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I was fortunate last week to be asked to facilitate the discussions during the Emiratisation Summit, which was held in the side-lines of the career fair in Abu Dhabi. I have to confess that I am always reminded at this time of the year of the hugely popular 80s British comedy television series ‘Mind Your Language’. The show was about a series of hilarious situations that came about due to the language differences between nine foreign students from different cultures and their teacher Mr Jeremy Brown, who was teaching them in English as a foreign language. On many occasions I feel like Mr Brown when I engage in conversations about the employment of nationals to the different stakeholders.

The conversations about Emiratisation have certainly changed to one that addresses more complex challenges and solutions, however, there is a clear gap about what is expected from Emiratisation between the different stakeholders. In fact, I believe the metaphor ‘elephant in the room’ is a more befitting description of the state of Emiratisation whenever it is discussed.

I believe there is a need today for policymakers to go back to the drawing board. We need to agree on what we want the purpose and nature of Emiratisation to be in the context of today’s modern UAE. We also need to map out the character of an empowered Emirati potential talent and what the role he or she is envisioned to play in the context of the country’s chosen direction. We need to look at questions such as “What are the characteristics of an Emirati potential talent as an employee or leader?” or “What value could they bring to organisations?”

Finally, we need to build a compelling case to employers of the value that Emiratis could bring to their organisations in the UAE.

Although there is an increasing number of encouraging success stories today, the truth is that whenever the topic of Emiratisation is raised the majority of the concerned speak about numbers, quotas, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and entitlement. This does not fit what the government is pursuing today, which is a pursuit for competitiveness, innovation, creativity and happiness. Until we address this gap, I’m afraid the elephant will remain in the room and people like me will continue to feel like poor Mr Brown!

— The reader is an Emirati people and workforce development specialist based in Dubai