In for a memorable ride
Ambassador programme recruits Emiratis for careers in the theme park industry
Like many Emirati teenagers living in Abu Dhabi, Jawahar Mohammed Alhassni loves going for a spin with her friends on the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, at Ferrari World. But in Ms Alhassni’s case, she also happens to work at the theme park on Yas Island.
Ms Alhassni, who is 19, initially joined the team at Ferrari World last December under a three-month paid work placement. Called the Ambassador Programme, it is organised by theme park developers and the promoter Miral in collaboration with its subsidiary Farah Experiences.
The initiative, currently recruiting its second batch of young Emiratis, is designed to offer a taster of the work involved both behind the scenes and on the front line at the Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld parks. The most impressive candidates, such as Ms Alhassni, are then offered more permanent positions. “We’ve created this programme as an opportunity for UAE nationals to introduce them to the theme park industry,” says Miral’s associate director of human resources, Mariam Al Musharrekh, adding that as well as Emiratis, the programme is also open to expats whose mothers are Emirati and to GCC nationals. “Saudi Arabia is also developing a theme park industry, so it’s great that their nationals can train here too.”
As the UAE’s economy diversifies away from oil and gas, recruiting Emiratis to join the theme park industry has become a priority for the government. When Ms Al Musharrekh joined Miral six years ago at the company’s inception, she was the only Emirati on its books. Now, 20 per cent of Miral’s approximately 100-strong staff are Emirati, and it boasts a 99 per cent retention rate for its Emiratis employees. “We’ve coached and mentored our Emiratis with a career development programme, and we’ve created an amazingly positive environment at Miral,” says Ms Al Musharrekh. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi opened in 2010 and now receives more than 1 million visitors a year through its doors, with another four attractions due to be introduced by next year. Altogether, 1,000 theme park job opportunities are opening up on Yas Island over the next 12 months, most of which will be at Warner Bros World, scheduled to open in 2018. Two hundred of those positions are secured for Emiratis, with more opportunities on the horizon at Sea World, opening in 2022. “I always get goose bumps when I speak to my candidates about what we’re doing on Yas Island,” says Ms Al Musharrekh. “It’s great that we’re creating opportunities for Emiratis, because the theme park industry is the next big thing. The best part is that we’re creating opportunities even for those Emiratis who didn’t get the chance to continue their higher education studies. They get an opportunity to develop and grow within the theme park.”
This month, Miral held a careers open day to find the next batch of Emirati ambassadors at the Ferrari World headquarters, which attracted 550 youngsters. Each candidate was given a 10-15 minute interview, in both English and Arabic; they were asked to talk about themselves, what brings them to Yas Island, what interests them about the industry and which positions they imagined themselves working in.
“We’re looking for Emiratis with the willingness to learn and a passion for the tourism industry,” says Ms Al Musharrekh. “We want people who are keen to grow and give back. We’re very supportive of these ambitious candidates.” Emiratis on the programme are not just from Abu Dhabi but also Dubai and Sharjah, and can either accept a housing allowance or reside in nearby employee housing.
For those who have graduated with an engineering degree, there is a rides maintenance programme. “If they have dedication and commitment, we are ready to give them the training and support that they need,” says Ms Al Musharrekh. “In five years’ time, one could be head of department.”
Ms Alhassni was one of 50 ambassadors recruited in the first batch in November, along with her 21-year-old brother, Hussain Mohammed Alhassni.
“In the training, we got to rotate around the parks in different roles,” she says. “I was selling tickets, helping guests if they wanted to know where a ride was and assisting in finding the parents when there was a lost child.”
Ms Alhassni says the aspect of her job that she likes the most is representing her country. The theme park atmosphere is more exciting than being “stuck in an office”, she says. “All the guests are enjoying a special day out. You get to engage with people, which I like.”
Mariam Al Musharrekh, Miral’s associate director of human resources, says the company is creating opportunities for Emiratis.