Empowering young Saudis is strategic imperative for growth
“The skills and competencies of our children are one of the most important and cherished assets. To make the most of their potential, we will build a culture that rewards determination, provides opportunities for all and helps everyone acquire the necessary skills to achieve their personal goals.”
The focus of the Saudi Vision 2030 road map outlined by our leadership is compelling in its focus on empowering young talents and preparing them for future careers.
In fact, the past few years have seen industry — and academia — evolving to deliver on the goals of Vision 2030 by adopting robust strategies that help to nurture our young talents for technical and non-technical careers.
While a focused, skills-oriented training program is important in setting the fundamentals, the private sector can play an equal and vitalizing role in ensuring that our talents are adequately prepared to take on technical roles and ease into business leadership levels seamlessly.
One driving force of this transformation is Qimam, a fellowship program supported by GE as part of a coalition of leading national and international companies. The goal of Qimam is to identify, develop and empower the most promising and distinguished university students in and from Saudi Arabia to achieve their full potential.
This has been our ongoing commitment. One of the fundamental tenets of our operations in the Kingdom — now spanning more than eight decades of partnerships and in-Kingdom facilities — is the emphasis we have given to developing and nurturing Saudi talent.
Today, we have a team of more than 4,000 people driving our operations in various sectors including energy, health care and aviation, with nearly 50 percent of the talent in highly skilled engineering and technology roles.
Through our investments in localized manufacturing, we are taking this commitment to offering hands-on training and skills development of Saudis to the next level.
We have already achieved Saudization of more than 70 percent at the GE Manufacturing & Technology Center in Dammam, while we continue to train more Saudi talents through our partnerships with leading universities for preparing young Saudis to take up rewarding careers with us.
Today, Saudi Arabia has created a robust ecosystem for Saudi talent development through initiatives driven by the Misk Foundation, the various initiatives driven by government ministries, and through the active participation of organizations such as Saudi Aramco. The in-Kingdom Total Value Add (IKTVA) program of Saudi Aramco is a great example of how young talents can be integrated to become active players in the local supply chain.
We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage our youth dividend and this can be achieved only by increasing the participation of talented Saudis in the technical workforce. And this process can be accelerated only by providing hands-on training to our youth so that they “hit the road running” as they take up careers in diverse business sectors — especially frontier technologies.
One such opportunity is in the digital sector, especially because our young people — who form the majority of our population— are exceptionally tech-savvy. They are digital natives who have the skills and natural orientation to leverage the digital opportunity.
Through our GE Garages sessions, where training is offered on innovative equipment, such as 3D printers, CNC mills, injection molders and more, our engineers are preparing youth to leverage the future of these emerging industries and foster a culture of co-creation to identify innovative solutions to tackle new challenges.
Qimam, similarly, serves as a highly empowering platform by providing one-on-one mentorship for Saudi talents from senior public and private-sector leaders, leadership training by professionals, visits to the Saudi Arabian offices of leading national and international companies, and membership in the Qimam Alumni Network.
Last year, more than 13,000 Saudi candidates applied to the Qimam Fellowship program, of whom 50 were admitted following a rigorous evaluation process, including two in-person interviews by senior leaders from the public and private sector.
We are looking forward to continue interacting with the young Qimam Fellowship program participants this year, and through our engagement we aim to foster a culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the Saudi talents — who are central to unlocking the true potential of our Kingdom — and in delivering on the vision of our leadership.
Hisham Albahkali is the president and CEO of GE Saudi Arabia & Bahrain.