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Middle East – Vocational skills gap worsening among graduates

23 September 2013

Experts in the educational and recruitment sectors say that fresh graduates in the Middle East lack vocational, job-specific skills, according to the Saudi Gazette. This news comes at a time when countries throughout the Middle East are working to prioritise local, rather than international, recruitment.  

The Arab world suffers from an “education system that still does not put sufficient emphasis on technical, market-relevant skills,” noted the Swiss-based International Labour Organization in this year’s report on global employment trends.

Additionally, research conducted earlier this year by the online recruitment website Bayt.com indicated that 20% of professionals in the Middle East and North Africa blame their education system for being ill-prepared for the current job market.

Suhail Masri, vice president of sales at Bayt, said: “This is seen as a major impediment to career growth, as education and professional training are necessary to thrive in an increasingly competitive global arena.”

Even more disheartening is the result of another survey conducted by a recruitment firm two years ago, which showed that only 7.6% of respondents attributed their career success to a good education.

Patrick Daru, senior skills and employability specialist at the Beirut-based branch of the International Labor Organization said many firms in the region experience relatively unskilled graduates in entry-level positions.

Mr Daru told Al Arabia: “Employers in the region are constantly complaining about the lack of skills, specifically, the lack of skills that are valid for all jobs, what other people would call “live” skills for instance – communication, team building, and self-discipline.”

A Dubai-based recruitment specialist also noted the importance of “transferable” skills, which refer to the skills gathered in previous jobs, volunteer work or hobbies and can be used in your next career.

Suhail Masri added: “In this era of high employment turnover and mobility, your transferable skills are the arsenal that ensures your marketability, increases your professional competitive advantage and eases your transition into any new role.”

Mr Daru noted the existence of a skills gap among graduates, with many being under qualified and others with a higher level of education than is deemed necessary.

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