Mena firms can plug skills gap by scooping up global tech talent

Unsplash/Desola Lanre-Ologun

Tech industries are growing rapidly all over the Gulf, so coders and programmers are in high demand

  • Cutting jobs in Silicon Valley could be an opportunity for Gulf, recruiters say
  • The demand for technical professionals is high throughout the region

Technology companies in the Middle East are in a prime position to attract top talent from around the world as some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names cut jobs en masse, hiring consultants said.

Google’s parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon have all announced large-scale redundancy programs since early January. There will be about 40,000 jobs at the three tech giants.

Meta and Twitter also announced job cuts last year after their revenues plummeted. Music streaming company Spotify said Monday it plans to cut 6 percent of its workforce, or about 600 jobs.

Jack Killeen, a technology recruiter in the Dubai office of consulting firm Hays, said: “When the layoffs were first announced, we noticed an increase in the number of candidates applying for positions. After Christmas, we experienced another wave of applications experienced, with candidates looking to start the new year with a fresh start in the GCC.

“It’s a trend we expect to continue given the level of investment and growth rate in the region’s technology industry.”

In December, the UAE announced plans to expand its Golden Visa program to attract more technical professionals, scientists and researchers.

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A shortage of technical skills has been identified in a number of industries in the GCC.

Miriam Burt, managing vice president at research firm Gartner, said AGBI in December that one of the top costs for Gulf companies in 2022 was the acquisition and retention of IT talent, which came at a “heavy premium”.

A report from Gartner found that spending on IT services (including recruiting) increased 7.5 percent last year to more than $16.8 billion. The consultancy expects a further increase of 7.9 percent in 2023.

A survey by global consulting firm PwC last July also pointed to a skills gap. PwC partner Amanda Line said it was a challenge to overcome for the region to achieve its development goals.

“Why is continuing education so important? Because we are short of skills in this region,” she said. “In the UAE, 46 percent of our respondents said there is a skills shortage. In Saudi Arabia, 58 percent said there is a skills shortage.

“In the Middle East, the need for specialist skills is even greater. That’s everything from your basic Microsoft to cryptos, cloud computing and Web 3.”

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A number of projects have been launched in the Gulf to address the scarcity. In 2017, the UAE government established the One Million Arab Coders Initiative. In collaboration with education platform Udacity, it has trained more than 1 million Arabs from 80 countries in programming, delivered 5 million study hours and 76,000 workshops.

Last October, the cabinet of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Faisal Al Qassimi, a member of the royal family of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, announced a partnership with a Polish IT training company. Founded in Warsaw in 2016, Future Collars has helped train 10,000 people for the IT industry.

Vladimir Vrzhovski, a job mobility leader at professional services firm Mercer Middle East, pointed out that some of the workers who lose their jobs at large tech companies may be based in the Middle East.

However, there is reason for hope. “We are in a great growth market that is experiencing a digital renaissance. The positive outlook for the GCC region may help close some of the talent gaps and attract more technical talent.”

Vrzhovski added, “Focusing on developing homegrown talent rather than competing for it would be the real game changer in closing this gap.”