Recent displays of raw emotion are understandable in times of stress and frustration. These are difficult times, but times during which genuine compassion and understanding are needed. We may not understand disaffected young people all the time, but maybe if we listen, and try to understand them?
The ‘sinking lid’ policies, which are seeing thousands of white-collar expatriates depart the Sultanate to return home, offers middle and senior management greater opportunities, but they are for those already in the workforce. They are already on that ladder where progress becomes a matter of merit, excellence, and effectiveness. Where success comes through commitment, professional development, and achievements.
As meritorious and praiseworthy is the private sector in driving those opportunities for Omanis with job experience, and displaying an aptitude for the fiscally pressured, ‘dog eat dog,’ constantly changing, constantly demanding industrial, marketing and production private sectors, those opportunities do little to alleviate youth employment.
This same issue has proven a carbuncle on the global employment landscape, for most governments, especially during the last three or four decades. School, college, and university leavers have an expectation of a job when they finish their studies, even though that may be unrealistic. We must, I feel, recognise that those transitioning basic education fit into one of the following four basic categories and align educational objectives more effectively towardsjob market needs.
First are the vocational candidates, such as fishermen,farmers, mechanics, builders, engineers, welders, heavy machinery operators, soldiers, sailors, and builders.Their skills are developed through practice and experience, they work under an education, training, and supervised practical programme, during which their progress in terms of skills, knowledge and understanding is continually assessed, and verified. Usually, following a four of a five-year apprenticeship, they may consider opening their own business though of course the forces have longer enlistments.
Apprenticeship models are traditionally privately funded, and government-administered. Then, the artists, and artistes, this is a small, by definition, an elite group in any society, of those not only with the talent to entertain us through their dance,songs, poetry,writing, painting, and sculpture, using conscious skill and imagination. They perpetuate much of the culture, and many of the traditions of a society, and only in excellence will they survive. It is not enough to say, “I want to be a painter,” and it will happen...you need a God given talent. This educational model must be funded individually, through scholarships and from endowments.
Those who continue to higher education include teachers, military officer candidates, doctors, nurses, accountants, scientists, diplomats, lawyers, clerics, and so many more. Most will achieve a degree which will prepare them somewhat for their work ahead, but for most, the experience of higher education sets them up to ask, and answer questions, to be enquiring learners, in their chosen professions. This sector, catering to around 50 per cent of the age demographic is a purely governmental responsibility. The fourth group is of career scholars, such as medical specialists and researchers, philosophers, educationalists, psychologists, scientists. As with artists, they will have demonstrated exceptional skills and abilities, and again, like the artists, there is no place for ‘wannabees...’ you are either intensely talented, committed, and focused.
Most research and innovation models are funded by the private sector. A revision of educational and employment objectives, aligned to the needs of its school leavers, youth, and unemployed, will benefit individuals, communities, societies, and the Sultanate. It may be a bitter pill to take at any time, to recognise that new directions are imperative because what you have is not working, but better to take that pill now! This balancing of educational priorities is a conundrum that every society and civilization has been forced to address throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Inequalities, money worries, self-esteem, and dignity concerns, rise during testing times. Feel the frustration, reflect upon the disappointment, understand the emotion, and act with compassion, and no little sense of purpose. Not your purpose... but theirs.