MUSCAT: Omanis, who graduate from universities and colleges should be properly trained, before they take over managerial roles in the private sector from expatriates, a member of the Shura Council said recently.
This was also concluded after a meeting between the Youth and Human Resources Committee of the Shura Council and CEOs of major private companies, which was held recently. The meeting was part of the Committee’s study on Omanisation in managerial positions in the private sector.
Mohammed Al Busaidi, the head of the Committee, said Omani candidates should gradually take up such roles. “We don’t expect them to take over immediately and get a managerial job. At least, a graduate will be appointed to work next to an expatriate for some time, to gain experience from him,” he stated.
He also said that currently there was a mismatch between higher education programmes and the requirements such companies have when they are looking for candidates.
He added that during the meeting companies had stressed on the need to improve the connection of higher education programmes with their requirements.
“Especially in the accounting and engineering jobs, they could not find Omanis,” Al Busaidi pointed out.
The companies suggested establishing a special institute where fresh Omani graduates can be trained with specific skills, in order to prepare them to compete with expatriates better, according to Al Busaidi.
Furthermore, the companies proposed holding seminars between businesses, to share expe- riences around Omanisation.
Tonia Gray, general manager at Competence HR, confirmed that there needs to be greater collaboration between education and industry to determine what type of qualifications are required by businesses. She added that fresh graduates should also temper their expectations.
“Given that fresh graduates have no real work experience, they should expect to take positions at lower levels in companies to ensure that they understand businesses from the ground up, ultimately making them far more competent when they reach the higher levels of any company. The current expectations are that because they have a degree, they should enter the market at a supervisory or above level, with a commensurate salary,” Gray stated.
Educational institutes also have a role to play here, according to Gray. She said that universities have to make students understand that any job, no matter what level, adds value to both the organisation and the students themselves.
“The soft skills required and an understanding of work ethics should be a compulsory module within education as knowing a subject theoretically does not equate it with the implementation of knowledge in a workplace,” she noted.
Al Busaidi said the Committee had requested the companies to come up with a five-year plan to train graduates.
“Unless we have a plan, we will not achieve anything. But we don’t expect the companies to fire all the [expatriate] managers and appoint fresh graduates,” he said.
Some companies are offering training to take up these roles. Al Julanda Khalid Al Aghbari, a senior consultant, People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young, said they train fresh graduates to prepare them for senior positions. “We’ll make them qualified to be seniors within three years,” he said.
Earlier, the Times of Oman had quoted Al Busaidi as saying that benefits for Omanis in the private sector should be raised, in order to attract more of them at higher positions. Al Busaidi said this idea had not been discussed during the meeting with business owners, but that he had gotten “a positive signal that they are very serious about Omanisation.”
Al Busaidi also said that some of the companies were already doing “very well,” with an Omanisation rate of 30 per cent reported in this category, while others had achieved a lower rate of Omanisation. “But we need to offer more Omani job seekers positions at the higher level,” he stated.
Aya Al Mahruqi, HR coordinator at Nestlé Oman Trading, said that while most of their merchandisers are Omani, the higher positions are still held by expatriates.
“We have to have more benefits to attract Omanis at higher positions. Especially the government and oil sectors offer them very high benefits. Expatriates will accept a lesser offer, but with Omanis, the expectation may be much higher. However, it is not an issue for us, since all vacancies all filled,” she said.
Al Aghbari of Ernst & Young said his company too is working on the benefits. “We are trying to redesign our compensation and entitlements to make them fit for the market, to give more benefits for certain positions, including middle-management,” he said.
Commenting on the importance of increasing Omanisation in this category, Al Busaidi said it will benefit the economy, as Omani employees reinvest their earnings into the economy, whereas expatriate employees transfer a part of their salary to their own country.
Also, Omani managers might be more able to support their Omani staff, train them and increase Omanisation in the company, according to Al Busaidi.
“When we finish our study, we want to come up with recommendations that are feasible and can be implemented without [negatively] affecting the business. We, in the Majlis al Shura, want the private sector to earn profit and grow,” he said.