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A place in the sun

Escape the credit crunch and move east – but do your homework first. By Edward Twaite

For UK professionals seeking a rapid and rich career progression, the Middle East really is the promised land. UK staff represent more than one third of employees in the Middle East’s construction industry and this figure is growing continually.

There are many benefits for moving to the Gulf. Not only is it a secure tax haven, but it also enables people to work on some of the most exciting projects in the world. Moving to the Middle East can also be seen as an opportunity to change one’s lifestyle in addition to offering career stability and prosperity, thereby escaping the UK’s economic downturn, uncertainty within the employment market and less appealing climate.

In emirates such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, or the Sultanate of Oman and the State of Qatar, the credit crunch is a distant cry that has had limited impact on their buoyant economies.

Al Raha beach, Yas Island, The World and Dubai’s unique rotating tower are just a few examples of the stimulating projects being developed in the Gulf. Although these iconic projects are major attractions for professionals, the two most in-demand sectors at the moment are mixed-use developments and infrastructure.

For example, traffic in Dubai is a major issue resulting from the extensive growth of the economy and its increasing population.

What’s on offer

Currently, there are job opportunities across the board with major international contracting companies, consulting engineering firms and property developers. Available positions include development managers, commercial directors, quantity surveyors, contract administrators, estimators, site managers, architects and urban planners.

Finding the right role among the plethora of possibilities offered can be daunting. It is therefore advisable to look via a reputable recruitment consultancy with local offices that have extensive knowledge of the sector and day-to-day practicalities of living and working in the Middle East.

The process from the initial job hunt to securing a position can take as little as six weeks or as long as up to six months, depending on the candidate’s level and requirements. Recruitment consultancies will provide guidance on which companies and roles best suit your profile and personal preferences, as well as hidden discrepancies in the different locations.

The comfortable lifestyle, pleasant climate and the taxfree status are very appealing factors for moving to the Middle East. Politically stable and low on crime, the Gulf is a peaceful and safe environment in which to live and raise children. There are numerous outdoor activities such as golf, sailing, fishing and diving, in addition to a lively social scene.

Familiarising yourself with cultural differences will help with the integration process, which is why visiting the country prior to moving is highly recommended. The region is easily accessible, there are many direct flights and it is only seven hours from the UK.

With so many attractive aspects of living in the Middle East, it is unsurprising that the expatriate community represents more than 90 per cent of people living in the region – and 55,000 are from the UK.

Edward Twaite is a director of recruitment consultancy BBT, based in Dubai www.bbtuae.com

THREE LIVES: WORKING IN THE MIDDLE EAST

‘LIFE IS GOOD’

Alex Hall, design manager, Atkins Abu Dhabi

I moved to Abu Dhabi 18 months ago and life is good. The pace of development is astounding. The workload is not so much the issue, it’s is the delivery of it, with 50 different cultures and a rapid increase in staff. It less glamorous than Dubai but there is still plenty to do. I don’t know what the perception of Abu Dhabi is in the UK because it tends to be hidden behind Dubai. Most people would agree that Abu Dhabi does not wish to compete with Dubai.

‘IT’S QUITE A DRAW’

Sarah Phillips, resident director, Atkins Oman

I’m now resident director in Muscat and have been out here a couple of years. Oman is probably less conservative than I expected. It’s quieter in terms of the development, it’s not life in the fast lane. There are about 180 staff here and I work with 16 nationalities – only about 10 to 15 per cent are British. People spend their free time a lot outdoors – fishing, surfing, camping, sailing. It’s a quite a draw.

‘THE COST OF LIVING IS QUITE HIGH’

Jukka Ala-Ojala, technical director WSP Middle East

I’ve been in Dubai since February having transferred from WSP in Finland. The cost of living is quite high, the school fees and rent are higher than back home. The red tape is quite time-consuming when you first get here. But once you realise that things can go many ways, something which can take 10 minutes can take two hours – you just have to accept it.