A key aspect of Vision 2030 is the move towards a digitised economy, and Saudi Telecom will be at the forefront of this. We need to hire 6,000-7,000 information and communications technology professionals over the next three years.
The telecommunications industry is volatile. We need young people to drive the business forward from a technical perspective, but Saudi employees prefer to work in office jobs rather than technical roles. Only young people want to work in cloud computing or telecoms, so it makes sense to inject them into the business.
We started by focusing on the top two universities in Saudi Arabia, partnering with them to create our own programmes, to ensure students received the right skills training. We selected students from the senior year based on potential, inviting them to an assessment centre. Successful candidates were able to sign a contract with us, including a salary, conditional on them graduating.
During their senior year, we send them technical projects to work on and help them write papers. This year, our target is to hire 150 graduates through this scheme. We also target final-year students and make them offers two-to-three months prior to graduation.
Targeting graduates involved building an awareness programme for staff, as we hadn’t recruited many young people before. Our management team needed to understand they had to babysit new starters. Over two years, we train graduates in the skills and technology they need.
Having had problems sourcing Saudis for senior leadership positions, we allowed ourselves to hire expats for difficult-to-fill roles; we have one senior vice president who is an expat, plus a couple of vice presidents. We have a succession plan to place Saudis in the top three levels of our business. At a lower level, our Saudisation is just below 90%.
Female workers are a huge opportunity for Saudi Arabia. Many have high potential for leadership. Employing more female workers will help close the skills gap in Saudi Arabia, particularly in IT, HR, accounting and marketing.