Oman has a large demographic window of opportunity in the youth population but the Sultanate needs to accelerate its efforts for the socio-economic development of the young people to expand their leadership skills.
Enough has been said about Omanising jobs but more is needed to develop the skills of youth to prepare them for globalisation. There are no youth development centres in Oman to allow them express themselves and widen the scope of their talents. The existing arrangements are rudimentary. A recent report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) urged Oman to strengthen the national policies and integrate the youth with international agendas.
Currently, Omani youths are largely isolated from global issues. Their only window to the world affairs is the social media. In education, both basic and advanced, there are very few exchange programmes that allows our youth to travel abroad to broaden their critical thinking. The effort also needs to go beyond the four walls of the academia.
They need to see their aspirations fulfilled by giving them the opportunities to expand their horizons and test their skills. Oman has the National Youth Committee (NYC), but it needs to work with them in providing technical assistance for development of an internal strategy. NYC also needs to work with international youth networks, to expose local young people with other youth around the world. Sharing ideas at a global level does not need big investment. It needs good management, which NYC already has in place.
When we talk about the economic diversification plans, the youth can play a big part towards that end. But our youth needs help to develop their creative and independent thinking. The honest truth is that their problem solving skills and soft skills are not up to the required standards. Not enough emphasis is invested to improve their technical, functional, vocational and management abilities to suit specific economic sectors. It is not just the job vacancies that are required to be created. Much more is needed to be done before this stage. With the changing world, a more global and holistic approach is needed to fill up the vacancy in the youth development.
Youth skill development can establish Oman as emerging hub for tourism, retail, hospitality and Information Technology (IT). These are the strategic roles to pull in investments from overseas. However, efforts in youth empowerment need to change the current mindset, not only from the part of the legislators but from the young people themselves for the idea to roll over. The new generation has been groomed to believe that ‘doing very little’ is enough to get you a job of your dream. To achieve good grades at school is not enough. To engage in extra curriculum activities that challenge their mental faculties after classes plays a pivotal and supporting role.
Such activities cultivate new interests, create a new generation of open-minded youth who want to make contributions that extend beyond the current mindset. To nurture all-round skills in youth is important to fulfil the demands of the competitive job market employers need. The taste of success is sampled by a good degree of innovation which is the driving factor for a successful career or entrepreneurship. For a youth to be original, they need to be one step ahead of progress. They do not always teach you that at schools but it is learned with the interaction of other youth when they are together to exchange views on how to improve their situations.
The paradigm needs to change, too, not just the mindset. There should be a large peer to peer group that involves other youth from other countries, especially in the age group between 14 and 25. Life skills, not just academic, will enable young people of Oman to make solid decisions and solve problems in a more efficient manner.