Interview: Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa
What is Tamkeen’s role in reducing the amount of expatriate labour, and is there an ultimate goal regarding the composition of the labour market?
SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ESSA AL KHALIFA: Tamkeen views expatriate labour as a positive example of the openness of the Bahraini economy. Our role is to ensure that once a job is created, a suitable Bahraini will be able to fill that position. Business owners should be free to select whoever they feel is best suited for a particular job.
We seek to find out what skills are missing among Bahraini candidates, and so far we have found that with a little support in skill development a Bahraini can perform any job on the same level as an expatriate. That does not mean Bahrainis can fill all of the job openings in the country. We want to find out in which job segments there is a demand for local talent and to enable Bahrainis to obtain well-paid jobs that require a high level of education and training.
Where is the greatest need for Tamkeen to implement training programmes for locals to get them involved in the private sector?
SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Tamkeen has conducted a job gap assessment and highlighted the areas we feel can be fulfilled by Bahrainis. Our operational plan in 2012 introduced several new programmes to bolster the qualifications and training of locals in areas like human resources, management, law, professional training, logistics, marketing and finance. We are focusing on sectors that offer the greatest potential for Bahrainis moving forward. These are sectors in which many jobs have been created, but Bahrainis have not been given the opportunity to take up these positions. These jobs were often given to expatriates and it is our responsibility to enable Bahrainis to excel at these jobs as well.
Indeed, Tamkeen’s role does not end upon employment. We are constantly striving to help individuals improve and excel at their jobs. For example, Tamkeen has around 800 Bahrainis enrolled in our financial programme. The majority of the applicants already have a job, but they wish to improve their skill set to help them further excel in their careers.
To what degree will the operational plan focus on enterprises through the Enterprise Development Support Agency, particularly supporting SMEs?
SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Our operational plan is split almost in half, with 50% dedicated to developing the qualifications of Bahrainis and the other 50% dedicated to business owners. A large proportion of the latter will focus on entrepreneurs, and what they need to start their own businesses. When graduates come to us and we can make them understand the importance of starting their own business, then we have succeeded. We don’t want graduates to just look for a job, we want them to think entrepreneurially, to create new jobs.
Our 2012 operational plan has programmes starting from looking at an entrepre neur’s idea, giving him or her seed capital for their business, to putting everything in place to help them start doing business. Once this is accomplished we help these businesses to fulfil their human resource needs by linking them to qualified Bahraini candidates. We will help support new employee salaries and ensure these employees gain further training and development as they go along.
If a business owner wants to participate in a conference or exhibition, Tamkeen will cover 80% of the cost. If a business owner needs equipment to run their business, we will cover 80% of the cost. If the business owner wants to diversify his business, either through expansion or through a new product line, we will firstly cover the cost of the feasibility study, and if that study proves to be viable, we will pay 80% of the cost of that equipment. If the money provided to them by Tamkeen is not enough and they need a bank loan, we will also support them by covering half of the interest rate and 50% of the business failure risk. We guarantee half the loan. In 2011, through Tamkeen’s finance scheme we have enabled the banks to fund entrepreneurial endeavours up to some BD166m ($438.3m).
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