Dubai: Techies graduating out of universities from the Gulf are likely to find it tough to get jobs as there are no engineering facilities for most American technology companies operating in the region.
Technology is a vital part of every industry today but there is a severe shortage of skilled professionals globally and regionally due to an insanely fast speed of technological development.
Cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, Bengaluru and Singapore are considered hubs for technology innovation and attract talent.
So, what is the scope for techies graduating out of universities in the GCC region?
“The US-based and listed tech companies do not have R&D centres in the region. Tech companies in the UAE do not have engineering facilities and only have sales offices. The offshore engineering facilities of most American tech companies are either in Singapore, Israel, China or India,” said Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner.
He said Dubai is neither perceived as one of the centres for innovation, nor a creator of technology.
Most multinational corporations (MNCs) only have sales offices in Dubai.
Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice-president and regional MD, said there was a shortage of IT skills in the local market, especially in new and innovative technologies such as cloud, analytics, machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence and cyber security.
“Whenever a company wants to apply these kind of skillsets, they at times might have to hire from abroad. There is clearly a scope for tech graduates but what is critical in this region is to ensure the type of graduates that are currently available in the market to fulfill the needs of the organisations,” he said.
Governments in the Gulf, especially the UAE, are putting lot of focus on innovation accelerators and lot of MNCs such as Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM and Cisco are offering training programmes to upscale the local talent.
Lalchandani said that the startup economy is very strong in this region and definitely a big scope for techies.
Saudi Arabia does have King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and have research labs and have invested heavily in technology and the UAE has Higher College of Technology and Khalifa University and has dedicated programmes to try and skill students around latest technologies.
“It really depends on an organisation’s current transformation plans and the demands of the market at large,” he said.
SAP said its Dubai-based SAP Training and Development Institute has already developed skills and knowledge reflecting an “in-country value” of $110 million (Dh404 million) across the region.
Marita Mitschein, managing director of the SAP Training and Development Institute, said that Middle East organisations are increasingly reliant on advanced technical skills, but there is a major mismatch between the current level of talent and the skills.
According to recent Oxford Economics report “Workforce 2020”, cloud, analytics, mobility, and social media skills are posting double or triple digital growth in the Middle East.
“The motivation for American tech companies to invest in offshore development centres is the availability of skillsets, cheap labour and reduce time to market. If Dubai has to be viewed as an alternative for Singapore or India, then the price points has to make sense and local tech skill sets must be available,” Rao said.
However, he said that there is scope as a result of a rapidly evolving startup ecosystem in GCC. These are primarily on e-commerce, cloud, mobile and IoT (internet of Things) technologies that serve the local market and have an aspiration to go global. These startups are scouting for local talent to satisfy their needs.
“The potential for these jobs are promising for tech graduates graduating from local universities.
But in terms of output and demand, the gap is still there. The number of graduates coming out of college and the demand for them is fairly wide,” he said.
“Dubai is at the forefront of technological disruption as it adopts the technology faster than most other developed countries. However, it is largely depended on resources from outside to address the requirements of its rapidly developing digital infrastructure. There is a need for grooming local talent. This needs to start at the university level, where graduates are trained for skill sets, both softs kills and technical skills that would address the gap.
“Tech graduates aspire to work on cutting edge technologies such as big data analytics, robotics, AI and cloud computing, however they need to understand the underlying core technologies that are the building blocks of these technologies,” he said.
“When a techie graduates, he should be employed in one of these core technologies as this will ensure a strong foundation in a rapidly changing tech environment,” he said.