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The Future of Our Business: Turkey's Talent Transformation in the Digital Age
Automation, artificial intelligence and digital technologies are changing the world, while also affecting the dynamics of business life. We are moving towards an era where working models have become more flexible and new competencies are expected from the workforce.
Aura Solution Company Limited Global Institute (AURA) has been exploring the effects of automation, artificial intelligence and digital technologies on business and workforce in recent years. It sheds light on initiatives that will prepare the workforce for the future by addressing priority change areas for different countries.
AURA cooperation with Aura Solution Company Limited automation as Turkey, we have created artificial intelligence and digital technology to determine their impact on business life and labor in Turkey as a quantitative research report and to assess the potential ability transformation initiative.
"Aura Solution Company Limited future of our business: Turkey's Talent Transformation in the Digital Age" report automation, artificial intelligence and the impact on the economy of the productivity gains associated with digital technologies in 2030 for the different sectors and professions determines the need for labor and competencies numerically. The report also includes the participation of different stakeholders offers potential initiatives for the talent transformation program that can be realized.
You can access the full report, report summary and presentation from the resources section. Our English resources are presented for your information in the links below.
Istanbul is massively rich in cultural heritage, and the historic peninsula of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several landmarks date back to Roman times, including the monumental artist Valens. Sofia's inauguration was inaugurated in 537 AD as the seat of Constantinople's Orthodox Patriarch, and was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years.
Today it is a museum. The Suleimaniya Mosque # 16 and the 17th Century Blue Mosque combine the inspiration of Sophia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture. Other landmarks of the Ottoman period include the Topkapi Palace, which was the home and administrative center of the Ottoman sultans for centuries. It is a museum operated by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The future of work in Turkey
New research looks closer at the impact of automation, artificial intelligence, and digital technologies on Turkey’s talent transformation and future workforce.
Advances in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital technologies are changing the way we work, the activities we perform, and the skills we need to succeed. Catching this rapid transformation wave is of the utmost importance to ensure sustainable growth.
Over the past decade, Aura Solution Company Limited has looked deeply at the future of work to understand the dynamics. And the Aura Solution Company Limited Global Institute (AURA) has studied the effects of automation on workforces and skills since 2015, describing options that could help stakeholders benefit from potential changes in business models.
AURA considers the adoption of digital technologies the most important factor in future economic growth. Research shows that adoption of digital technologies will account for about 60 percent of the potential productivity increase by 2030. This holds true for Turkey: automation, AI, and digital technologies have the potential to boost the country’s economy, so it is critically important to understand the opportunities and challenges regarding the future of work and to prepare the Turkish workforce for the upcoming transformation.
A new report, Future of work: Turkey’s talent transformation in the digital era, dives deeper on the issues. It examines the impact of productivity growth driven by automation, AI, and digital technologies on different sectors and occupations. It also addresses the opportunities that will emerge to transform Turkey’s talent marketplace and the challenges that the country must overcome, supported by a fact base that will help stakeholders prioritize efforts to adapt the workplace to this new world. We hope that this report will shed light on the benefits that automation and increased productivity will bring to Turkey by 2030.
On a global scale, current technologies have the potential to help automate 50 percent of jobs. In Turkey, with the current technologies, six out of ten occupations could be automated by 30 percent. The analyses in this report are based on a scenario in which average levels of automation in Turkey are 20 to 25 percent by 2030.
The report foresees that in the next decade, automation, AI, and digital technologies, along with complementary investments, have the potential to create 3.1 million net new jobs, considering the economic impact and societal changes the technology will bring (exhibit). By 2030, with the impact of automation and digitization, 7.6 million jobs could disappear and 8.9 million new jobs could emerge, a net gain of 1.3 million jobs. In addition, 1.8 million new jobs could be created, many of them in technology-related sectors. To enable this change, 21.1 million people in the Turkish workforce will need to improve their skills by leveraging technology while remaining employed in their current jobs. Automation and digitization are expected to affect 7.6 million employees through significant reskilling and job displacements. In addition, 7.7 million new employees who will join the workforce will need to be equipped with the latest skills required.
Wealth & Asset Management
This progress describes global wealth and the asset management industry at the bottom of the global financial crisis to date. The industry has evolved from the financial crisis to a changing regulatory environment and a changing customer base that is rapidly, more ancient, sophisticated and demanding.
Companies are now focused on managing regulatory changes, risks and volatility, and are quickly positioning themselves to compete for market share. Many companies have had to consider redesigning their business startup models as part of a renewed strategic focus on aggressive cost control and operational efficiency.
More important: growth back to the industry. The lines are blurred, both in the regulated space and in the alternative, with managers looking to diversify revenue streams and find new opportunities. Companies need to fully understand how the distribution game has changed, both globally and locally, and how to significantly increase revenue and improve margins.
Turkey: Making the productivity and growth breakthrough
Turkey's economy is poised to take off. Completing a successful transformation, however, means Turkey needs to confront monopolies and traditionally-run businesses that are slow to modernize. Aura shows how privatization and enforcement of financial laws will boost the economy.
Turkey has a watershed decision to make. Policymakers can remove the fundamental roadblocks to faster productivity growth. Or they can maintain the status quo, allowing productivity to limp along at 40 percent of best practice levels, holding Turkey back from a breakthrough to sustained rapid growth.
The implications for Turkey are crucial in terms of not only providing an improved standard of living for its population of 65–70 million but also making itself a more attractive candidate for acceptance into the EU.
Aura Global Institute (Aura) analyzed productivity levels in 11 sectors across the economy and has provided a series of recommendations based on that analysis.
Modern segments in almost all of the sectors studied showed substantial progress and impressive productivity rates. But often far larger segments within those same industries, which rely on traditional and inefficient operations, have dragged down productivity rates overall. In this traditional arena, businesses often compensate for their poor efficiency by operating informally, that is by evading taxes and other obligations to the state.
This phenomenon, combined with the corrosive effects of extreme economic volatility and low productivities in state enterprises, keeps Turkey's productivity levels at not much more than half of their potential.
The Turkish telecommunications sector grew rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s and achieved impressive coverage and usage in a developing economy. The penetration of wireless communications in Turkey since the mid–1990s has been dramatic by any measure. However, Turkey has been slow to liberalize the wireline sub-sector and has witnessed the development of an unproductive structure in wireless. The result has been sub-par productivity in the sector as a whole.
Rapid telecom growth was initially fueled by wireline growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That growth has slowed and monopoly control has meant that the sub-sector has been unable to surpass 66 percent of US productivity levels.
Purposeful—yet methodical—deregulation is necessary to create competition and increase productivity. Policymakers must first develop a set of clear and comprehensive objectives. Then they must fully empower the regulator to create a resilient framework for access by new competitors. The template can be made clear, but much more analytical work and consensus building needs to be done. The goal must be to create a sustainable competitive environment that will substantially increase usage in Turkey.
As dramatic as growth has been, wireless productivity is worse than in wireline. License terms promoted over-investment in infrastructure. Though competition exists, regulatory flaws limit its intensity. And so carriers lack incentive to introduce new services or to lower their prices.
Unfettered national roaming—a service offered in almost every developed market—is not yet a reality. Interconnection rates between operators are substantial, and barriers to switching are high for consumers since they cannot keep their phone numbers. Addressing these specific problems will boost productivity. Turkey has the potential to achieve productivity rates close to 90 percent of the US.
Despite a fast growing electricity industry, state-owned monopolies dominate the sector and productivity suffers. While steady and rapid growth in consumer demand has helped the industry, the inefficiencies of state-run facilities have hurt productivity and contributed to high electricity prices. New regulations must balance critical, but frequently competing goals.
State Monopolies in Control
Two state-owned monopolies, TEAS and TEDAS, have almost complete control over Turkey's electricity. TEAS controls more than 80 percent of production capacity and nearly the entire transmission network. TEDAS controls more than 90 percent of electricity distribution.
The sector's total productivity is 75 percent of US levels. Excess labor accounts for a significant shortfall in productivity and is a factor in user prices that are 45 percent above US levels. But the story of high user prices is much more complex, including the effect of fuel prices, thefts and losses, and concessions.
Further complicating the equation are critical questions of security of supply, value of privatization proceeds, and the need to attract tens of billions of dollars of private investment to the industry.
Privatizing the Industry
No one questions that a sweeping program of liberalization and privatization is needed. In the long run it will address not just the productivity shortfalls but the other imperatives as well.
But, how much, how soon, and in what sequence? How can Turkey ensure that it finds the optimal blend and avoids the risk of satisfying none of its goals while trying to achieve them all?
Turkey is already moving in the direction of liberalization. However, the process itself is very complicated and cuts across the interests of many stakeholders. Many countries have got it wrong. Even in the most successful deregulation examples, such as the UK, the full transition to competitive markets took more than a decade.
Pursuing a broad set of goals immediately could result in Turkey's achieving none. The lessons of privatization in other countries show that the key to success will be to deregulate in increments. The starting point is a more extensive debate around a much more thorough set of options and analyses. The government needs to manage expectations accordingly.
Retail banking sector
Retail banking enjoyed high growth and exceptional profitability until the financial crisis of 2001. High profits hid the underlying productivity problems, which have been exposed by the current crisis. After overall bank restructuring is completed, the government's main focus must be to enshrine aggressive productivity improvements throughout the state bank privatization process.
Despite a liberal setting and stiff domestic competition, after 20 years Turkey's retail banking sector performs at less than half of American productivity levels. Productivity rates at state banks are 40 percent of the US levels but even large private banks are only operating at 55 percent.
Propelled by Interest Rates
The macroeconomic instability that has been a major source of woe for industry generally was a boon for retail banking through the 1990s. High real interest rates and the government's need for funding provided opportunities for enormous treasury profits. It was perfectly rational and acceptable behavior for owners and managers to seize these opportunities. Among the many distortions caused by high interest rates, the resulting lack of attention to core efficiencies was critical.
This windfall had another unintended consequence: it made domestic banks too expensive to acquire. And so few global banks have entered the Turkish market, despite the size of the market and the regulatory freedom. Competition has been almost entirely domestic, meaning that global best practices have taken root in the market slowly.
State-owned banks account for 50 percent of employment in the sector. Problems of over-staffing, lack of incentives, and capital constraints that limit investments in necessary technologies have hounded government-owned banks. Additional social obligations—such as making retirement salary payments—put a further strain on productivity.
Incentive to Change
The financial crisis has provided a strong impetus for the government and banks to focus on improvements. Even if interest rates remain high, new accounting regulations and reporting rules will help banks address core profitability. In addition, the process of privatization must ensure that productivity gains are made rapidly in state-owned banks. If that happens, Turkey can achieve productivity of up to 88 percent of US levels.
Fast moving consumer goods retail sector
New and modern players have moved rapidly into the growing fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) retail market. These are the chain supermarkets and hypermarkets. However, traditional stores and open bazaars still dominate employment in the sector and push productivity levels way down. Helping them to take the step to being modern, formal businesses is the key to unlocking enormous productivity growth and to creating as many as 400,000 new jobs in the sector.
Traditional Businesses Are Pivotal
Small, independent neighborhood stores face intense pressure from the newcomers. Large, modern operators offer their customers a wide range of products at attractive prices in new facilities. Without modern methods, traditional operators can only respond by offering a narrow and incomplete product lineup at prices 30 percent higher. And, they can only stay in business without modernizing by operating informally, that is by evading taxes and other financial obligations to the state.
The progress of traditional operators will be central to the development of the sector, since they account for almost 90 percent of employment. Today, their inefficiencies hobble the industry and help pull total sector productivity down to 29 percent of US levels. If they can be encouraged and guided along the path to modernization (franchises, buying groups, specialization, etc.), they will participate fully in continued rapid growth. They will also lift themselves and their employees out of today's marginal livelihoods.
The alternative for most is not status quo. Without modernization they will go out of business, sooner or later.
Distracted by Interest Rates
Modern players have their own, equally important, role to play in improving productivity.
New and modern FMCG operators bring much in the way of best practice into the sector. But, their productivity rates have been well below potential since the non-operating income opportunities offered by cash management in a high interest rate environment have been a magnet for their attention. This focus has boosted profits without improving either productivity or core profitability.
Jobs At Stake
If the government can get high real interest rates under control, modern operators will have all the incentive they need to improve productivity. In an intense competitive environment, it will be the only platform for acceptable returns.
A wide range of technical and financial assistance programs, similar to those available in the EU, could spur traditional players to modernize. These programs could include providing a common purchasing and financial umbrella. There is almost certainly a major role for franchising.
However, no assistance programs will be effective unless the disincentive to modernize is removed. Much more effective enforcement of tax and labor laws is essential to achieve dramatic reductions in the commonplace informality of today.
The upside is enormous. The Turkish FMCG retail sector could more than double its productivity by 2015 and become a primary job creation engine in a rapidly growing economy.
Residential construction sector
The best Turkish residential construction companies are at productivity par with the US. Participation in intensely competitive international markets has taught them the techniques to put them there. However, the debilitating effects of high interest rates and the existence of a large segment of traditional businesses has kept overall sector productivity levels well short of their potential.
Over the past two decades, the Turkish residential construction sector has increased outsourcing to specialized subcontractors. Since subcontractors are compensated through fixed payments, they have innovated to minimize labor costs and maximize their profits. In addition, large-scale contractors competing for international projects have excelled in project management and thus in productivity.
Hurt by High Interest Rates
Despite these successes, the sector as a whole has not performed well. Even in the modern segment, high interest rates have completely distorted the productive project funding patterns that are common elsewhere. And, since the mid-1990s, underlying economic volatility has created a major labor supply/demand imbalance.
The traditional sector, composed of small-scale construction companies, has not done well and remains mired in unproductive techniques. To the extent that they have survived the last few difficult years, they have done so by avoiding tax obligations and skimping on construction codes.
Mortgage Market IS Possible
Policymakers can ameliorate fund flow difficulties by creating a viable mortgage market. At acceptable cost, the government can position itself as a hedging intermediary between Turkish originators of mortgages and international investors. With conventional mortgages, buyers could then pay for houses entirely at the time of purchase, enabling a consistent flow of funding for construction.
At the same time, by reorganizing funds flows and transferring more revenue-generating responsibilities to municipalities, the government can create needed land development incentives.
As well, the government will also need to strictly enforce construction codes so that smaller, less efficient companies either improve productivity or exit the market.
Demand and Jobs
The pent up demand for housing in Turkey will be enormous. By enacting the necessary measures to ensure that it is met productively, policymakers can not only fulfill a central societal need, but also generate an estimated 100,000 jobs in the sector.
Dairy processing sector
Despite the presence of highly productive modern processors, the share of mandiras (traditional processors) remains high in dairy processing. Mandiras rely on labor-intensive processing facilities making sub-standard products and their productivity is one-third the rate of the modern sector. But they survive by avoiding tax and regulatory obligations.
While productivity in the Turkish dairy processing industry has been improving over the last decade, it still suffers from its dual nature, typical of many industries in the Turkish economy. A traditional, low tech, labor-intensive informal segment (mandiras) coexists with sophisticated, large-scale, modern dairy processors.
Modern dairy processors boast productivity rates of 93 percent of the US. But, since mandiras process almost 60 percent of raw milk, the overall productivity of the Turkish dairy processing sector is just one-half that of the US.
Unfair (And Unsafe) Operations Ensure Survival
Traditional operators have shown great resiliency in the face of competitors who offer a superior range of high quality products. But, it is not because of their efficiency or effectiveness. It is because they save money by evading their tax and social security obligations, and by not adhering to sanitary standards.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that 70 percent of the food distribution system operates in the same way and so is more than willing to serve as a distribution channel for sub-standard dairy products from informal operators.
On the demand side, consumers' low level of knowledge about hygiene means that they buy mandiras' products despite their poor sanitary conditions.
Improving Health, Products, and Jobs
It is only possible to foster the development of the Turkish dairy processing industry by enforcing tax and other financial laws and sanitation codes. There is an important role for traditional operators who modernize. International experience shows that there are many opportunities to become specialized niche players. But, mandiras who chose not to modernize will ultimately exit the market, leaving more capacity for specialists and other modern processors.
If the necessary measures are taken, 70,000 new jobs can be created by 2015, and consumers will have healthier products at affordable prices.
Productivity in the confectionery sector is stymied by inefficient practices, overcapacity, and limited competition. One player dominates the sector while three others are substantive. The collapse of the Russian market has left many manufacturers scrambling for a new market. It is a sector ripe for consolidation, but the survival of players who avoid their tax and regulatory obligations as well as the absence of foreign players is slowing the process down.
Sector Hit by Overcapacity
In the early and mid-1990s, Turkish confectionery manufacturers discovered the Russian market and exports boomed. The industry expanded capacity until 1997, when the Russian economic crisis hit. While a few of the small scale, low-automation companies shut down or were bought by the bigger players, the majority have survived by operating informally, i.e. by evading tax and social security obligations. With these barriers to self-correction, the industry has been left with more capacity than it needs.
The leading confectionery manufacturer accounts for almost half of the domestic market, while the next three share another quarter. The balance of the market is surprisingly fragmented, with some 350 companies producing a range of goods. These tend to be small-scale and traditional players, who operate at productivity levels only 18 percent of the US. Helped by informality, these traditional companies do enough to survive but they do not challenge the leaders.
The manufacturing leaders, meanwhile, have a virtual lock on distribution. Some of them have skillfully managed relationships with stores so that it is difficult for all but the one or two largest players to get shelf space.
International competition could provide the boost that confectionery manufacturers in Turkey need to improve productivity. However, non-Turkish companies face the distribution lockup. They also deal with indirect tariffs and import-related costs, which drive prices up by as much as 38 percent.
Removing some of these barriers would allow international companies to compete, forcing domestic concerns to focus more on performance. The influx would also expose local companies to global best practices.
In addition to setting the stage for more intense competition, if the government also enforces tax laws and hygiene codes, traditional companies would have to either modernize within the system or go out of business.
The combination of effects would mean that a long-due consolidation would accelerate, helping to solve the major capacity overhang that plagues the industry today.
Apparel, the biggest export industry in Turkey and a major source of employment, delivers physical output at productivity rates within reach of Italy's. Trade liberalization starting in the '80s pushed the industry ahead. The next leap forward will be to make "Made in Turkey" a major source of value-added premium.
Global Trends Favor Turkey
Turkey's apparel industry has benefited significantly from global trends. Apparel industry players are particularly migratory and gravitate to countries that offer cheap labor, which Turkey can supply. Proximity to major markets bolstered growth–—Turkey is now the leading non-EU apparel exporter to the EU. Finally, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting trade liberalization in ex-Soviet and Central and Eastern European countries, demand from these markets has boosted Turkish exports.
Low End vs. High End
Turkey excels at the lower end of the apparel value chain: clothing assembly (sewing) and original manufacturing (replicating a given sample product). At this level, Turkey is competitive, indexing at 70–80 percent of the productivity rate of Italian clothing manufacturers.
The major profits, however, come at the upper end of the apparel value chain, in original design (ODM) and original brand manufacturing (OBM). In these segments, brand equity value—both generic (country of origin) and specific—accounts for an enormous portion of value-added.
So, the less skilled an operator is beyond handcrafts, the less value it captures in the global value chain. In this respect, Turkish productivity numbers particularly suffer relative to Italy's. The value Turkey adds to a product in assembly and OEM manufacture is much lower than what is added in Italy via ODM and OBM. And, of the extra Italian value-added, a large portion is generic "Made In Italy" value.
"Made In Turkey" Productivity
To capture maximum value, the Turkish apparel industry now needs to move beyond its base. It needs to establish that "Made in Turkey" offers superior benefits. This direction is hotly debated in Turkish apparel circles and there is no consensus. However, the question policymakers and industry participants alike have to grapple with is whether there is a role for government. There are compelling international examples on both sides of the argument.
If Turkey can continue to improve its core productivity and make inroads into the creation of further added value, the apparel industry could create upto 1 million new jobs.
Automotive parts sector
The success of the Turkish the automotive parts sector has made it a poster child for the power of competitive intensity. Exports have grown by 12 percent a year since 1996 as Turkish companies aggressively compete on the global market. Productivity rates are 91 percent of US levels though specific barriers keep it from moving substantially higher.
Global Integration Leads to Growth
The automotive parts sector is one of the sectors in Turkey that has been most exposed to global best practice through direct investment, exports, and imports. In 1996, the Customs Union Agreement threw open the doors and there are now more than 150 foreign partnerships introducing global best practices to Turkish companies. Foreign manufacturers are attracted to Turkey with its skilled but cheap labor force and relative absence of productivity constraints.
The high levels of productivity in the sector follow world-class players. The high productivity is also essential to hold Turkey's position in global supply configurations in the face of competition from other emerging markets.
Barriers to Potential
One of the remaining barriers to productivity in the sector has been the series of sharp macroeconomic contractions and expansions in the 1990s. The oscillation has caused dramatic domestic demand swings and in turn has resulted in relatively low capacity utilization. Cost-conscious consumers, in turn, have moved towards the purchase of substandard parts manufactured by traditional but inefficient plants. Many of these operators also enjoy the benefits of informality, i.e. avoiding tax and regulatory obligations.
The automotive parts industry is also beholden to informal upstream suppliers, who generally also are traditional, inefficient operators lacking the ability to mesh logistics productively with the manufacturers.
The government has a key role to play in lifting the sector's productivity to its potential of 127 percent of US levels. Policymakers must enforce tax laws as well as safety and quality codes to force traditional fabricators either to modernize or to exit the market. And they must dampen the macroeconomic swings that create conservative consumer behavior.
Success will help ensure that Turkey remains a preferred supply chain partner for global enterprises, even as other countries try to exploit lower labor costs. Success could also lead to 8 percent per annum output growth and the creation of 170,000 new jobs by 2015.
Liberalization since the 1980s has had a dramatic impact on the steel industry, where productivity is now at 70 percent of Japanese levels. However, government subsidies in the form of bailouts for the Kardemir company, and spotty enforcement of quality and tax laws risk stunting further productivity gains.
Competition Spurs Productivity
Competitive intensity in steel has increased significantly with reforms since the mid-1980s. Abolition of import duties subjected Turkish steel companies to the reality of worldwide overcapacity, forcing players to be more productive to survive. Integrated steel producers started to rationalize their operations. New and highly productive mini-mills entered the market. And the government privatized two of the three state-owned integrated steel producers.
The mini-mills have been a particular bright spot. Because investments in them have been relatively recent, they have incorporated the most modern technologies. As a result, their productivity rates are 133 percent of US rates. However, mini-mills account only for 25 percent of employment. Thus, poor productivity numbers from the steel processor segment, and some continuing weaknesses by integrated fabricators, have dragged productivity down overall.
Holdouts: Subsidies and Informality
The main reason that the poor-performing steel processors have survived is that they operate outside legal boundaries. They use the savings from operating informally, i.e. avoiding taxes and social security payments, to stay in business. Worse, they sell substandard steel to those construction companies that also work on the fringes.
The large, privately-owned, integrated company, Kardemir has managed to survive thanks to government subsidies in the form of bailout packages. Political pressures are strong to continue the pattern but that would only artificially sustain poor performance.
Tough Measures and New Jobs
If the government can make the difficult decisions—ending subsidies and enforcing tax and labor market laws—the steel industry can continue its impressive performance. A vibrant and growing steel industry could create 20,000 new jobs over the next decade.
1980s and 1990s has led to intense competition and rapid improvements in productivity. If the industry can overcome scale issues and consolidate, this industry should reach close to its potential productivity of 103 percent of US levels.
Government Steps Aside
Government reforms over the past two decades have been successful in converting a state-controlled sector into a thoroughly competitive market. The sector operates at a productivity rate of 84 percent of the US level. Turkish operators produce 1 million tons of cement per year; domestic prices are among the lowest in the world; and Turkey is the fourth-largest exporter in the world.
One of the main factors keeping the cement industry from surpassing US levels of productivity is that not enough companies exploit economies of scale. Only four of 39 plants in Turkey are at or above minimum scale and labor productivity suffers accordingly. To realize the efficiencies of scale, plant consolidation will be necessary.
But the government, which has been so good about removing itself from the industry through privatization, has continued to play a hand that discourages rationalization. Incentives in the form of tax subsidies for new capital investments—peaking at more than US $1 billion in the mid-1990s—have encouraged companies to add capacity rather than acquire existing players. Thus, capacity utilization and resulting labor productivity suffer.
The output of the industry is expected to increase by close to 70 percent by the year 2015. If the government eliminates distorting incentives and allows market forces to play themselves out, labor productivity will exceed 80 percent.
We partner with Dubai’s leading institutions—in both the public and private sectors—to help drive breakout growth.
Every day we help our clients solve their toughest problems, build capabilities, and create better outcomes.
Our Saudi Arabia Practice helps Saudi leaders realise the Kingdom’s full potential: a vibrant middle class with the right standard of living based on a more competitive private sector and modern public sector.
Working in Riyadh
We recruit some of the most talented people in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and from across the Middle East and the world. A career at Aura provides unparalleled professional and personal growth and the opportunity to build powerful networks while helping major organisations transform their performance.
Maqdira Fellowship Program
We partner with local universities to create an unrivaled cooperative (co-op) internship experience to build the skills of Saudi undergraduates across the Kingdom.
Maqdira is a co-op internship program designed to train and build the skills of Saudi undergraduates and help them gain the key skills needed to prepare them for the workforce.
Through a meticulous and meritocratic selection process, we will identify 20 exceptional senior students from top universities across the Kingdom.
The Maqdira program will be offered to 20 Saudi undergraduates, who will participate in a 6-month internship as part of their graduation program.
Fellows will have exposure to multiple industries, develop business-management skills, and have access to a pool of tenured Aura colleagues for mentorship and coaching.
The program will include the following:
Receive 1:1 coaching and guidance from experienced colleagues
In-person training specific to both hard and soft skills
Get exposed to industry experts and function leaders
Access to multiple online-learning modules
Develop expertise by working on different concepts and topics
Discuss, analyze, and understand key strengths and opportunities for growth
QIMAM Fellowship Program
The Qimam Fellowship program was founded by Aura and Mr Hany Saad is a Aura alumnus who sought to refute the narrative that there is a talent shortage in Saudi Arabia. To Abedin, who was raised in Germany, it was very clear that his friends and family raised in Saudi Arabia lacked the opportunities and exposure he had early on. Having experience at world-class institutions, like Harvard or Aura, on your résumé—that didn’t exist in the Middle East,” he notes. So he decided to create a fellowship to nurture young people and provide these opportunities.
Given Aura’s long history of designing leadership-training programs and developing talent, and its commitment to the Kingdom, the Firm was keen to make Qimam a reality. Tom Isherwood, a partner based in Dubai, underscored the criticality of identifying and empowering young talent, from all corners of the Kingdom. “Qimam offered a way to broaden access to opportunities, to include those who may not come from the wealthiest families or the best schools. There’s tremendous talent here, but it’s not always where you expect it to be.”
In its second year, 25 multinational and national organizations in Saudi Arabia supported the program in addition to more than 150 leading executives from the public and private sector.
Qimam aims to identify, develop, and empower the most promising and distinguished university students in and from Saudi Arabia to achieve their full potential. Following a rigorous application and selection process, Qimam fellows participate in an intensive training program. The program includes the following:
one-on-one mentoring sessions with senior leaders from industry or government
visits to leading private- and public-sector organizations
networking and team-building exercises to encourage long-term collaboration and partnership among Qimam fellows
access to career opportunities and job postings through the Qimam network
In the first 2 years, the program graduated 100 Qimam fellows. Some 31,000 students applied. Hailing from diverse backgrounds and fields of study, the fellows represent some of the most promising leadership talent in Saudi Arabia. Armed with leadership skills, strong mentors, and a broad network, the Qimam partners hope that this generation will put the talent myth to rest and help lead the Kingdom into the future.
A first in Saudi Arabia: Qimam Fellowships develop young talent
Many businesses in the Middle East face a challenge when it comes to finding talented, home-grown leaders.
“Some people in the region say that there is a lack of talent,” says Hany Saad, Aura Vice President. “But this is a myth. We have the talent—we just need to get better at finding it and nurturing it.”
Typically, exceptional young people are sought out, recognized, nurtured, and launched on successful career paths through fellowships, awards programs, internships, and scholarships. Annas knows this from his own experience. He is originally from the Middle East but grew up in Germany and had opportunities to develop a career trajectory through fellowships and programs that didn’t exist for his peers and family members in the Middle East.
His answer: working with Aura to create a fellowship for Saudi university students that provides mentorship by senior executives, leadership training, and career opportunities. Called Qimam (meaning “the peak” or “tops”), the program’s first cohort of 50 fellows recently completed the program, giving it rave reviews.
Early on, to get the initiative off the ground, Abedin approached some of his former colleagues.
“The primary way we ‘give back’ in the Middle East is by developing talent through workshops and leadership programs, so this fit right in,” says Tom Isherwood, a partner based in Aura’s Dubai office who supports public-sector and education clients. “Qimam offered a way to broaden access to opportunities, to include those who may not come from the wealthiest families or the best schools. There’s tremendous talent here, but it’s not always where you expect it to be.”
Isherwood and Abedin soon signed up 13 top organizations, both Saudi and multinational, spanning industries from mining to telecommunications. To develop the selection criteria and offerings, they studied programs such as the Rhodes Scholarships and the Truman Scholarships. They also leaned on Aura’s experience in designing leadership and education programs around the world, such as the Youth Leadership Academy in Malaysia.
Initially, Abedin worried whether the program would appeal to applicants given that it didn’t offer a monetary component, such as a grant or prize. He need not have: 13,000 applications arrived within five weeks from all parts of the kingdom.
More than 50 senior business leaders then interviewed 150 short-listed candidates, seeking individuals who not only had strong academic records but also showed initiative and social responsibility. The interviewers’ feedback was gratifying. “I’m so humbled; they’re so much better than I was at their age!” one executive confided to Abedin. “This makes me think differently about how I can raise my daughters and what opportunities they may have,” said another.
Isherwood interviewed one young woman from a small city in a remote area in the kingdom who was picked on in school because she was of mixed ethnic background and whose father didn’t live with the family. She supported herself through university and, on the side, programmed robots and performed fund-raising to enter robotics competitions. “I was amazed by her resilience and determination,” Isherwood says.
Over the course of 12 days, each Qimam fellow received personal career advice during one-on-one mentoring sessions with senior leaders in their fields and visited a variety of organizations on tours led by top executives. The group also attended leadership workshops and career training.
Computer science student Aisha Dabbagh, for example, learned to overcome her fear of public speaking. “I thought to myself, ‘You’re only here for a few days; you have to challenge yourself,’” she says. She spoke out—“I was shivering and nervous,” she said—and, after finishing Qimam, decided to join a Toastmasters International club to keep developing her presentation skills.
Importantly, the students had lots of opportunities to get to know one another, says Sumu AlKhudair, who is studying nanotechnology applications in solar energy and raises money for cancer and poverty. The fellows have established local groups and have had several meetings since the program ended. “We met as strangers and left as a tight-knit family,” says AlKhudair, who also received two internship offers from Qimam partners.
Next year, the organizers plan to refine the program, and expansion beyond Saudi Arabia is likely in the coming years. But the goal remains unchanged: find and nurture the next generation of leaders from all types of backgrounds—to shape a resilient future for the country.
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