Firms seek to hire more Emiratis

Construction companies in the UAE are attempting to recruit more Emiratis to address a severe shortage of skilled workers – but have been hindered by the limited number of graduates.


The building sector is set to grow by almost 30 per cent annually and is already struggling to find trained employees, such as engineers and project managers.

UAE nationals are highly desirable to the firms as part of their Emiratisation strategies, but are in short supply.


Educators are aware of the shortage and UAE University’s College of Engineering has announced plans to open a college in Dubai to meet the growing demand for engineers. The new fee-charging institute will be based in Knowledge Village and will open in September next year, said Ashraf Biddah, associate professor, Structural Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, UAE University.


According to figures from Meed, the UAE construction industry is expected to grow by 29.6 per cent a year by 2010 and together with the real estate sector will make up 23 per cent of the country’s economy by 2010, compared to 16 per cent in 2006.


As a result, the few skilled Emirati students who graduate each year are inundated with job offers. UAE University sends out 50 to 60 engineering students each year, and 95 per cent of the seats at its Engineering College are reserved for nationals.


“Even as they approach their final semester there are three to four job offers lined up for each student. There is a massive demand for engineering graduates,” said Biddah. “It is not just the boys who register to be engineers. This year, almost 35 per cent of our students are girls.”


In order to compete, companies have begun to change their recruitment policies to make employment in the construction industry more appealing to UAE nationals.


Mariam Azmy, HR director at Dubai-based Al Shafar General Contracting, said: “As the first step to try and encourage local candidates, we are reducing the probation period. UAE nationals will have to serve just one month on probation. In addition, the HR department is planning to register all national employees with the General Pension and Social Security Authority.”


Ibrahim bin Desmal, manager, HR and administration, Saeed & Mohamed Al Naboodah Group, said: “We have doubled the number of local employees during the past two years. There are 100 per cent more Emirates now compared to 2005.”