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

Tech industries are growing swiftly across the Gulf, so coders and programmers are in high demand Unsplash/Desola Lanre-Ologun
  • Silicon Valley job cuts could be opportunity for Gulf, say recruiters
  • Demand for tech professionals is high across the region

Technology companies in the Middle East are in prime position to attract top talent from around the world as some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names make massive job cuts, according to recruitment consultants.

Google’s parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon have all unveiled large-scale redundancy programmes since the start of January. About 40,000 jobs will go across the three tech giants.

Meta and Twitter also announced job cuts last year after their revenues tumbled. On Monday music streaming firm Spotify said it planned to cut 6 percent of its workforce, or roughly 600 jobs.

Jack Killeen, a technology recruiter in the Dubai office of consultancy Hays, said: “When the redundancies were first announced, we noticed an increase in the number of candidates applying for roles. Post Christmas, we’ve experienced another surge in applications, with candidates looking to start the new year on a fresh foot in the GCC.

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

In December the UAE announced plans to extend its Golden Visa programme to attract more tech professionals, scientists and researchers.

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

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

A Gartner report found that spending on IT services (which includes recruitment) rose by 7.5 percent to more than $16.8 billion last year. The consultancy expects a further 7.9 percent increase in 2023.

A survey conducted by global consultancy PwC last July also pointed to a skills gap. PwC partner Amanda Line said it was a challenge that needed to be overcome in order for the region to achieve its development goals.

“Why is upskilling so important? Because we have a skill shortage in this region,” she said. “In the UAE, 46 percent of our respondents said there is a skill shortage. In Saudi Arabia, 58 percent said there is a skill shortage.

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

A number of projects to tackle the dearth have been launched in the Gulf. In 2017 the UAE government set up the One Million Arab Coders initiative. In partnership with education platform Udacity, it has trained more than 1 million Arabs from 80 countries in programming, providing 5 million hours of study and 76,000 workshops. 

Last October the private office 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. Future Collars, founded in Warsaw in 2016, has helped to train 10,000 people to join the IT industry.

Vladimir Vrzhovski, workforce mobility leader at professional services firm Mercer Middle East, pointed out that some of the employees losing their jobs with big tech firms might be based in the Middle East.

There is cause for hope, though. “We are in an amazing growth market that is going through a digital renaissance. The positive outlook for the GCC region may help close some of the talent gaps and attract more tech talent.”

Vrzhovski added: “Focusing on developing homegrown talent instead of competing for it would be the real game-changer to closing this gap.”

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