Gulf’s entry-level job market is recovering, say experts

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The Gulf’s job market for entry level professionals and graduates is showing signs of recovery, although there is a widening skills gap, according to recruitment firms and specialists based in the region.

“We’ve seen an increase over the last six months of graduate and entry-level positions, there just seems to be a bit more buoyancy in the market in general. Obviously, there are a lot more graduates now,” said Bobbi Hartshorne,

Head of Education Partnerships at Dubai-based Laimoon, a regional online recruiting site.

“Anything financial accounting is huge, engineering and construction are enormous. This big five sectors are business management, media and marketing, financial, engineering and computing and IT,” added Hartshorne., established by Honeybee Tech Ventures, currently monitors 7,900 live current open positions directly from employers based in UAE, Qatar and Saudi. Of the positions available, 37 percent are targeted towards graduates and entry-level professionals.

“Many graduates now are going to work in startups, where they’re in demand as they’re cheap and willing to work for next to nothing. Graduates should work very hard and earn very little as a way to get experience,” said Ihsan Jawad, co-founder of Honeybee Tech Ventures, an incubation platform which aims to foster entrepreneurial talent.

Recruitment specialists agree that there are more graduate trainee positions available this year.

“There are more graduate training schemes in the Gulf region, but they tend to be focused more on nationals [instead of expatriate graduates],” David Mackenzie, Managing Director of Dubai-based recruitment consultants Mackenzie Jones Middle East.

“In 2010, the Middle East youth unemployment rate was at 26 percent, and was expected to grow to 28 percent in the next 2 to 3 years. The youth unemployment figure in the Middle East has now grown to about 28 percent,” Iba Masood, CEO and co-founder of Gradberry, a Dubai-based careers portal for internships and graduate-level jobs in the Middle East, told Al Arabiya English.

“However, if we look at the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] region, overall employment prospects have definitely increased over the last year, and that can be attributed to the GCC’s economic growth,” Masood added.

According to Masood, her company has seen a 40 percent increase in job postings from around the region, although along with increased prospects, the supply of graduates is also steadily increasing, with more students gaining access to university education.

“What happens very often, especially in Cairo, Egypt is that there are very educated graduates with master’s degrees in environmental science, biology or zoology, who work as petrol station attendants,” said Masood. “The issue is the supply and demand mismatch.”

Masood believes that this discrepancy is due to an excessively high concentration of engineering and business graduates, and in some Arab countries a high proportion of medicine graduates.

“But if we look at careers in web development, graphic design, visual communication, basically anything to do with emerging digital and technology fields, there’s a wide open gap in terms of demand. We’re seeing digital media agencies and start-ups opening up all across the Middle East and a rise in entrepreneurship.”

According to Masood, “everybody has an MBA nowadays,” however, entrepreneurs and start-ups are simply not able to find enough graduates with practical, industry-relevant skills.

Syed Hisham, a Pakistani student who graduated this year from a university in Sharjah is now working as a graduate trainee in a Dubai-based marketing solutions company.

“The only advice I would give other students is to keep looking, follow up on every lead, don’t leave any stone unturned, and be persistent. There’s no big secret to finding a job,” he told Al Arabiya English.

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