Omanisation is about quality, not quantity

Energy Sunday 25/March/2018 22:02 PM
By: Times News Service
Omanisation is about quality, not quantity

Muscat: Private sector companies in the Sultanate must have a five-year plan for recruiting and training young Omanis, instead of simply hiring in bulk to meet quotas, according to a senior Omani economist.
Ann Al Kindi is a member of the Economic Association and has formerly held roles in the Ministry of Finance and the Supreme Council for Planning. She believes that the national plan for developing Omani youth for the job market, also known as Omanisation, is often misinterpreted by private companies, and that it has caused confusion and resentment in the job market.
“Omanisation was never about hiring hundreds of Omanis. It’s about developing Omanis so they can do a job better. It is about their financial, competence and confidence development.
“So, companies must have a plan before hiring Omanis. They must submit it to the government, not just the number, but also a five-year plan on how they intend to develop the youth. You cannot have a company take in 10 drivers and say it has complied with the Omanisation rate. That is not compliance, but evasion,” Al Kindi said.
“Omanisation should be a qualitative not quantitative policy and it is the role of the Ministry of Manpower and not the private sector. However, implementation is the responsibility of the private sector. The second thing is that Omanisation should be a policy for HR development, not as an employment tool. It should, at the end of the day, create a pool of talent for the country,” she added.
She further added that although a lot of big companies have complied with Omanisation rates, their staff at mid-management or decision-making levels had next to no locals. Al Kindi also rubbished private sector complaints on the lack of competency within the Omani population citing the oil and gas Omanisation model.
“Let’s look at the oil and gas sector. Omanis are working in oilfields in unforgiving temperatures under the sun and the sector has done so well. This was because companies such as PDO made the effort to set up a well-established model for local development. After this, no one can say that Omanis can’t work or are lazy. It doesn’t make sense,” she explained.
Government data from NCSI shows that nearly half the Omanis employed in the private sector are earning less than OMR550, which Al Kindi believes is a huge part of the problem.
“This shows that you have hired Omanis to fill the lower positions because you haven’t made the effort to look out for competent Omanis. This mindset needs to change. There are some brilliant Omanis passing out of colleges every year and such an attitude is hurting their confidence,” she added.
Although an advocate of Omanisation, Al Kindi believes that looking at expats as competition in the job market isn’t right either.
“HR development in Oman is a shared responsibility between the public and private sectors. It is time to direct the Corporate Social Responsibility toward training and development. I believe in a multicultural working environment, and all expats have helped in building Oman. Omanis should learn from them, as there should be a transfer of knowledge from expats to Omanis. I also believe diversified nationalities enrich the culture,” she explained.
“In terms of Omanisation, if you were to simply take two million Omanis and replace the two million expatriates, it is huge; so it is a no-brainer, but is it practically possible? I cannot replace a farm-worker or a heavy-duty truck driver, or a 14-hours-a-day security guard or port worker with an Omani,” Pankaj Khimji, Partner Director at Khimji Ramdas, said.
“Secondly, there are skills, and Oman needs to re-address its education and technical education platform, and adapt to skill-based education rather than vocational education. I’ve always tried to influence and educate society by saying that two-thirds of children in developed countries will not pursue a theoretical education after 14 years of age, and they go for vocation-based, skill-based education,” he added.
Fabio Scacciavillani, Chief Economist at the Oman Investment Fund, said: “The government should target policies that take into account and expand the skill set of the Omani workforce. Specifically, the education system needs to provide students with professional and technical skills the market requires and that are currently in short supply. The challenge is to strengthen the competences of the workforce to make sure that Omanis can effectively compete in the labour market and take advantage of the opportunities the government is creating through the relentless diversification efforts. Moreover, it is essential to guide students in their curriculum choice. They must be accurately informed on the career opportunities and professional competencies that will be in high demand in the future to avoid a disconnect between vacancies, aspiration and skillsets. The private sector needs to contribute to this effort by actively linking with schools and universities and inducing the students to pursue ambitious goals rather than low-hanging fruits.”
He added, “Unfortunately, there are no easy recipes for successful employment policies in Oman, as in the rest of the world. Global competition nowadays hinges on the quality of human capital. In essence, the world economy is a contest among the best minds. The challenge for policymakers consists in optimising resources and design policies at a macro and micro level, targeting a constant improvement of the workforce across the expertise spectrum.”