Leaders call on firms to employ nationals

The question of private sector growth dominated the business agenda at WEF – and in addition the challenge of creating jobs that would satisfy the career aspirations of the GCC states’ highly educated nationals.

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By  Andrew White in Egypt Published  May 28, 2006

The question of private sector growth dominated the business agenda at WEF – and in addition the challenge of creating jobs that would satisfy the career aspirations of the GCC states’ highly educated nationals. His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa, Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said that his country’s objective was to create incentives for private employers to hire Bahraini nationals, without resorting to quotas or expensive government subsidies. This will mean creating a labour market that “is free and fair and flexible”, he said, and providing the skilled workers the private sector requires. “Over time, we will create an effective minimum national wage for Bahrainis,” he said. “At the same time, we are giving more rights to expats, so that they are not practically indentured servants, as they are today.” Rudi Lamprecht, of the corporate Executive Committee of German giant Siemens, said that many recent graduates of the region’s universities did not possess the specific skills his company required. “The educational system is quite good in many cases, but tend to be rather theoretical,” he said. “[The universities] aren’t meeting the practical requirements of a competitive company.” In response, Rawya Al Busaidi, Minister of Higher Education of Oman, acknowledged that institutions needed to “fine tune” their teaching. She said that the challenge lies in anticipating the industrial needs of the future, which can change more rapidly than colleges and universities can change their curricula. “The question that must be asked,” she said, “is whether we’re supposed to train people for the jobs of today or for those of tomorrow.” If it is the latter, she added, it “may be more meaningful for us to produce graduates with generic skills, who know how to learn, and leave the actual technical training to the companies themselves.”

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