say you have to put X percentage of local people [in a job]. By law, by force, or by penalties you can do that. But, what is more difficult to do is to maintain or improve the efficiencies of organisations and yet achieve localisation — that’s the true challenge,” he comments.

Sacrificing efficiency and improvement to employing nationals could also prove detrimental to the national economy, adds Al Othman. “Dubai has reached a very significant level of efficiency in its private sector companies, and in its public sector. It will be a loss to the country and the economy if we lose that,” he says.

Although Tanmia stresses the long-term nature of the Emiratisation process, the deal with New Horizons only covers the initial two training groups. Abdualghani says it is looking to take the initiative beyond 2002 but it “depends on New Horizons success and the employability of the nationals after the programs.”

For Al Othman success is measured by the opportunities and value nationals can bring in their future jobs. “Corporates must start to view locals as opportunities to create wealth rather than as a burden,” concludes Al Othman.