KUWAIT: A recent study titled ‘The Middle East Skills Report,’ conducted by Bayt.com – the Middle East’s number one job site – and YouGov – a research and consulting agency, have found that 56 percent of respondents in Kuwait believe that there is a skills gap in the market. At the regional level, 65 percent of employers believe there is a skills gap in the market, while 7 percent of employers said there isn’t a gap, and 28 percent said they did not know. Employers and job seekers seem to be in agreement on the presence of a skills gap in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The majority of job seekers (59 percent) also think that there is a skills gap, while 11 percent think there is not.
Job seeker challenges
From a job seeker’s perspective, according to respondents, the number one reason for not finding jobs fitting their skills set is a “lack of awareness” (33 percent) of what skills are in high demand. This sentiment varies with age: 38 percent among those aged 40+, compared to 34 percent amongst ages 30-39, and 30 percent amongst those below 30 years old. Just above a quarter of job seekers (26 percent) also claimed that the educational system doesn’t train students on skills which are relevant in today’s marketplace. This sentiment is more prevalent in North Africa (31 percent) and amongst recent graduates (32 percent).
Today’s most demanded skills
According to employers, the top three most important skills for mid-career or junior positions are “teamwork” (83 percent of employers said it is very important), “time management” (80 percent said it is very important) and “written communication” (76 percent said it is very important). Job seekers also agree; 84 percent said that “teamwork” is a very important skill, 83 percent said “time management” is very important, and 79 percent said “written communication” is very important. When it comes to senior positions, the survey showed that the top three most important skills according to employers are “time management” (89 percent of employers said it is very important), “teamwork” (88 percent said it is very important), and “people management” (87 percent said it is very important). Job seekers are in agreement for senior positions as well. 89 percent said “time management” is a very important skill, 89 percent said “teamwork” is very important, and 87 percent said “people management” is very important.
Today’s most scarce skills
Less than one in three (32 percent) employers claimed that it is “very difficult” to find good candidates for junior or mid-career positions. On the job seeker’s side, only a quarter (25 percent) of them have claimed that it was “very difficult” to find jobs matching their skills level. According to those surveyed, there is a much bigger gap between what employers and job seekers think when it comes to senior roles. Only about a quarter (24 percent) of senior employees have reported that it is “very difficult” to find a job matching their skills.
On the other side, the majority of businesses (58 percent) face challenges in sourcing employees with relevant skills for senior positions. When looking to hire for mid-career / junior positions, 47 percent of employers surveyed said that they face the most challenges when searching for candidates skilled at “creative thinking.” 44 percent of employers said “global mindset” is very difficult to find and 43 percent said “visual thinking” is very difficult to find. Job seekers seem to tell a similar story by rating themselves lowest on two of these skills. Only 50 percent of job seekers claimed to be “very good” at global mindset and 53 percent claimed to be “very good” at visual thinking.
However, there is a discrepancy in their evaluation of their creative thinking skills against what employers said: 59 percent of job seekers evaluate themselves as “very good” while 47 percent of employers say it is “very difficult” to find this skill. For senior roles, 53 percent of employers claimed that it is “very difficult” to find candidates who possess creative thinking. 51 percent of employers said the same about critical thinking, while 49 percent said that about global mindset. Similarly to junior roles, job seekers rate themselves highly on the most critical skills. 93 percent of them said they are “very good” at team work, 87 percent said they are “very good” at time management, 87 percent said they are “very good” at written communication, and 86 percent said they are “very good” at people management. However, on time management and team work, the gap between job seekers’ evaluation and businesses’ difficulty in finding the right skills is to the extreme. For time management, 87 percent of job seekers rate themselves as “very good”, while 47 percent of employers said it is “very difficult” to find good candidates with this skill. Similarly, for team work, 93 percent of job seekers rate themselves as “very good”, while 45 percent of employers said it is “very difficult” to find good candidates with this skill. On job seekers’ self-evaluations, the survey revealed that they rated themselves highest on the same skills they said are the most important.
This is consistent but may also suggest that candidates felt compelled to say that they perform well on the skills they had identified as being critical. Suhail Masri, Vice President of Employer Solutions, Bayt.com, said: “It is evident that the region experiences several changes and trends that are impacting the labor market and the type of skills that are in high demand. We have dedicated our platform, as the Middle East’s #1 Job Site, to facilitate connections and exchanging information between job seekers and job providers in hopes of matching more talent and securing more job opportunities. In face of the skills gap and the reported changes in demand, we encourage all professionals to utilize Bayt.com, our products, services, and information – such as this research – that can help them further understand the regional skills gap and work towards achieving better career trajectories and successful talent acquisition strategies.”
Preparing for future jobs
The majority (78 percent) of job seekers surveyed claimed that they are committed to acquiring and developing new skills. However, senior job seekers are more likely than junior ones to read books on new skills (63 percent vs 57 percent), study industry best practices (51 percent vs 41 percent), attend company training (42 percent vs 27 percent), attend conferences (35 percent vs 23 percent) and attend extra classroom courses (31 percent vs 18 percent). On the employers’ side, eight in ten companies support their employees through a variety of initiatives. Mainly, companies organize training sessions (49 percent) and inform employees on industry best practices and implement them internally (38 percent). There is also some interest in offering extra classroom courses beyond the company trainings (24 percent), organizing industry tests for employees (23 percent) and paying for employees’ participation in conferences (23 percent).