In for a mem­o­rable ride

Am­bas­sador pro­gramme re­cruits Emi­ratis for ca­reers in the theme park in­dus­try

The National - News - Business - - The Life - Jes­sica Hill busi­ness@thena­tional.ae

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.”

Cour­tesy Mi­ral

Mariam Al Mushar­rekh, Mi­ral’s as­so­ciate direc­tor of hu­man re­sources, says the com­pany is cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Emi­ratis.

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