Emirati youngsters sold on the business of retailing

ABU DHABI // Hundreds of Emirati pupils and students are getting first-hand experience of the retail industry this week – not as shoppers but as salespeople, stock clerks and cashiers. The job placements are made possible through the Abu Dhabi Centre for Technology and Vocational Education and Training (Actvet) Yes to Work initiative, which promotes […]

ABU DHABI // Hundreds of Emirati pupils and students are getting first-hand experience of the retail industry this week – not as shoppers but as salespeople, stock clerks and cashiers.

The job placements are made possible through the Abu Dhabi Centre for Technology and Vocational Education and Training (Actvet) Yes to Work initiative, which promotes vocational learning and introduces teenagers and young adults to part-time work in the private sector. It is under the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

“The idea is we want to make UAE nationals understand the retail industry and learn what the private sector can offer in terms of opportunities,” said Ali Al Marzouqi, director of Emirates Skills, who oversees Yes (Young Emiratis Start) to Work. “It’s a big sector that nationals are not really aware of.”

To land the part-time job, students had to submit an application along with their CVs, pass an interview and take part in a week-long training programme to learn about the business theories behind retail marketing and customer service.

After completing the classroom training, students were required to spend two weeks working five hours a day to gain experience in one of 250 participating shops.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind programme,” said Amal Al Hajeri, Yes to Work senior coordinator.

“For now, our goal is to provide them with experience similar to an internship but instead of waiting until their final year of university or college, they can do this during their high school years.”

The three-week programme started during the winter and summer breaks for Emirati pupils and students aged 15 to 18 in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain in 2012.

However, it attracted so many applicants that Actvet added a third session during the spring and opened it to students in Dubai, Ajman and Sharjah. It also raised the entry age to 21. Almost 2,000 have finished the programme, said Mr Al Marzouqi.

Of the 600 applicants who applied for the current session, about 470 were accepted.

Among those was 16-year-old Khadeeja Omar, who applied after seeing photos on social media of acquaintances working in various stores. “When we knew there was something fun we could do during summer, we decided to join,” said Khadeeja, who will begin grade 12 this year.

During her second day on the job as a saleswoman at a clothing store at Yas Mall, Khadeeja said the experience had already been a transformative one.

“It’s changed my personality,” said Khadeeja. “I didn’t used to be like this. I was so shy. I didn’t talk with anyone at any time.”

Khadeeja said the job had also given her a new found appreciation for retail workers.

“They are used to putting themselves in customers’ shoes, and now that they are in the salesperson’s shoes. It gives a new perspective,” said Ms Al Hajeri.

Yes to Work offers four stages, each three weeks long, that focus on different aspects of retailing – from work safety, customer service and merchandising to teamwork and retail management. Youngsters who complete all four levels can earn a retail services and operations level 2 certificate certified by the National Qualifications Authority.

“It’s a nationally recognised certificate,” said Mr Al Marzouqi. “It’s something that they can use later to further their education.”

Although the students don’t get paid, Mr Al Marzouqi said there were plans to potentially offer graduates part-time retail jobs.

For Khadeeja, the prospect of a paid part-time job was enticing.

“If I have free time, I prefer to do this instead of staying at home,” she said. “We can watch movies all day long but we are bored of it. We are bored of wasting time.”

rpennington@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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