Jobs, jobs, jobs! A look at job creation solutions in the UAE

Last Spring I gave a final exam asking my students (two groups of young Emiratis from all seven Emirates) to address the issue of Emirati male youth unemployment and develop a strategic framework as if they were consulting for the government. I have finally compiled and analysed their answers. I will start with the general introduction and then go through the visions, missions, long term objectives, SWOT, Strategic Decisions, Priority Decisions, Gathering Resources and then Implementation.

I think there are some thoughtful and wise pieces of advice from these students... as many of them begin their jobs (yes, mainly in the army and public sector), we can at least be assured that there are some bright young minds starting their careers!

Much worldwide attention has been given to boys in the Arabian Gulf. In November 2012 The Economist wrote an article “Where are the jobs for the boys?” highlighting the upcoming “job crunch” in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates – where 90% of Emiratis are employed in the public sector. Young men in particular are not eager to gain the necessary skills through higher education to qualify for public sector or high skilled jobs. In May 2012 the New York Times published a piece “In the Gulf, Boys Falling Behind in School” highlighting an education system that is seen as failing the young men of the region. These articles highlight the enormous challenges faced by an education system which does not appear to be meeting the needs of the future generation of young men and the future knowledge based economy of the UAE...

The first step in any strategic plan is to develop a strong and forward thinking vision. Many students wrote of a vision for vocational training, through hands on experience and apprenticeships with "masters". Others spoke of creating programs to ensure youth were prepared for rewarding and productive work - exploiting natural talent and all working to ensure the Nation continues its quest for sustainable economic diversification and strengthen industries.

On to the mission... (and the fine ideas continued). The programs and plans put forward were often seen as in compliment to current educational institutions and universities. They spoke of equal access across all Emirates and encouraging training programs with private industry. The mission was not only to provide training and skills to the currently unemployed, but better prepare youth still in school to better meet the needs of the future economy.

The strategic objectives were bold - but also based on long term needs over short-term results. Some were specific - "By 2018, increase students' ability to enter university without any preparation years from 22% to 40%". Some were were general - "Create incentive and reward programs for students who excel in their studies" and others saw the need to have increased community involvement in the education system. 

Next came their SWOT analysis which they then used to make their "strategic decisions" and then their priority decision. Their analyses were solid, and provided a logical and thoughtful foundation to their decision making process.

The strategic decisions called for the inclusion of the relevant stakeholders to be part of any process - public and private organisations and policy makers and of course the motivated youth themselves. Some decisions involved lowering the starting salary of public employees (yes, this idea came from them) and developing programs for youth to understand the needs of the future economy. Creating more ties with schools (high schools and universities) so that young people understand the world of work and private firms understand Emirati culture in a clearer way.

One of the most well developed answers for the key strategic decision involved the creation of a motivation program - in particular for young men to acquire and develop skills that will be needed in the knowledge economy. Others focused on the development of a vocational program to target the key areas of strategic industrial growth for the nation. 

The required resources named weren't just human or financial - but involved active efforts to encourage the participation of all key stakeholders.

Each student described a plan (in more or less detail, not everyone gets an A or B!) to implement their decision and outlined the metrics they would use to judge success.

The issue of (un)employment in the Arabian Gulf and the wider Arab world is not going to be a simple one to solve - as my students described it will involve work on the part of all stakeholders and new "ways" of training than have typically been used in this region. I also liked that they saw the need for a motivated and active youth population to take advantage of new training and employment opportunities. 

Yes, they make me proud!


  1. Who else would defend us like this.. thank you Dr. Connie..

  2. Thank you Hamad :) You guys are the future and you make me proud - so it is only natural!

  3. SWOT analysis is important.. So proud to be one of you students

  4. I am proud to have you guys as my students :) I don't have to wait for great things from you, I already get great things from you!