Give us a chance, say talented young Omanis

Oman Sunday 21/May/2017 21:29 PM
By: Times News Service
Give us a chance, say talented young Omanis

Muscat: Young Omanis are talented. All they need is a chance.
This is the opinion shared not just by recent graduates, but also by representatives of Ireland House, an organisation that teaches skills to make students more competent in the workplace.
The reason students and graduates attend their courses, though, is because there is a large gap between the quality of skills taught to them in schools and what is required at work, said a representative from Ireland House.
“We researched public school syllabi and found out that many of them haven’t changed since 2006,” said Dané Smith, head of Ireland House’s Academic Department. “Technology is changing so fast and the needs of the workplace are forever shifting, so the educational institutions here need to adapt to these changes.”
Fatma Al Toqi and Shaima Al Balushi had a very similar version of events. Both graduated last year. “My qualifications are in demand by the oil and gas sector, but no one was willing to employ me,” said Al Toqi, who holds a quantity surveying degree. “All the companies here want experienced people, but if they don’t give us a chance, how will we gain experience? Quantity surveying involves a lot of field work, but I am a woman and companies don’t think it is safe for me to do such a job.”
“All of us are willing to work, but if companies want us Omanis to enter the workforce, they could at least give us a year’s training and then sign us for two-year contracts so that we gain employment and they have skilled workers,” added Al Balushi, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.
Al Toqi finally found work with Ireland House, and Al Balushi was recruited by Trust House International, an educational body that runs in collaboration with Ireland House to provide specialised training courses to workers in the energy sector.
“We are learning a lot in these jobs, but they are not what we studied,” they both said. “If this continues, many students will wonder what the point of all this education is, if they aren’t going to get to do what they want to do.”
It was a sentiment that was matched by Sheikha Al Battashi, who is currently enrolled in an English course at Ireland House.
“I graduated from Majan College and had to wait five years before I got a job,” she said. “I have lost count of the number of interviews I’ve attended, and was just sitting at home for that time. I had to wait so long to get a job, but many others would’ve surely given up hope. If you don’t get a job even after finishing your studies, what is the point of going to university?”
Times of Oman sought clarification from an HR expert on this matter. “Even I had to wait for three years to get a job after I finished my degree,” he said. “I get many people telling me the same thing and it is honestly quite depressing. When children here go to public school, the mentality of teachers is to just pass them onward, without much thought given to the subjects taught. By the time you finish school and enter university, there are significant gaps in what’s been taught and what needs to be learned, so the students struggle to do well, and are not ready for work. This education is supposed to prepare you, but the students are simply not ready, so what is the point of studying for more than 15 years of your life?”
Mark Cusack, a partner at Ireland House and operations manager for Trust House, said institutions in Oman need to prioritise quality over quantity.
“We sent a young Omani to Trinity College in Ireland, and he received top marks there,” he revealed. “The students here are talented and are willing to work hard; they just need a chance to prove their worth.”
The young Omanis I’ve seen are really keen to learn and work hard. With the number of jobs coming to Oman in the future because of economic expansion and Omanisation on the horizon, quality education will definitely help in the long-run.”