Finding job greatest challenge facing graduates in Saudi Arabia

The majority of respondents state that finding a job is the biggest challenge of their generation

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When pursuing their first job, 78% of fresh graduates living in Saudi Arabia used or plan to use leading online job sites, Bayt.com 2015 “Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa” survey conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s leading career site, and market research agency YouGov, revealed.

The majority of respondents state that finding a job is the biggest challenge of their generation, in line with this, 81% are leaning towards entrepreneurship as a potential future career option.

The study has also revealed that 54% of KSA respondents obtained their most recent qualification in KSA, followed by Egypt, at 10%. The two most common fields of study pursued by respondents were engineering (29%) and information technology/computer science (19%). Most graduates living in KSA (65%) were satisfied with the quality of higher education they received; in fact, 39% consider the preparation it gave them for the workplace to be ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Qualification of teachers (76%), curriculum (70%), teaching methods applied (61%), quality of infrastructure (56%), technology usage (60%), and value for money paid (62%), are also rated positively by KSA respondents.

Over a third of fresh graduates living in KSA (37%) do not feel that they would have fared better in the job market if they had chosen a different major or different school, with 65% admitting to having considered the job availability in the field they chose to major in prior to enrolment. In contrast, 34% of working KSA respondents ended up working in a totally different industry.

Based on the survey, in KSA, the most appealing industries from a career perspective are banking and finance (28%) and engineering and/or design (24%). Business consultancy, business management and management consulting (22%) and information technology (22%) are also popular industries among KSA fresh graduates. Fortunately, more than half of respondents (59%) claim that their education prepared them to target the industry of their choice.

For 40% of KSA respondents, the most important attribute when selecting a job is experience in the field they want to work in. While most KSA respondents (78%) rely on leading online job sites to search for employment opportunities, direct applications to target companies (50%) and a resourceful network of family and friends (45%) are also highly valued and used.

Up to 51% of fresh graduates living in KSA state that landing their first job was/will be ‘very difficult’. A majority of respondents (57%) feel that the biggest challenge they face in finding a job is the fact that employers are looking for candidates with previous experience. Knowing where to find relevant jobs and how to approach the job search effectively are also considered to be challenges by 46% and 30% of them, respectively.

Some 10% of KSA respondents claim that it took/ will take less than 3 months for them to find their first job. For 40% of them, the job search lasted/ will last between 3 and 12 months, while only 1% got or are expecting to get a job directly through campus placements. One in 5 KSA respondents (21%) stayed or anticipate staying in their first job for 1-2 years.

Salary expectations for fresh graduates living in KSA are moderate; 22% expect to receive/have received between $1,001-1,500, while 15% anticipate a salary between $1,501-2,000. Almost two thirds (62%) of KSA respondents expect to be offered/were offered a basic salary. 41% are also looking to receive/have received personal medical insurance and 39% anticipate a housing allowance. 32% expect a training and development course allowance.

According to 79% of KSA respondents, their college or university did not help them identify job opportunities. Overall, 43% of graduates living in KSA acquired work experience either before or during their time at university.

The survey revealed that 61% of KSA respondents are planning to pursue higher education, with the US (35%) being the most popular destination to do so outside of their country of residence, followed by Canada and other Western and European Countries for 10% respectively. Graduates are also eager to travel abroad for employment purposes, with 46% saying that they might consider moving elsewhere for a job.

When asked what challenges fresh graduates face the most, 47% disclosed that saving money is difficult, while 32% said that discovering what they wanted to do in life is a major challenge for them. 64% claim that there is a low availability of jobs for fresh graduates in KSA. However, 41% are optimistic that their generation has better career and educational opportunities in comparison to their parents’ generation.

When it comes to industries that seem to be hiring the highest number of fresh graduates, KSA respondents listed advertising/marketing (25%), followed by banking/finance (22%), and military/defense/police (17%).

According to 45% of respondents, these industries employ fresh graduates because graduates have lower salary expectations; 43% believe that the reason behind that is the fact that young graduates are compliant and willing to follow instructions.

On the other hand, 76% of respondents believe that companies are hesitant to hire fresh graduates because these graduates may lack the needed on-the-job experience.

Some 58% of fresh graduates living in KSA consider computer skills to be among the most important skills required to excel in the workplace, followed by linguistic skills (50%), and academic and technical skills (40%).

Fresh graduates in KSA consider their skills in negotiation (37%), leadership (44%), linguistics (41%), communications (44%), problem-solving and analytical thinking (50%), academic and technical skills (43%), and computers (44%) to be ‘good’. Moreover, they consider themselves to have ‘very good’ interpersonal and team playing skills (53%), and flexibility (48%).

“The 2015 Bayt.com Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa survey reveals that finding a job of their liking is proving difficult for fresh graduates in KSA,” said Suhail Masri, VP of Sales, Bayt.com. “While most of these young job seekers firmly believe that their lack of experience is what is jeopardizing their job search, results from our extensive research into the MENA region’s employment sector disagree with that assumption. The truth is, employers in KSA are increasingly tapping into the graduate talent pool; they are looking for capable individuals who can seamlessly transition from academia to industry, regardless of their level of experience.”

Masri added: “For them to increase their eligibility, young job seekers need to focus on fine-tuning both their transferable skills and leadership prowess, via hands-on internship experiences or specialized courses. Ultimately, our goal at Bayt.com is to arm these graduates with the right tools needed to thrive in today’s ever-evolving employment sector. In fact, our job site features thousands of employment opportunities especially catered to fresh graduates. Entry-level candidates can also tap into different tools on Bayt.com that are designed to improve their skills and increase their professional knowledge. Bayt.com Specialties is a platform where anyone can ask and answer questions related to their field and professional specialties, and get ranked based on their interactions. Bayt.com Tests is also a great way for fresh grads to test and display their knowledge.”

Elissavet Vraka, Research Manager, YouGov MENA, echoed: “It is great to know that so many young graduates who are trying to find a job are also considering embarking on the entrepreneurial route in the future. Today, entrepreneurship plays a pivotal role in a country’s economic development; it can spur growth, innovation, and, of course, job creation. And this can, in turn, help shape the future of employment here in KSA.”

This article was first published by the Saudi Gazette on July 15, 2015.