Abu Dhab:i A young Emirati will soon be leading a team of 20 as airport duty manager at Etihad Airways' London office.

Shaeb Al Najjar, 26, struggled to speak English less than 10 years ago. He completed an 18-month Graduate Management Development Programme (GMDP) along with 12 other Emirati colleagues - both male and female.

Najjar and his colleagues spent time in several Etihad departments learning about the airline's business. The programme focused on customer service, sales and marketing, reservations, pricing and ticketing, network and schedule planning, finance and human resources skills.

The graduates received their certificates last Wednesday at a ceremony held at Etihad's new training academy in Abu Dhabi.

They are now ready to take management positions across the world.

Despite his poor English skills, Al Najjar persevered in his dreams of studying aerospace engineering at Southampton University, in the United Kingdom. He is now fluent and eloquent in the language.

"Aerospace engineering consists of technical terms which forced me to improve my English. I'm the kind of person who gets motivated when challenged," said Al Najjar.

Al Najjar will seek to add the Arabic touch to Etihad's London office as part of his first mission.

"I intend on teaching our English staff basic Arabic words to welcome our passengers with and will employ Arabs who can assist our fellow Emirati passengers with procedures, ticket reservation and paper work in London."

Najla Al Nahdi, 28, graduated from UAE University in 2005 and envisioned a career in human resources. She will become career development manager for Emiratis.

"When I first joined Etihad there were less than 100 Emiratis, now we are the fourth largest nationality in the company," Najla said.

Known for his sharp wit, Haitham Subaih, 24, travelled to China, India, the United States, Canada, Australia and Italy in less than nine months during the programme.

He decided to take up the role of business development manager in New York due to his strong will to strengthen ties between the UAE, the United States and the rest of the world.

New crop: Shining stars of 2009 class

The following are the names and positions of the 12 graduates:

- Mohammad Al Shamsi - Airport Duty Manager, Sydney, Australia
- Othman Al Ghafli - Airport Duty Manager, Melbourne, Australia n Shaeb Al Najjar - Airport Duty Manager, London, Britain
- Mansour Al Marzouqi - Business Development Manager:Sales, Dubai
- Haitham Al Subaihi - Business Development Manager:Sales, New York, the United States
- Amna Al Zaabi - Marketing Manager, Destination Management Company, Etihad Holidays, Abu Dhabi
- Shareefa Al Hammadi Product Manager: Inbound UAE, Etihad Holidays, Abu Dhabi
- Salama Omar Project Manager Revenue Management Systems, Abu Dhabi
- Saleem Al Marzouqi Commercial Planning Manager Network Planning, Abu Dhabi
- Najla Al Nahdi Career Development Manager:Emiratisation, Abu Dhabi
- Jehan Mohammad Core Recruitment Manager, Abu Dhabi
- Aisha Al Ameer Product Development Manager, Abu Dhabi