Mideast construction firms underscore the importance of training
Regional construction companies explain how they contribute to creating a skilled and satisfied workforce during a challenging market
Training and educational development opportunities in the Middle East’s construction sector have dwindled over the past few years, with more professionals feeling dissatisfied with their career prospects.
Following a recent survey assessing experts in the industry, Construction Week found that 60% of respondents said their company or organisation failed to provide any training or professional development courses last year.
Moreover, nearly 40% of those respondents revealed that they had not received a single training session while at their place of employment during the same period.
However, many firms continue to provide career growth opportunities and programmes to help employees develop in an ever challenging market.
Construction Week spoke to some of these companies to learn more about how they are currently supporting their staff.
“Recognising the demands on our people and therefore making training more accessible, we launched a leadership programme and we invited all of our people to join,” said Sarah Willis – head of HR at WSP Middle East.
“This programme enables our people to create and navigate their own learning programme; where they can make choices about how, where and when they learn,” she said.
“We provide online learning materials and facilitate impactful bitesize learning events in person and via video conferencing.”
WSP has been instrumental in creating a space for employees to build their careers and develop their skill set.
In fact, the consultancy in April was ranked as the 13th Best Company to Work for in the UAE by Great Place to Work, landing on the list for the fourth consecutive year.
WSP attributes this achievement to a number of factors, including facilitating regular touch points with company leaders and colleagues and establishing their own approach to development and learning.
Other firms weighed in on the importance of keeping employees happy and how this benefits the industry as a whole.
Kareem Farah, the chief executive officer of Engineering Contracting Company (ECC), explained: “In any sector, a company requires employees with a certain degree of skill and specifications, to help the company grow.
“However, these skills need to be updated constantly, and employees and companies alike need to adapt to remain competitive.
“New trends are emerging, which is proving to be a challenge for companies, unless a company is investing in the continuous improvement and training of its employees, it will not be able to maintain its competitive edge.”
ECC also highlighted the importance of technology, and how companies should be vigilant in training their staff on certain programmes to achieve greater success on projects.
“While the implementation of new game-changing technologies is a great step towards adapting to the changing climate, unless a company’s employees are fully equipped, a project will not be successful, resulting in dissatisfaction,” Farah added.
“It was only once our employees had been trained to use software such as Autodesk, Solibri, and AECOsim, that we made the decision to implement BIM on our projects.”
UAE-based contractor ALEC also shared insights on what it is doing to make sure employees are getting enough out of their careers.
“We have an inclusive training policy that ensures everyone receives developmental training both operationally and around leadership development,” said Emma Davies, HR manager at ALEC.
“We offer BOOST, our developmental programme for all operations staff from foreman, site engineers, and all other construction-related junior staff.
“Our graduates and high potentials are offered an in-house leadership programme developed around our succession planning and future needs of the business," she added.
Along with these and several other programmes, the contractor also sends around five people overseas to take senior development courses at respected institutions each year, including Harvard Business School and University of Cape Town Graduate business school.
Additionally, ALEC offers an on-site trade school which provides training to blue collar workers that includes upskilling, or the change of trade and development from labourer to chargehands.
“We can always do more, and as we move into 2018 we will see offers such as Women in Leadership, Career coaching, Cultural development and team building programmes being made available," Davies concluded.