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Omani graduates look to tourism, hospitality as oil and gas jobs dry up: Ministry

Tourists take a camel ride to visit the Bedouin village at Wahiba Sands. (Oman Tourism Ministry)
Tourists take a camel ride to visit the Bedouin village at Wahiba Sands. (Oman Tourism Ministry)

Omanis argue over salary, do not have the skillset or do not apply for positions in some of the best companies in the Sultanate, according to key executives.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education has found that oil and gas positions, up until last year the most sought after jobs, have slumped, replaced with careers in tourism, hospitality and banking.

The current economic crisis faced by Oman has impacted job market trends in the country, according to the Employers Survey 2016.

The survey, which was released this month, studied the private sector’s views about the suitability of graduates’ abilities and competence and enquired about plans for employing fresh graduates.

It also surveyed the skillset employers focus on while hiring graduates and touched upon the difficulties they faced finding suitable graduates across different specialisations and qualifications.

The survey , involving over 600 executives, showed that the following five sectors will be hiring in 2017: installation and maintenance service, industries, oil and gas, banking, and tourism.

Sectors such as banking, tourism and hospitality will see higher demand for graduates in the same year.

Oil and gas, which was the sector hiring the most graduates in 2015, has been impacted due to low oil prices and the financial downturn, and in 2016 has moved down to the third position, in terms of hiring.

“Low prices of oil have also affected some sectors, such as the oil and gas industry, which is why they have moved down in 2016. Perhaps, tourism and hospitality is becoming stronger as it is focused on as a sector of the future,” Dr. Fatma Al Hajri, director general of MoHE’s Graduate Survey Department, said.

Humaid Al Sharji is a fresh engineering graduate from one of the higher education colleges in Oman, and he just landed a job at an oil and gas subsidiary. The slump in the oil and gas sector’s hiring trendsbothers him. “It was expected, but it is also not great to hear this because obviously we will be looking for better companies sometime from now. However if the sector is not hiring much, there might be very less scope for that because they always look for experienced people. I fear for the industry because even the salaries are too low, but we have to accept it because we are fresh graduates.”

Afaf Al Shuhaibi is a student at one of the best universities in Oman. She was expecting a change in the hiring trend because of the current economic slowdown, but is also ready for such changes.

“As a student you have to be prepared for it, but one day we can hope that the oil prices will rise again and the economy will improve. Also, here in Oman they are trying to encourage students to open their businesses; this can be another alternative to the service industry. If there is a persistent problem, I will apply for a job abroad.”

According to executives, graduates in Management, Commerce, Engineering and IT majors, are being hired more than others; this is also in line with the Graduate Survey 2015, which reported that graduates of these fields are employed the most.

The survey has also asked executives about reasons for employing non-Omani graduates, and three main factors were highlighted. First, Omani applicants reject jobs because of salaries and other issues, second, they were not suitable in terms of their experience and training, and finally, no applications were received from Omani graduates to fill those positions.

The medium of recruitment was also surveyed, and results indicated that 43 per cent of the employers used public recruiting agencies and newspaper advertisements, and only about 17 per cent of executives reported that they were employed through university career fairs.

The results also indicated that work experience is the most important criteria for hiring, followed by interpersonal and communication skills, and then the passion, commitment and attitude of the graduate. Academic achievement came in fifth in the order of the criteria employers consider while recruiting.

The executives also reported that graduates lack certain skills, such as speaking and writing in English, followed by working under pressure, and interpersonal and communication skills.

Al Sharji said when he first applied for a job, he didn’t face any challenges in terms of lack of skills, but lack of experience was a challenge. “It’s tough when everyone wants an experienced candidate and you come with no experience.”

Only 25 per cent of the executives reported that there was cooperation between their company and a higher education institution for the purpose of hiring. The executives, who indicated that cooperation existed, specified the type of cooperation to be mainly in the areas of training, recruitment and research and development.

Organisations, such as the Ministry of Manpower, Higher Education Institutions, the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), Riyada (Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development), Ithraa (The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development), and the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) contributed to this survey by supplying data, reviewing questionnaires and urging executives to participate.

Over 60 per cent of the participating executives were from ‘excellent’ grade companies, followed by executives from first-grade companies, and then international and consultancy executives.

By Deeba Hasandeeba

Source : http://www.albawaba.com/

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