A job or a career?

One always hears arguments, some of which circular, others repetitive about lack of jobs and at the same time lack of educated and qualified professionals, not only in the public sector but also in the private, and non-profit. But, does not that sound counter intuitive?

Why do we have so many looking for jobs and so many jobs looking for people? I am not in a position to label the right or wrong here but I am giving my honest and unbiased view of what contributes to the solution.

One of the few enlightening conferences that I attended was the labour market and demographic change conference organised by the Omani Economic Association in January.

At that meeting, there were open and transparent discussions held and the crowd recognised some of the most fundamental issues facing Oman and other GCC countries.

At one of the sessions, a presenter declared that a large percentage of Omanis are working in areas they are not suited for; either they were over-qualified, under-qualified or simply outside their interest area.

This forms a type of masked unemployment. So, while we do not have above 20 per cent people unemployed, we do have some more sitting in offices doing nothing.

Some may disagree, but I think there are enough academic institutions in the GCC countries if not in Oman alone. The quality of education is another matter that remains an issue. Graduates of our colleges cannot compete in the labour market.

Some may lack work ethics, or criteria that govern productivity in the work place, or the Omanisation policy or all of the above.

Beyond that, the causes are ingrained in the beliefs and values instilled in each one of us. The firm conviction that the government should give each person a job is not a false one. However, the belief that the government should do that regardless of whether that person is contributing something or not is definitely false.

A case in point is a TV programme that had youths discussing tourism. During the show, students of the College of Tourism complained persistently about the failure of the government to provide them jobs.

For me, this shows how little they have learned about tourism. If a tourism specialist cannot market himself, how can he market a country, its culture and history? Most tourism services available in countries that I visited are run by the private sector and these are not large capital ventures.

When you arrive in a country, a representative from a tourism company, which may very well be no more than a small cabin in a mall, will meet and greet you with utmost respect and courtesy and will offer you a guided tour tailored to your preferences. At the end, the representative will charge you a sum of money enough to buy a yacht.

But college education is not the beginning and end of life. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and a multibillionaire (yes, billionaire not millionaire) dropped out of college in the second year.

Well, it was Harvard University but he never got a degree. Bill Gates, who donates millions of dollars to the World Health Organisation annually, has never completed college. A millionaire once said, “If you want to do something in your life don’t get a job, start your own business.”

I think what is needed here is for all sectors to share the responsibility. A fundamental issue that arises is who are the unemployed, why are they unemployed and for those who are in the workforce, are they growing, are they contributing and are they motivated? What laws and regulations motivate, or demotivate people from being productive or simply seek a job.

There is a need for what is called a job lookout. There needs to be some form of informed matching between the job market and the job seekers in the form of accurate data and description of potentials as new careers.

Career counselling that helps each person identify his or her true capacity, potential and skill, is required. The important thing is to have a personal plan and target that helps people grow and mature. A driver does not have to be a driver for more than a couple of years. He needs to learn new skills and climb up the ladder.


Any views or opinions presented in this column are solely those of the author and do not  necessarily represent those of Muscat Daily or Apex Press & Publishing

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