LONDON // Mohammed Salman isn’t picky about his future career choices: as an aspiring astronaut, he doesn’t mind whether he jets off to Venus, or Mars.
The 25-year-old PhD student was one of hundreds of UAE nationals shooting for the stars at a careers fair held in London on Saturday.
Organised by the UAE Embassy in London, the event saw about 750 Emiratis meet recruiters from the likes of Etihad, the Armed Forces, and event partner Majid Al Futtaim.
The UAE-UK Pioneers Forum was held amid the ongoing push to reduce unemployment and encourage more Emiratis to work in the private sector.
Mr Salman, who is studying robotics at the University of Bristol in the UK, registered his interest with the UAE Space Agency, which also had a stand at the London fair.
His PhD involves him studying “whiskered” robots that use sensors to assess their surroundings, in a similar way to which mice survey the environment.
When he finishes his research in around two and a half years’ time, he hopes to find a career in the UAE’s fledgling space industry.
“I’ve always dreamt of being an astronaut,” said Mr Salman. “I really don’t mind whether it’s Mars, Venus, wherever. As long as I’m involved in bettering our society through space exploration, I would be happy.”
Many other Emirati students were taking similarly bold steps on their career paths, joining a snaking queue at the registration desk at the UAE-UK Pioneers Forum.
One was Maitha Al Awadi, from Dubai, who is studying for a master’s degree in filmmaking at Sussex University in Brighton.
The 26-year-old is looking for a job in film production, as part of her ambition to become a movie director.
“You have to start small and progress your way up,” she said. “As long as I can get my dream to go to the Oscars one day…”
Ms Al Awadi said she hopes the number of opportunities in the film industry will grow in her native UAE.
“They’re getting more and more people coming in to do the films like Star Wars, Mission Impossible,” she said. “So there’s a huge market there, but there’s not a huge market for local talent. So I’m hoping that will increase.”
The UAE-UK Pioneers Forum, now in its third year, was toured earlier on Saturday by Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy.
He said a key aim of the event was to link students with private firms and UAE government entities, to discuss career opportunities.
Mouien Al Madhoun, the chief human capital officer at Majid Al Futtaim, said the retail giant was looking to recruit 20 fresh graduates at the fair. “The talent is there,” he said.
Amal Ezzeddine, senior director for government services at Thuraya, said the Dubai-based satellite firm had participated in all three editions of the event.
“There’s a lot of really good quality students,” she said.
About 18 percent of Thuraya’s staff are UAE nationals, and the company is looking to boost that to 20 percent in 2017, Ms Ezzeddine said.
Some of the companies participating were non-governmental, which is significant given the UAE’s push for more Emiratis to work in the private, rather than public sector.
Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee, the UAE’s ambassador to the UK, said the gap in benefits offered by the public and private sector – including pay and holiday allowances – is closing.
“This has changed,” he said. “Maybe when you work in the private sector you get more advantages and privileges.”
But Rashed, a 21-year-old Emirati also present at the fair, said that he would still prefer to work for the government. “The working conditions are clearer,” he said. “The public sector is much better.”
Mr Salman, the aspiring astronaut, says he has no preference on whether he works in the public or private sectors – as long as he gets to realise his dream of working in the space industry.
“When you go into space, a lot of astronauts describe it as an enlightenment… you get to see how we’re all one,” he said. “I want to know what they’re talking about.”
Source: uae news