Aramco, SABIC popular employers for Saudi graduates

Saudi Arabia, 19 Sep 2011

JEDDAH: Saudi Aramco is the top career choice for Saudi graduates followed by SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corp.), according to a study by online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

The "Recruiting Top Graduates in Saudi Arabia" research released Sunday was based on a survey conducted during June and July of 2,440 recent graduates and final-year students at six leading universities in the Kingdom — King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, King Abdulaziz University, Jubail University College, Prince Sultan University, Alfaisal University and Effat University.

The list of the top 50 most popular employers in Saudi Arabia includes multinationals, Saudi private companies, state-owned companies as well as government ministries. Among local firms, after Aramco and SABIC, the most popular employers were found to be Saudi Arabian Airlines (No. 4), Samba Financial Group (8), Saudi Telecom Co. (9) and the National Commercial Bank (10). Some of the major companies, ministries and hospitals which are on the list include Mobily (7), National Guard Hospital (11), King Faisal Specialist Hospital (12), SABB (14), Al-Rajhi Bank (15), Saudi Electricity Co. (17), Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Co. (21), Capital Market Authority (23), Ministry of Education (25), King Abdulaziz University Hospital (29), Saudi Binladen Group (31), Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu (32), Maaden (35), Ministry of Interior (38), Saudi International Petrochemical Co. (41), Marafiq (43), Communications and Information Technology Commission (44), Ministry of Health (45), King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital (47) Savola (48) and Olayan (49).

According to the survey, multinationals that came close to the top of the popularity rankings include oil services firm Schlumberger, consumer goods company Proctor & Gamble, and industrial conglomerate General Electric.

Among government departments and ministries, the Capital Market Authority had the highest popularity with graduates. The survey finding shows Saudi graduates cited the quality of a company's training and development program as the main attractions for joining them.

"They give you courses and let you learn. They send you to Dubai and to the US to develop yourself so you can advance in your field," said Abdul Rahman, a graduate of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals who was interviewed by GulfTalent about why he had chosen Schlumberger as his top choice.

Other factors ranking highly for graduates were the opportunities to do interesting and challenging work, the company's public image and reputation, as well as the salary offered. The survey shows average salary expectation of male graduates was found to be SR10,000 per month, while the figure for female graduates was half of that — SR5,000. The gap reflects greater competition among female graduates for a smaller number of vacancies currently available. Women graduates also showed much greater interest than men in joining government organizations, citing higher job security, more flexible working hours and the infrastructure to absorb a female work force.

Commenting on the survey, Basil M. Al-Ghalayini, chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Advisors, said: "Although there are still many job opportunities around in the private sector, there is more supply than demand in the job market. It is an employers' market these days and young Saudis will face a lot of challenges to get quality jobs. "He said: "Apart from their qualifications, they have to work extra hard with a strong commitment to their employer to stick around for a minimum of two years."

The survey findings come at a critical time for the private sector. Following the introduction of the government's Nitaqat system earlier in the year, companies in the Kingdom are required to meet ambitious quotas of Saudi employees.

Faisal Alsayrafi, a financial adviser, said the perception of the job market is changing in the Kingdom. "Young fresh Saudi graduates are looking for big companies to earn good income rather than to go for small companies. There are Saudi graduates who also eye good career opportunities in local companies as well as multinationals," Alsayrafi said.

He said the Nitaqat program announced by the Labor Ministry recently is a part of motivation tool to attract young Saudis into the job market. "The program will help reduce unemployment among Saudis in the long run once it is fully implemented," Alsayrafi added.

According to the survey, job location was an important factor for many graduates, with most stating a preference for taking up a job close to their city of origin where they had grown up, rather than relocate to other regions of the country.

The survey shows there was significant interest in gaining international exposure — by working, traveling or training abroad. Based on the survey results, over 63 percent of males and 35 percent of female graduates would like the opportunity to live and work for a few years outside the Kingdom, and would be attracted to employers that offered them this opportunity.

The study also reveals that graduates' employment decisions are heavily influenced by their families. Over 76 percent of males and 91 percent of female graduates said their families were somehow involved in their choice of employer. Most families were reported to play an advisory role, while a minority of families made the final decision for their children — 3 percent for male graduates, and 12 percent in the case of female graduates.

However, Jarmo T. Kotilaine, chief economist at the National Commercial Bank, said young Saudis enter the labor market in an environment of uncertainty this year. "The prospects for the Kingdom's economy are generally favorable and the growth prospects are improving on the back of a significant increase in government spending in key areas but the uncertain global backdrop is in no doubt exerting a negative influence on a number of companies," he said.

"Nitaqat should in general have a positive impact on job creation but it is only one of many factors. Even if the chances of employing a Saudi over an expat have increased, the key issue is the overall willingness to hire which, while rising, is checked by the reality of global uncertainty. Over a medium term, however, the increased investments in education and job creation can be expected to benefit young Saudis more and more sustainably," Kotilaine said.

Money spent on education and supply-side policies is a long-term investment which should not be viewed in the context of one business cycle, he added.