(MENAFN - Arab News) Hundreds of Saudi students abroad on foreign scholarship are specializing in disciplines that are not required in the local labor market.
Indeed most scientific posts in the Kingdom remain occupied by expats workers.
Yet the country requires a specialized work force to cater to rapid development in the industrial educational media economic and health domains.
Massive expansion projects have prompted local universities to increase their specialties to meet local labor market demands.
In fact Saudis account for only 11 percent of the total work force the lion's share being taken up by expats according to studies conducted by the Central Department of Statistics and Information in 2013 while more than a quarter of Saudi women and just under 10 percent of Saudi men remain unemployed.
'Most Saudis who study abroad prefer to go to Jordan Egypt Bahrain the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom' Tareq Al-Musalmi a Saudi academic told Arab News.
'Many of these students opt for business and information technology programs while local universities also produce graduates in similar specialties. While most business posts are occupied by Saudis the number of Saudi graduates in science-based disciplines remains limited despite vacancies in the medical technological and technical domains' he said.
There are more than 8 million expatriate workers in the Kingdom. Six million of these expats take on menial jobs that Saudis do not want to do while the rest work in the technical and medical fields according to local media.
'Most Saudis opt for business academic programs because they do not want to spend years studying or end up in the medical or technological fields which are more demanding' Saleh Basheer professor at King Abdulaziz University (KAU) told Arab News.
Khaled Al-Sultan director of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) meanwhile has good news.
'The university has scientific programs and specialties that have made many graduates better qualified to work in the government and private sector in the Kingdom' he said. 'The university attracts the best students at the secondary level to compete for admission each year.'
'KFUPM attracts 45 percent of the Kingdom's high academic achievers yearly. The university is committed to equipping students with high-level qualifications and developing scientific academic programs to high standards in order to directly benefit national development' said Al-Sultan.
An estimated SR204 billion in funds was allocated to the education sector in the 2013 national budget.
In a country where over 50 percent of the population is below the age of 25 education remains a vital and strategic area for development.