Insight into jobs market for MEP professionals

Dubai recruiter Sara Teymoor gives insights on the jobs market for MEP professionals

Sara Teymoor is a senior consultant at Allen & York. She has been recruiting MEP professionals internationally for over six years and moved to Dubai in 2014.
Sara Teymoor is a senior consultant at Allen & York. She has been recruiting MEP professionals internationally for over six years and moved to Dubai in 2014.

Technology Drivers

With the UAE keen to be seen as an innovator of sustainable technologies, high-calibre products entering the market and new geographic regions opening up for business, it will certainly ensure the Middle East maintains its development opportunities.

With a slowdown in the award of new projects and subsequent design work, we now seem to be in a commissioning, fit-out, site supervision phase – and this will be good news for MEP professionals with applied experience. We are also seeing an increased focus upon sustainable asset management and facility management services once buildings go into operation.

Commissioning has become integral to maintain quality, safety and sustainability standards, with developers increasingly understanding the value this adds to their assets. Thorough continuous testing of a building’s HVAC, lighting, fire protection and electricity to ensure its optimal performance can yield significant energy savings, improved safety standards and increased end user satisfaction.

With buildings accounting for almost 40% of global energy consumption, many countries have successfully launched ESCO - Energy Performance Contracting and Building Rating Certification Schemes - to incentivise a reduction of their existing energy footprint. The Etihad ESCO initiative has created an energy performance contracting market in Dubai in line with the UAE government’s mandate in achieving energy reductions of 20% by 2020. To meet this target there will be a need to retrofit circa 100,000 existing buildings constructed before the use of current green building codes and international best practice guidelines proposed by ASHRAE or CIBSE.

Research has shown most BMS systems are wasting 15-50% energy. The best system starts with a trained and involved building operations team. This is why FM companies such as Farnek Avireal, Aldar and ENOVA expect their asset managers to understand Estidama and LEED requirements. With the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading the way with a gradual reduction of subsidies for utilities, we see an increased business case for building owners to look to improve the performance of their buildings.

In the Middle East, efficient HVAC systems from design to installation and maintenance also play a big role in energy efficiency and hence the HVAC sector is a key employer in the region of MEP professionals. With global revenue for energy-efficient HVAC systems expected to increase from $22.8bn in 2015 to $47.5bn by 2024, the HVAC sector should guarantee strong career prospects.

For MEP engineers focussed upon the infrastructure sector, the uptake of smart metering services has been recognised as a key tool in helping utilities and consumers monitor their electricity and water consumption by enabling access to real-time data. At the beginning of January Honeywell completed acquisition of smart metering firm, Elster, for the sum of $5.1bn, showing the push in the market for energy saving technologies.

Uptake of smart grids will also enable a market for renewable energy resources like solar and wind energy, allowing the UAE to achieve its 7% commitment to renewable energy. With a 12% growth rate since 2012 , the predicted value for this market in 2017 will reach $8.2bn.

Conventional to Renewable

Despite the recent drop in oil prices, analysts expect the uptake of solar power across the MENA region to continue to grow as oil accounts for only 5% of global electricity production, and is increasingly viewed as a more valuable commodity for sale on international markets than for local electricity production.

Last year saw a big push in the region for solar projects with the contract to develop, build, own and operate 200 megawatts at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai awarded to Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power. Egypt, Jordan and Morocco are also leading uptakers of solar across the region.

The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water is anticipating that the greater focus upon sustainability will create over 100,000 green job opportunities countrywide by 2030. These figures have recently been supported by new projections from the International Renewable Energy Agency and Masdar.

Iran

Iran is also a market worth getting seriously excited about. Iran not only has the world’s fourth largest oil reserves but also boasts a highly-educated engineering workforce that international employers can benefit from. The forecasted growth for the construction industry is 3.2% in 2016 and an average of 4% over the next five years as a result of the lifting of international sanctions. Some 475 construction tenders worth $88.3bn were awarded in 2014. Even without the relaxation of sanctions, analysts predicted that this figure would reach $154bn by 2016.

China plans to allocate $2.7bn to the construction of a petrochemical complex in the southern port city of Bushehr. It has also agreed to finance seven methanol projects and spend $1bn on the construction of an irrigation network around the reservoir of the Khoda Afarin dam.

Another sector that is set for rapid growth is railways. The Iranian government is planning to expand the country’s 13,000km network to cover 25,000km by 2025. India’s Exim Bank has provided over $150m to Iran which will be used to buy railway facilities from that country. By making investments in 36 projects in various Iranian cities, the bank has provided for direct employment of 4,100 people throughout the country and many more indirectly.

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