Graduates plug site skills gap

Training graduate-level staff is becoming increasingly important for UAE construction companies as they struggle to plug skills shortage gaps.

Growth in the region?s construction sector has led to enforced training of young talent.
Growth in the region?s construction sector has led to enforced training of young talent.

Training graduate-level staff is becoming increasingly important for UAE construction companies as they struggle to plug skills shortage gaps.

According to Yasser Hatami, managing director, GulfTalent, companies are undertaking recruitment drives at universities across the Middle East in search of engineers.

"Whereas around five years ago companies would have only gone for experienced staff, they are now taking on fresh graduates and training them up," said Hatami. "They are recruiting from universities in countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Training is becoming increasingly important."

Eastern Europe is also becoming a recruitment hub for managerial-level construction staff. Companies are also looking at hiring from overlapping industries.

"The sources of recruitment are shifting. Companies are looking towards countries in Eastern Europe and are hiring engineers who may have worked in other industries, such as hospitality."

With contractors in the region struggling to find the right staff for large-scale projects, some, where possible, are recruiting for projects much further ahead.

"The attraction and retention of talent is becoming a top priority. Very few contractors have the scale of resources to do large projects," added Hatami.

"Contractors are planning their recruitment drives more in advance, although this is difficult in this region as they only have 30 days to mobilise on site after finding out for sure if they've been awarded a project."

According to recent research by GulfTalent, there are several factors that have led to the current skills shortage being felt by the construction industry.

Among these is the massive macro-economic growth that the entire region has experienced over the last few years.

Legislation across most GCC states on restrictions to hiring foreign workers has also had an impact, along with the global competition for staff.

Employers are also under pressure to upgrade their talent base in line with increased standards.

Another factor is that lifestyle choices are beginning to take precedence over salary.

"Construction has always been less favourable as a lifestyle career - a six-day working week has resulted in a steady flow of talent out of the sector, or to other parts of the world. Many companies would like to offer a five-day working week, although such a move would erode competitiveness if nobody else is doing it," said Hatami.

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