How the private sector can assist Saudi youth prepare for the workforce

Saudi youth are ill-prepared for the workforce and additionally, not able to acquire on-the-job experience in the private sector to boost their resumes. With the unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia currently around 12% and the need for private sector companies to reach their Saudization quotas, this is the perfect opportunity for the private sector to utilize the many Saudi nationals who are currently job seeking.

The root cause of ill-prepared Saudi youth entering the workforce goes beyond educational levels and should be addressed by the relevant stakeholders; educational institutions, government, civil society and media, industry organizations and Saudi youth. However, here we will focus on what the private sector is able to achieve by putting effort into the next generation of Saudi nationals to increase the benefits received for the company, economy and society.

According to a study done by Deloitte, there are many reasons Saudi youth give for why they are not prepared for the workforce after leaving higher education.

  • Mismatch of skills: The soft and technical skills taught in education is not aligned with skills required in the workforce
  • Political and economic instability: drop of oil prices have affected the jobs available, especially in the public sector, hence the push towards Saudization.
  • Competition from expatriates: expatriates from more developed countries are perceived to be more qualified and are therefore preferred over Saudi nationals
  • Unwillingness to work in the private sector: often, Saudi nationals are unwilling to work in the private sector because they prefer the shorter working hours and benefits from the public sector.
  • University major preferences: Saudi youth prefer to major in business rather than science, technology, engineering and math, which are necessary in today’s employment market

Most assume Saudi youth are purely enticed to the public sector for the shorter working hours, competitive salary and benefits package. However, according to a Bayt survey on Arab youth, the most influencing factors in career choice is a job they are passionate about (79%), earning a competitive compensation and benefits package (61%), opportunities for fast and stable career progression (60%) and training and development packages (58%).

Therefore, Saudi youth are not opposed to working in the private sector, they just aren’t given the chance because their skillset is usually not as comprehensive as most expatriates’. Here’s how the private sector can help young Saudi nationals integrate into the workforce:

Clearly define job requirements and skills
Clearly defined job requirements to allow young nationals the chance to build up the skills they require for jobs in their fields in the private workforce, whether that involves training or internships.

Hire through appropriate channels to attract Saudi youth
Companies can find Saudi nationals to apply for available positions through promoting job positions through the appropriate channels that attract Saudi youth, for example, Taqat or Job Creation and Unemployment Control Authority.

Hire and train
Companies can hire and train staff on-the-job, through internships or graduate programs. This way, employees are taught the exact methods that the company prefers to do business; and internships and graduate programs can transition into full time employment.

Collaborate with educational institutions to offer internships
Companies can also collaborate with educational institutions to offer students opportunities to get real-world experience before graduating from tertiary education.

The private sector proactively taking initiative to hire and train Saudi national graduates who need employment, resulting in boosting their Saudization levels and decrease unemployment in the Kingdom will have a tremendous impact. Working with nationals at an internship, entry- level or graduate programs allows companies to develop the skills in their employees the way that they require and gives Saudi nationals the experience they need to progress in their careers; creating a mutually beneficial situation for both parties. The private sector holds a key in unlocking the potential of young nationals and transitioning them into the private sector through enticing and rewarding job opportunities.