Muscat: Expat graduates must be prepared to leave Oman for work as local jobs dry up, experts have advised.
WATCH: Expat graduates asked to leave Oman as local jobs dry up
Students say they are forced to look at overseas openings as Omanisation kicks in and the Sultanate looks to improve the skill sets of its own citizens.
“There is nearly nothing for expat fresh graduates in Oman. In the past few years I have seen less than one per cent of jobs listed for expat fresh graduates. The best option is to look at international markets as a university education in Oman guarantees nothing in terms of jobs in Oman. You can’t search for a job when it is not there,” Prabhu Shankar, Assistant General Manager at MENA HR solutions said.
“We have nearly 40 per cent of our students that are expats. We have seen companies in career fairs hire extremely few of them – almost none due to the fact that they have to maintain their Omanisation percentage. I think students should look outside for opportunities and not in Oman, for obvious reasons,” Prashant Singh, Academic Advisor at Waljat College of Applied Sciences said.
The Indian government recently hiked education fees for NRI students who wish to return to India to study by almost 500 per cent, leaving them, in a Catch-22 situation, with no job prospects here and priced out of further education in India. “Of course such a ruling is going to have an effect on expat population in universities but we have seen an expat exodus, which should keep student population steady,”Singh added.
Many expat students who pursue higher education in Oman are long term residents.
Expat students who are brought up in Oman often find it hard to adjust to the different environment in their “home” countries.
“I think the people who have lived in Oman for generations, whose families have been contributing to the Oman’s economy for a long time, deserve to at least be acknowledged if they are exceptional instead of keeping them out of the picture completely. They can always be a great boon to the employer as they have the experience of the system in the country,” Shankar said.
“Oman is the home that I have always known. I have gone back to my country of origin only twice in the past 22 years but I am an expat and treated similar to a person who is applying for a job from abroad.
“It is a sad thing because we contribute to Oman all our life even in education sector. It is so hard to adjust back home when you have stayed all your life in Oman,” Ashiq, an Indian engineering student who was born in Oman, said.
“I have lived in Oman for so long. When I tell someone I have lived in Oman for more than 20 years they say I am like an Omani, but when I go for jobs, we are rejected as if we never lived here in Oman. I love the country, there’s no better country in the world to go, but people who come from universities abroad get more importance than us. I don’t know why this happens. I think talented graduates who have studied here need to stay to be a part of Oman’s development,” Ahmed, an Indian graduate jobseeker, said.
The Oman government introduced a series of suggested improvements after its Tanfeedh labs, designed to diversify the economy away from oil and gas and train Oman’s future generations to succeed in other sectors, like tourism. The labs also recommended enhancing training for Omanis and introducing work experience in industry to make them ready for new careers.
Hassan Al Barwani, Manager of Talent Acquisition Development & Omanisation
At Petroleum Development Oman, said: “PDO is committed to the sustainable development of Oman and central to that aim is the development of a professional, skilled Omani workforce.
“In the long run, it makes more financial sense for the Sultanate’s businesses to attract, recruit, develop and retain qualified Omanis than hiring expensive staff from abroad.
“Of course, we value the input and expertise of expatriates in Oman but the country needs to reach a position where the competency gap closes and nationals step up to the plate, both in terms of aptitude and attitude.
“At PDO, we are already seeing this with talented Omanis taking over very technical and skilled positions as expatriate contracts expire. We currently have an Omanisation rate of 77% and we are expecting this to go a lot higher in the next three to four years.
“At the same time, we are firm believers in training which is internationally certified so that it allows young Omanis to work not only at home but also compete overseas.
“Every year, thousands of new graduates arrive on the job market and it is imperative that the job and training opportunities are there for them to succeed.
“We are working hard with all our stakeholders, especially the Government, academia and contractors, to make sure that happens.”
According to Shashwar Al Balushi, CEO of the Oman Society of Contractors and a member of the Tanfeedh manpower labs, Omani graduates will play a very important role in developing the Omani economy if they are employed and trained in the right way.
“If companies are able to develop young Omani graduates that are coming up, we will see Omani companies do better in the future. The important issue here however is that Omani graduates must think more about the career learning curve than salaries and position. They must be prepared to work hard and come up through the ranks owing to their excellence at work and not expect someone to give them a job because they have completed a degree,” he said.
“I think Omanisation is very important for the economy of Oman. The young graduates will be the future of Oman and they need to be trained. It is absolutely necessary to train our graduates to help them become better at their profession in the future. There are of course challenges due to the economic conditions and other things that need to be addressed to do it,” Ahmed Al Hooti, member of OCCI said.