Jean-Michel Gauthier, CEO, InternsME Image Credit: Supplied

Most students in the UAE dream to acquire some work experience and earn while still in university. More than 20,000 students enrolled in institutions licensed by the Dubai Creative Clusters Authority (DCCA) can now fulfil it.

University students in Dubai are allowed to work part time with pay, in thousands of companies within the nine free zone clusters including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City, as per DCCA’s announcement last month. Before this regulation, gaining professional work experience during university years was challenging for students. And due to lack of practical work skills, many graduates found it difficult to find a good job as a newbie entering the employment zone. 

Soft skills gap

According to job site InternsME’s UAE Student and Graduate Survey 2016, 52 per cent of students and graduates feel their universities have not focused enough on employability. Up to 2,319 verified students and graduates living in the UAE participated in the survey by email. 

“It was important to put a legal system into an otherwise unstructured space so both students and employers feel more comfortable working together,” says Jean-Michel Gauthier, CEO, InternsME.  “The regulation will do a lot to tackle the soft skills gap since education isn’t limited only to the academic institutions.

“A typical internship ranges from Dh3,000-Dh5,000 per month, which depending on tuition fees could help parents meet higher education costs in some small way. However, students with more work experience under their belt are more likely to land full-time jobs upon graduation, which will certainly help with financial burdens on the family, for example, tuition loan payments,” he adds.

Students are of course delighted about the positive change in the part-time jobs regulation.

Dubai-based Saghar Sagheb, 24, started applying to different companies the moment she heard about the new ruling. Saghar, who is majoring in Business Administration at the American University in Dubai, is also working as an intern at Education Zone as a student ambassador for two months. 

“Senior students like me need to acquire experience before they start their permanent job, as this helps us improve and accomplish the skills that are required in the work field,” says the Iranian national. 

“I honestly do not focus on the financial side of it because firstly, internships are non-paid. However, what is important here is that we have been given a chance to get work experience. This would help me find jobs in good companies,” she says. 

For Bangladeshi student Shayan Rahman, 21, this initiative is great as she feels it will allow college students to offer some financial support to their parents to cover the rising costs of higher education in the city. Shayan is studying Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology at Manipal University, Dubai. 

“The advantage of working part-time while studying are many as it offers experience and prepares one to face new challenges at the workplace, while opening doors to better opportunities after college.”

Felix Lanceley, Director, Student Services and Academic Registrar at UOWD, considers the move will benefit students who do not have a work visa but are now permitted to work part-time legally. “It provides them with practical and relevant experience, especially if the work they do is related to their studies. 

“Students who are working are also exposed to soft skills such as time management, teamwork and negotiating and improve these, which will benefit them not only in their studies but also in life.”  

Professional network

Mariam Shaikh, Vice President, Student Recruitment and Admissions, Amity University Dubai, adds that the regulation will allow students to develop an effective professional network, important in generating future employment opportunities, while offering practical knowledge of the markets.

“It will certainly attract a large number of students from the Asian subcontinent and the GCC to study in UAE universities. The regulation will also help in experiential learning and create a smooth transition from the classroom to the workplace," she says. 

“It will also support students by bearing their living expenses during their college years, as the remuneration offered by the companies is fair and as per industry norms,” she adds.