Saudi students not properly prepared for KSA jobs

Around 45% of KSA students not studying subjects that prepare them for the labour market

Picture for illustrative purposes only.
Picture for illustrative purposes only.

A senior Saudi Labour ministry official has said around 45% of university students are studying subjects that don’t adequately prepare them for the country’s work market.

Ibrahim Al-Moaiqil, director general of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) at the Labour Ministry said that there were fewer students taking up technical and vocational studies.

The HRDF has introduced an ‘electronic employment portal’ – a web service it calls Doroob – which offers free online training for students and job seekers and issues accredited certificates which are recognised by the country’s top employers.

“The electronic employment portal seeks to smooth the way for job seekers who want to join the labor market, and helps improve their performance by providing them with the necessary skills,” said Al-Moaiqil.

The Doroob program courses include interpersonal training, English language skills and computer skills. Job-specific training courses such as retail sales assistant, hotel front desk clerk, and IT support assistant are also available.

Saudi Arabia is on a major push to get more nationals into private sector work. The Nitaqat programme has been met with a degree of success to date, but the HRDF recently stated that issues remained. The HRDF said that around 30% of Saudi employees drop out of work for private sector companies within the first three months.

Dr Mansour bin Abdulaziz Al-Mansour, deputy general director of he HRDF said that many who left private sector employment went to work for government departments, most of them for either the education or military sectors. It is precisely what the Saudi government’s Nitaqat, or Saudisation, is trying to avoid by encouraging private sector firms to hire Saudi nationals.

He said that the HRDF has designed a “serious work reward” to encourage nationals into private sector jobs, and that “program has already boosted the nationalisation (Saudisation) program adopted by the Kingdom, and has enormously contributed to the stability of Saudi workers in their jobs.”

He also said the HRDF was working with universities and the Ministry of Education to address the imbalance between qualifications and job requirements demanded in the private sector.

In January, Riyadh-based investment bank Jadwa Investments stated that the Kingdom’s construction sector remained exceptionally healthy with $1.2 trillion in projects currently planned or under development. It also said that there had been a 34% jump in the number of Saudi nationals employed in the construction sector.

The report stated: “According to data from the Ministry of Labour, the Saudisation rate in the private sector increased from 10.9% to 15.2% between 2011 and 2013.” Saudi growth in the private sector, the report states, is around 26 percent – outstripping the growth of foreigners employed (9.4%) considerably.

But the construction industry – the most labour intensive part of the private sector – has seen even better results under the Nitaqat system, with a 34% jump in the number of Saudis employed. Saudi workers now represent 10.3% of the construction workforce which is still some way off the 12% the government is targeting, and considerably short of the more ambitious targets set under phase three of the programme, due to be implemented in April 2015.

“The higher growth in Saudi employment in the construction sector is impressive given the particularly high wage differential from non-Saudis. Saudis in the construction sector earned a monthly average of SAR3330 [USD887] in 2013, while non-Saudis earned only SAR1029 [USD274],” the report stated.

“Looking ahead, we see that while employment growth of nationals in labour intensive sectors is expected to continue improving as companies in these sectors adjust to new norms, further raising the Saudisation rate in high-skilled sectors - mainly manufacturing – remains a challenge.

“We believe that one of the main impediments to higher growth of Saudi employment in these sectors is the lack of skill-matching between educational achievements and these sector’s requirements; a challenge that we believe is being matched through ongoing initiatives that include significant investments in the education sector particularly on vocational training as well as the ongoing King Abdullah foreign scholarship program.”

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