MEP industry targets mid-management knowledge gap

Transient work culture contributing towards lack of knowhow in GCC

MEP experts call say lack of education at middle management level cause for concern (ITP Images)
MEP experts call say lack of education at middle management level cause for concern (ITP Images)

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The ‘huge knowledge gap’ at the middle management level in the MEP installation industry is holding back the Middle East, a leading expert has claimed.

Speaking at a roundtable meeting organised by MEP Middle East, Anil Menon, a director at CKR Consulting, said that while the grassroots level of MEP remained strong, he was concerned about the lack of technological savvy and industrial knowhow that he perceived at MEP installation sites around the GCC.

“The backbone of MEP is the technicians, the guys at the grassroots level. Where it is flawed is the mid-level. That’s where the huge gap is, where there’s a new shift in technology or new paradigms in terms of good practices, it hasn’t been filtered down,” he said.

He added that he thought education in the industry should be targeted firmly at this middle management section of the industry, as he felt that technicians in the industry were more than adequate at what they did.

“I know technicians who have been here for 20 years and they are A-Grade. Fair enough, they may not be fully educated and they may not be able to speak the language, but in terms of knowing about a DV dressing or the connection of pipes, they’ll do exactly what they’re asked,” Menon said.

“So I think the education I was talking about, it should be more about the middle management. If that can filter down, it can really make a difference.”

Dan Mizesko, managing partner at Al Shirawi US Chillers, agreed with the sentiment, though he warned of a larger issue that was holding the region back in terms of developing the MEP talent that it had.

“There is a weak link here in this region. It’s a transient country, and the problem with that is that unlike the United States, where if you had a chiller technician, you could get him into the five year UA apprenticeship training programme.”

“He works for a specialist chiller company or an OEM all day and then he goes to school at night. After five years, he turns out as a journeyman able to perform those tasks. Whereas over here, people now get two year contracts and then they can leave, so are you going to invest in someone who’s going to leave?” Mizesko asked.

Having set up an apprenticeship training programme at Al Shirawai US Chillers, he said that he had firsthand experience of this phenomenon, as the company had trained workers only to see them leave for jobs that offered them a little bit more money.

“It’s hard to do this kind of training because there’s no real payback to the company investing in apprentice training. It’s good that people can jump from job to job, everybody needs freedom, but again, when you’re the company that invested in bringing people over, you’re hesitant unless you’ve got somebody that you know is going to leave,” he concluded.

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