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Skill gap

Experts say there is an intensifying imperative for matching the skills of Omani jobseekers with the requirements of the job market. This must be true considering the diversification drive of the Sultanate that is picking up speed with the Tranfeedh initiative set rolling. Several higher education institutions have programmes for upgrading the skills of their graduates so as to make them competitive in the market. As Assistant Dean of Training and Community Service at Sultan Qaboos University’s College of Engineering Gazi Ali Al Rawas said, the quality of internship for undergraduate students can make a real “difference as we can see students become confident” after this programme. Young graduates stand to benefit from the opportunities that will be thrown up by the expected recovery in oil prices this year. A survey by a job website shows almost 65 per cent of employers of Mena region are planning to hire this year, which is a positive signal. The steps taken by the higher education authorities including compulsory internship, imparting of soft skills and continuous revision of courses must be appreciated. In the fast changing world of technology, the skill requirements keep changing. Gone are the days when an engineering graduate could be confidently come out of their institutions happy in the knowledge that the skills he or she earned in the college would be good enough for the rest of the career. The rapidly evolving technologies require the youth to constantly update themselves through various programmes or online training. The Sultanate’s diversification push also increases the need for jobseekers or those who are already employed to upgrade their skills.

This is one of the major issues that the government seeks to address with a far-sighted move to upgrade the skills of the national workforce for the manufacturing sector. The government’s foresight is evident in the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates’ (PEIE) extensive training programmes for equipping national youth with the necessary skill-sets. The programme, Azeemati, supported by Petroleum Development Oman and National Training Fund (NTF) is indication that the Omanisation drive is ripe to enter the next level in quality upgradation. That means the focus of the nation’s human capital development is on the right track, shifting the focus from quantity to quality. By improving the quality of Omani employees, the government wants to raise their employability and thus increase the pace of Omanisation. The NTF has since its formation taken several steps to upgrade the skill-sets of Omani youth and increase their employability. The NTF has taken the right step to rope in corporate houses like PDO to contribute to the task. In fact these corporate houses would eventually be the beneficiaries of a skilled candidate base. The government has been going ahead with the Omanisation drive with most departments exceeding the mandatory levels. But one of the key issues that has rankled with the government is the low rate of Omanisation in the private sector. The authorities have stressed the importance of going beyond the minimum level of Omanisation. Such skill upgradation programmes will make the Omani graduate more competitive and make it impossible for the private sector to ignore them.