Why does GCC construction face skills shortages?

Why does GCC construction face skills shortages?
(Picture for illustrative purposes only)
Published: 18 June 2017 - 6 a.m.
By: Neha Bhatia

Commenting on the skill-set of the GCC’s current workforce, he continues: “It is difficult to lump so many different subsectors into one measurement. The skill level varies greatly, but on average I would say that it needs improvement.

“Based on my experience in the UAE thus far, I can confirm that work [generally] gets done to an acceptable standard; however, it requires a lot more involvement of [quality assurance and quality control] and consultants to ensure the delivery of a high-quality end product.

“I have found that sourcing skilled top-tier construction talent with the right experience is difficult. Based on what I have seen, the literacy level of technical documents is far lower [than it ideally should be] – this leads to more supervisors required on-site.”

Chehab says that while site labour is “more affordable here”, increased supervision is required to ensure desired results.

He adds: “To give a current example, during our search for land surveyors, I’m finding that some of the candidates have a knowledge base [equal to] approximately 30% to 40% of the land surveyors that I have worked with abroad.”

Indeed, while the Middle East appears to be facing a shortage of skilled site experts – the keyword ‘project manager’ was searched 24,230 times on Bayt.com in 2016 – market appetite for C-suite professionals also appears to be high. Marcus Taylor, managing partner at construction and engineering recruitment house Taylor Sterling, says he has observed “more C-level roles being sourced in the past three months than my team [saw] throughout last year”.

He adds: “A number of the bigger firms have [faced] some real upsets from a funding prospective, and there will always be heads on the chopping block.

“However, [...] for the international companies we represent, the decision has been more a tactical one, [aimed at driving] the company’s presence, with the target being beyond 2020.

“The bulk of senior roles have been in the operational disciplines, which generally take a longer time to become embedded into a company,” Taylor tells Construction Week.

Securing “exceptional candidates at the right price” remains the single greatest challenge faced by construction employers in the UAE, Taylor says, adding that contemporary economic conditions – with low margins and limited cash flow – means “the market isn’t providing the security to coax [in] the best” for new opportunities.

He continues: “[However], the cranes are moving, so if you have a solid CV and your salary expectations are in line with what the market is currently offering, then you shouldn’t [face] too much of a wait.

“2017 is a year of survival and embracing change, and [the time] to build relationships even when your tender submittal is beaten buy a lesser bid.

“I only hope that developers do what they promised and support SMEs [small and medium enterprises], as so far this hasn’t been the case. As an optimist, I believe the future is bright,” Taylor adds.

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