LAWRENCE ALVA

Oman 2020 | EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Lawrence Alva, CEO of NTI, on workplace competency in Oman and the future of the job market.

How have operations evolved over the last year, and how have they reflected the trends in Oman and the overall education sector?
While previously the focus was more on the number of individuals prepared for the job market, today the stress is on obtaining the best quality and a greater output. This is a positive sign, since companies are more invested in developing people. This makes our business more relevant. Technology wise, we are still in the early phases—the general masses are still in the traditional mode of learning, although learning technologies bear excellent potential to be applied. The drive to learn from within is yet to come, though it will eventually. Moreover, the market is investing in technology, especially at this moment of budgetary restraints, where any investment and capital expenditure is carefully looked at. Technological advancements should also come with high-level of coordination between institutions and the workforce, and we are witnessing this only partially in the banking and oil and gas sectors.

What will be the main source of revenues for NTI moving forward?
Since most private companies in Oman do not have the culture of investing in people, the public sector will continue to represent our main revenue stream. As we are in the business of Omanization, government funds are unlocked once we find jobs for Omanis. In this sense, the sectors expected to contribute the most, namely oil and gas, engineering, construction, and manufacturing, will continue to play a big role, and we plan on developing tourism and mining. The government is placing great focus on logistics, though the sector has always been a key area of focus for us, especially since it has traditionally been geared to serve the oil and gas industry.

What is the key for the private and educational institutes to adjust to the new regulations from the Ministry of Manpower and Labor?
Omanis need to increase education and skill level and develop a competitive attitude for finding jobs and performing jobs. Employers are used to getting cheap labor from Asia and earning high profits, but this will have to be sacrificed. They need to adapt and bring in a people-developing culture. The employers need to fuel directly into developing their Omani employees, even if this implies spending and investing. Once that happens, Oman will definitely be far ahead of the rest. In the meantime, a more gradual approach to Omanization is preferable. However, there are some great examples of multinational companies that have been investing their time and money in the right direction and reaping the benefits now. These should be examples to follow.

What is a common trait among these companies?
Common traits include their size and international partnerships. These companies have a structured program to recruit, train, and develop their Omani employees. They spare no efforts to ensure that the right people are recruited, trained for a period of time by the quality training providers, and then deployed in a development program until they achieve the required comeptence levels. Then, we have companies who are very reliant on expatriate workers and do not have a structured approach to developing local talent. These employers face bigger challenges and they need to change their strategy and maangement to include a structured program for the development of Omanis. On the other hand, we have a challenge with Omanis, who have a mindset of entitlement. Omanis need to get into being competitive and start earning their right for employment and development. When both the employer and the employees make this paradigm shift, Omanization will truly be seen as successful.