Challenges of Saudization: Lack of national talent and government measures to foster youth skill development, "International Finance Magazine"

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Riyadh, Saudi Arabia − Richard Foulkes, Client Partner at Pedersen & Partners, speaks to “International Finance Magazine” about the insufficiency of strong local executive talent in Saudi Arabia, and the measures taken by the Saudi government to foster skill development among its youth.

The Saudi government responded to the shortage of local talent by implementing a national plan known as the “Saudization Program” to increase employment among nationals and decrease dependency on expatriate workers in the private sector. The situation is particularly urgent in Saudi Arabia’s lucrative Oil & Gas industry, which must tackle the combined challenges of an aging workforce and a lack of flexibility in replacing employees due to the skill sets required.

“Although the efforts made by the government are laudable, companies are now having difficulty in finding the right local talent,” says Richard Foulkes.

The new rules laid down in the governmental strategy have given companies fresh challenges to tackle, with young specialists finding themselves barred from hiring more expatriates but unable to find the required local talent, or facing inflated salary demands from qualified Saudis.

“The situation has mostly arisen due to the absence of a strong talent pipeline. This problem is being addressed, but unfortunately right now the demand for industry-ready Saudi professionals outstrips the supply,” adds Mr. Foulkes.

The government strategy to reduce the dependency of Saudi companies on expatriate workers is still in its infancy, and has not yet substantially improved the employment figures for young Saudis. However, the importance of government contributions to the development and improvement of local talent in the Middle East is indisputable. Education is seen as an important area of focus, and to this end the Saudi government increased education spending by 3% in this year’s budget. “The government is emphasizing the need to foster skills development early on, and has asked colleges and universities to focus on these areas. Funds are being set up to invest in SMEs, which in turn will help to increase employment levels among Saudis. The government’s efforts in these directions must be appreciated,” Mr. Foulkes concludes.


Richard Foulkes is a Client Partner at Pedersen & Partners based in Dubai and has an active client portfolio within the Financial Services Practice and Industrial Practice Groups. With over twelve years of executive search experience he has worked with major multinationals in the UK, Asia and Middle East to successfully complete senior management and executive level assignments across multiple industry sectors. Prior to joining Pedersen & Partners, Richard was the Financial Services Practice head in the Middle East with an international executive search firm based in Dubai. Before that he spent nine years working for an international recruitment firm in Tokyo where he held both consulting and management positions.

 

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