JOB AT HAND

Oman 2014 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdullah Nasser Abdullah Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, on the promotion of employment, the development of vocational training, and the Omani Vision 2020.

Abdullah Nasser Abdullah Al Bakri
BIOGRAPHY
Abdullah Nasser Abdullah Al Bakri was born in 1965 and received a BA in Arts from Lebanon and a MA in Management Systems from the UK. He was first appointed Director General of Regional Municipalities and the Environment in 1992, before taking the same position but moving from the Interior Region to the Al Batinah North Region instead in 1996. In 1997, he became the Director General of Technical Affairs before moving to Water Resources Affairs in 2001. He later became the Undersecretary for Water Resources Affairs in the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources in 2003 and then took over his appointed position as the Minister of Manpower in 2008.

What does the Ministry of Manpower do to promote employment opportunities in the private sector across Oman?

We have endorsed employment policies with the aim of achieving a qualitative transformation from relying on the government as a major employer of nationals, to a status where the private sector takes that role. To meet the progress in the labor market and the requirements of the private sector's expansion, the Ministry has endeavored to increase employment opportunities for national job seekers and prepare the Omani youth by providing them with the necessary education and training, helping them develop knowledge and skills, while focusing on the specializations required by the labor market.

How does the Ministry encourage the vital role of technical training in the Sultanate?

Development has been achieved in terms of the number of technological colleges, expansion in their infrastructure, diversification of their academic studies and programs, and an increase in the numbers of students admitted. These have helped promote this vital sector of the labor market, and the national economy in general. In the academic year 2012-2013, a total of 5,046 students of general education diploma graduates were admitted to technological colleges, with a second batch comprising 6,254 students soon to be admitted, too. Government policies aimed at developing the infrastructure, modernizing labs and workshops, developing human resources, and promoting service utilities have enabled technical colleges to increase their capacities and diversify their academic specializations, according to labor market requirements. Work is also underway to develop a program meant to replace expatriate lecturers and assistant lecturers by Omanis, while at the same time continuing the replacement programs for the posts of technicians and trainers at workshops and labs.

How has vocational training developed in Oman?

The number of students admitted at the vocational training centers and fishermen training institutes has increased proportionately with expansion. Women were offered great opportunities that enabled them to join appropriate specializations and enhance their participation in the labor market. A bridging system with the Colleges of Technology has been implemented by providing the distinct graduates of these centers and institutes with opportunities to continue their studies at the Colleges of Technology. Efforts are being extended to update the curricula, develop the human cadres of these institutions, coordinate with international think-tanks to conduct feasibility studies, propose training programs to avail them of training expertise, and to hold training courses for trainers at these centers and institutes.

What are the Ministry's projections for the expatriate manpower requirement in the medium term?

In a speech to Sheikhs and dignitaries of the Governorates of the Dakhiliyah and Wusta on January 27, 2013, HM Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said proposed that the percentage of expatriate workers should not exceed 30% of the total population. In light of this Royal directive, the Ministry works toward striking a balance in the market to meet the actual need of the private sector's projects, in order to ensure its contribution to GDP development.

What is the Ministry's vision for the future development of Oman's labor market?

The Oman Vision 2020 is based on three key pillars: human resources development, economic diversification, and development of the private sector to strike a balance and achieve sustainable economic growth. To encounter the challenges of globalization, international trade liberalization, and the requirements of the market economy and to apply international standards in the labor market, the basic goals of the previous and current development plans include: expansion in providing job seekers with job opportunities, the qualitative preparation of national manpower by offering Omani youth the required training and education opportunities.