Interview: Abdulkarim Al Nujaidi
How is HRDF working to develop soft skills and professional attitudes for the Saudi workforce?
ABDULKARIM AL NUJAIDI: In the pre-employment phase, HRDF provides a variety of services for job-seekers and employers with four connected objectives: to develop job-seekers’ soft skills, encourage their transition into the private sector, enhance their professional attitudes and find them a match in the labour market. A wide network of job placement and career education centres offer job-search coaching, career guidance and skills training, with reference to the requirements of each applicant. The Doroob platform supports job-seekers by providing vocational training and certifications for essential job skills that are approved and recognised by the majority of big firms in Saudi Arabia. To promote greater professionalism among Saudis, HRDF has launched targeted campaigns that promote the importance of commitment at work and which highlight the core skills necessary for a successful career. A key part of this effort is the Israr programme, which provides role models for young Saudis and which rewards them for the determination demonstrated during their job search.
What role can HRDF play to prepare more Saudi nationals for work in the private sector?
AL NUJAIDI: Vision 2030 and the strategic objectives of the National Transformation Programme seek to reduce the unemployment rate among Saudis from 11.6% to 9% over the next five years. This will require fostering an attractive and safe working environment to progressively nationalise the workforce.
HRDF is progressing through this transformative journey based on four main pillars employment, training, enablers and studies. Our work focuses on first investing in pre-employment solutions through initiatives such as National Labour Gateway (NLG), which is a unified integrated platform for all participants in the labour market in both the public and private sectors. The NLG will widen the access that employers have to the national talent pool via a mechanism that electronically matches the companies’ requirements with qualified job-seekers.
We are also enhancing the skills of nationals through several other initiatives. One is Doroob, a major countrywide e-training platform targeting upskilling for job-seekers or anyone eager to augment their professional skills during the pre-employment or post-employment phases. Another is the professional certificates programme, which encourages nationals to pursue accredited professional certification in the different fields required by the labour market. Upon receiving the professional certificate, HRDF reimburses beneficiaries for the costs of the programme. The goal is to increase the number of nationals working in the private sector by assuring them greater responsibility and higher-paying jobs. HRDF is also boosting the private sector labour economy through an extensive range of subsidy programmes, depending on employer and/or job-seeker’s needs.
What programmes is HRDF developing to help increase the employability of women?
AL NUJAIDI: Our core strategy to increase women’s employment is to promote flexible working environments that meet women’s needs as well as their employers’ needs. The main challenges we face are the readiness of suitable, female-only workplaces or private spaces, which are still uncommon. Many women worry that working will affect their family life, and are concerned about child care, working hours and transportation. HRDF is actively rolling out initiatives to address these concerns. We are addressing practical barriers to employment by exploring transportation subsidies for working women, and partially covering the cost of child care for working women. We are working with employers to establish part-time, work-from-home, distance working programmes.
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