The Middle East talent drought

rec_glb_ho_862_loIt is quite eye opening to note how the Arab Spring has been attributed in large part to unemployment (with particular emphasis on youth) resulting in social dissent and ultimately uprisings; yet at the same time the region has witnessed some of the most acute shortages it has ever had, struggling to populate millions of vacant jobs with the requisite skilled people and to reconcile such an anomaly that has plagued the Arab World over the past couple of decades.

These talent shortages across the Middle East are posing a serious threat to businesses’ ability to execute on strategy, and are probably among the top inhibitors of successful plans. It is clear that this is not merely a numbers game but one of quality, employability skills and market place readiness. The inability to source the right minds that fuel organizations is a trend that is impacting all industries.

In light of the hiring stalemate, and the global skills gap, the question remains, how can this talent shortage be resolved and what are the skills employers are looking for?

Well, the most prevalent form of action is pooling investment funds into developing this area. Many firms have taken action to allocate large funds to address the talent shortage.

In addition, recently, many organizations are heavily investing in new graduates, offering training programs in various fields, to enhance technical backgrounds and equip potential talent with essential skills for the different industries. We are witnessing real and robust efforts across the board, to create a junior level of talent that can launch their careers successfully.

Companies are also responding to the talent shortage by turning to global talent management. Finding the right people globally is a top talent priority, with managing human capital and expanding into global and new markets as companies’ most important strategic concerns, according to recent surveys.

Several NGOs have also sprouted up around the Arab region, offering vocational education courses to university students, in efforts to prepare them for the professional world.

However, addressing the challenge cannot only be viewed as a private sector problem; governments have a duty to employ their citizens, though this has proved unsuccessful in many instances across the region. Combating the challenges requires a collaborative endeavor upon which the sustainability of governments and states, and success of private sector are dependent. Most notably, academic institutions also have a crucial role to play in overhauling and redevising curricula and addressing youth employability, entrepreneurship and financial literacy challenges.

We live and work in a region where 60% of the population is under the age of 30. It goes without saying that the dangers of not addressing the talent shortage are numerous. Most evident is the alarming hampered growth of Middle Eastern markets with the resultant inability to provide meaningful and rewarding employment and careers to their people bringing us back full circle to the root cause of current dissatisfaction behind the Arab Spring.

By Omar Fahoum
Chairman and chief executive of Deloitte Middle East

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