GPCA looks for solutions to skills and performance gap

22 November 2012 16:40  [Source: ICB]

Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun

“With more than 150 senior HR professionals from the petrochemicals industry, the Second Human Capital Convention was an ideal platform to look at how we as an industry can meet the demand for skilled talent created by rapid downstream growth”

Abdulwahab al-Sadoun
secretary general, GPCA

More than a dozen top executives from multinational companies and Gulf-based corporations shared their insights on creating employment opportunities for Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) youth and maximizing the performance of the local workforce at the Second Human Capital Convention, hosted by the GPCA in Dubai from 16-18 October.

Amer bin Awadh Al Rawas, chief executive of Oman Telecommunications Co, delivered the event’s keynote address. Drawing on his extensive Middle East expertise, he spoke on the central theme of the convention: “Leading Change Through Operational Excellence”.

Talent management, encouraging innovation and harmonising different cultures in the workplace were the key topics of the convention. Furthermore, the convention debated challenges and opportunities in recruitment, people development, employee retention and engagement.

A prestigious line-up of industry speakers also presented to more than 150 human resources (HR) professionals from the regional and global petrochemicals industry on the convention’s central theme. GPCA expects the insights of such a broad cross-section of industry speakers will improve the understanding of talent management issues in the petrochemicals sector and increase the adoption of international best practice.

The two-day conference was preceded by a workshop on “The Role of Leadership in Driving, Managing and Sustaining Change for Operational Excellence”, which was facilitated by Hala Al Turki of Altaaat Leadership Development Institute.

“Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012”, research published by the International Labour Organization in May, estimates that Middle East youth unemployment is more than twice the global average, at 26.5% compared with 12.6%. This report follows on from another recent study from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which reported that the Gulf States created 7m job opportunities during the last decade, but that only 2m of them had been taken up by Gulf Nationals.

This is a clear indication of the current skill gap in the job market despite governmental efforts to close it. The fallout of the Arab Spring has worsened regional job projects for youth, according to the report.

Increasing the skill levels in the labour force is a strategic priority for many GCC states, but it requires consistent cooperation between governments and key stakeholders, including regional chemical producers who are investing heavily in building world-class higher education and vocational facilities. From the industry perspective, talent management and securing steady talent inflow to the market are key to long-term sustainable growth. Access to diverse and skilled pools of technicians, engineers, managers and support staff is vital for successful industry expansion.

The GCC petrochemical industry is a relatively small source of direct jobs due to its focus so far on commodity petrochemicals production, where plants are capital intensive, but not labour intensive. Given the employment challenge, the need for labour intensive downstream industries is mounting across the GCC States, said Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of the GPCA. He added that the ratio of jobs created varies between 5:1 and 8:1 when going downstream. That is, for every one job created in the basic petrochemicals industry, five to eight jobs are created in the downstream industries.

“People under 25 represent nearly half of the population in Saudi Arabia and a large youth demographic characterizes the region as a whole,” added Al-Sadoun. “The large-scale expansion of Gulf petrochemicals is an avenue for integrating more young job seekers into the industrial sector. But the right infrastructure, training and procedures need implementing first. The Second Human Capital Convention examined effective strategies for tapping the significant potential of the Gulf workforce.”

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