Muscat: Oman’s current generation of students have been asked not to wait for jobs to come their way, but to be proactive towards setting up their own businesses and meeting people who can help them.
The news comes after a report from Ithraa, Oman’s Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development, stressed the importance of setting up new businesses, one of the cornerstones of economic expansion.
“Entrepreneurship isn’t something special that a few people are born with, it’s a way of thinking that can be nurtured and promoted amongst Oman’s youth,” said Ali Al Balushi, follow-up and planning advisor for Ithraa. “Perhaps people don’t realise the size of the global youth population and its economic importance. Today, more than half the world is aged 30 or under. Encouraging and facilitating new business formation is one of the most important economic and social activities the government is currently involved in."
“Many governments around the world are re-thinking their strategies for generating employment and economic development,” he added. “Indeed, many are no longer trying to lure existing businesses from other places, but instead shifting their focus to growing their own entrepreneurial talent. Start-ups, small and medium-sized firms are growing in importance. They create new jobs, employ a large number of people, contribute to the nation’s GDP, produce innovations, account for a large portion of in-country sales, and employ high tech workers - such as scientists, engineers and IT workers.”
Academic advisors and youth trainers in Oman seemed to agree with this view. Otbah Al Harmali, deputy manager of training for the SME Development Fund, said roles are now needed in economies that previously didn’t even exist.
“Most of the job descriptions have changed over the past years,” he told Times of Oman. “Some roles today didn’t even exist a short time ago. Tomorrow, a very large group of jobs will require relatively few high-level workers, but on the other hand, highly technical jobs are wide open because there aren’t enough people with the skills to occupy them. If you want to compete and stay relevant in the marketplace, you’ve got to focus on building a reputation, trust, and a following.”
He said: “Start with the basics, ensure that your image comes across as professional, polished, and appropriate for an organisation that you are interested in. The ability to embrace technology and machines is about the ability to get things done. In your personal life, resilience is often linked to overcoming problems and obstacles. In a business setting, however, resilience helps you transform obstacles into solutions and opportunities.”
Prashant Singh, academic advisor for training and development at Waljat College, said many students who came to him were worried about what the job market held for them.
“Most companies worldwide are trying to reduce costs, so they want students to perform from day one, and they should be well trained in certain skills before joining,” he said. “Most companies are looking for employees that are trainable, so jobs are less in number and the aspirants are more. To outperform, students need to have extra skills apart from their normal academics. Students need to understand that they need to grab whatever opportunity they get, and they can move later."
“Entrepreneurship is the one area which everyone should focus on, because this helps people create opportunities for others and the government is supporting this area,” added Singh. “I get questions from students about the difficulty in getting a job, so I advise students to then begin an internship. Even if a job is not available full-time, jobs are opening up. In an internship, you can showcase your abilities that can be accommodated in an organisation, because there is never a situation wherein there is no demand for workers. The thing is though, that you need to shine in an organisation and show them your potential.”
Jassim Al Balushi, deputy head of education and professional development at the National University of Science and Technology, said such jobs would help the country produce more goods within, and reduce its need for imports.
“Students need to be taught the entrepreneurial state of mind from the school level onwards,” he said. “They need to know the different kinds of businesses such as manufacturing, retail, wholesale and services. We in Oman import a lot of things from outside, so our generation has to think about these kinds of businesses. It is not good to wait for a job, and it is better to start your own business."
“Small and medium enterprises affect the country and society positively, so they need to learn how to set up small shops,” he added. “There needs to be a change in the mind set from becoming employees to employers. Students today have to have great management skills, communication skills, risk-taking skills and financial skills, all of which are related to businesses, because if we don’t have these skills now, it will be difficult later to cope in case of emergencies. It’s not about just setting up a business and then sitting down. It’s about learning to manage it.”