Graduates’ lack of business skills is big problem for private sector

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 06 Oct 2015

But new EY report reveals only 27 per cent of GCC organisations offer work experience

Over half of organisations surveyed by EY said graduates’ lack of work experience was a significant problem, with employers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar particularly affected.
But EY’s new report, How will the GCC close the skills gap?, found that only 27 per cent of GCC private sector employers offer work experience or internship programmes that might help bridge the gap. Just 30 per cent of students surveyed said they’ve been able to take advantage of work experience opportunities.
“The exposure of young people to business, and ideas of enterprise and entrepreneurship, is very limited,” says Will Cooper, partner and MENA government social infrastructure leader at EY in Dubai. “In more developed economies such as the UK, young people are getting career guidance at school from as early as 12 or 13 years old.”
A third of private sector employers reported that local graduates lacked the behavioural attributes – such as communication skills, discipline and commitment to work – that are essential to long-term career success.
“A university student from the GCC is probably about two to three years behind their UK peer in terms of business and employability skills,” says Cooper. “It’s a timebomb.”
EY’s report recommends that private organisations make more of an effort to reach out to students at school or college.
“The private sector needs to engage more with young people, such as by offering work experience programmes,” says Cooper. “Young people need to connect with future employers at an earlier point in their lives, so they can start to see what their career paths could look like, and develop the professional behaviours they’ll need later on in life.”
Organisations should also plan to invest more in new talent, recommended the report: 20 per cent of those surveyed said they offered no training at all to new hires, while just 6 per cent offered a graduate training programme.
“Employers need to recognise the long-term value of investing in the professional development of staff,” says Cooper. “It can help to dramatically cut staff attrition rates, which are as high as 40-50 per cent per year in Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector.”