The demand for jobs is outstripping supply in countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, forcing nationals to accept semi-skilled jobs despite the fact they are university educated. People Management spoke to Abdulmajeed Al Balushi, acting managing director – Middle East at The RBL Group, about how companies can capture and utilise the unrealised talent of GCC nationals.

Is the growth of higher education in the Gulf states good news for business?

Yes. According to the Statistical Centre for the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 2016 report GCC Economy Prospects 2016-2017, the number of higher education students increased by 14 per cent in the academic year 2011/12, compared to the previous year, while the number of Gulf students studying abroad increased by 34 per cent over the same period.

This will contribute in a positive way to the labour market due to the creation of a specialised workforce in various fields. However, it will require a completely different style of job creation, and one that is increasingly based on the private sector in the short and medium term.

What needs to be different about the style of job creation?

Companies should employ modern technologies to increase the efficiency of their operations and speed up their capacity building efforts, which in turn will enhance their competitive advantage.

The banking, financial services and communications industries are successful at utilising modern technology to create skilled jobs and specialised employment opportunities, resulting in very high numbers of nationals being employed, which in some Gulf countries exceeds 90 per cent of the total number of jobs in those sectors.

Why are there so many unskilled jobs?

There is an absence of research and development by companies in respect to technologies that can help create specialised jobs in engineering and technology. And there’s a lack of integration between academic research institutions and companies operating in the oil and gas sector, which has led to the continuation of the Gulf countries being a technology consumer, rather than a supplier.

The geographic position of the Gulf countries and their proximity to cheap labour-exporting countries has directly contributed to the promotion of a specific pattern of investment, which also contributes to the creation of unskilled jobs.

According to the World Economic Forum’s report The Future of Jobs, a large percentage of GCC nationals are employed in sectors that are at high risk of disruption by new digital technologies. How important is it for them to ensure they are skilled in digital technology relevant to their profession, in order to ensure their skills remain relevant?

Part of the digital transformation at any organisation is the people element. HR is key to ensuring the success of this transformation, and has to focus not only on building people capabilities, but also on building the right leadership to be able to interact with these new technologies through a new mindset focused on big data and augmented solutions.

In addition, architecting the right culture in the organisation is a critical element to this success. Putting the right talent management systems, leadership development and organisation capability in place is the first step for businesses to transform.

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