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Skill shortage remains in Middle East

The opportunity to work on world-class projects exists overseas for those with skills and experience

The construction industry is feeling the crunch in Dubai where projects are being delayed because of financing problems. Last October, 80 per cent of vacancies in Dubai were unfilled due to insatiable demand, but recently, this has gone down to about 10 per cent. Abu Dhabi is also pausing for thought. However skill shortages remain an issue for other areas of the Middle East and there are still many opportunities, particularly in lesser exposed regions in the UAE and across the Middle East and North Africa.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still require staff, and offer exciting jobs for skilled and experienced candidates across the technical professions. 

For instance, Saudi Arabia has invested in building six brand new economic cities, including business and residential districts, and the associated infrastructure and commercial facilities. Oman has very original resort projects and waterfront developments including The Seifa Resort, The Blue City and The Wave. Qatar is investing The Pearl, luxury housing on artificial islands in the shape of a string of pearls. There is also the ongoing Great Man Made River Project in Libya, which is one of the biggest civil engineering projects in the world.

While some of these regions can be perceived as having a more traditional culture than places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the chance to work on world class projects, coupled with increased job security is appealing. 

As a result, we are seeing an increase in candidate interest. Local talent remains scarce; candidates mainly come from the UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India and Asia Pacific.

The average length of a contract ranges from 18 to 24 months, but about 70 per cent of candidates tend to stay in the Middle East after completion of an assignment. Middle East experience is very valuable, and has historically allowed candidates to progress in terms of role and salary. 

The lifestyle benefits, the tax-free salary, and the opportunity to work on some of the greatest construction projects continue to attract and retain candidates.

Edward Twaite is director of Middle East and North Africa at recruitment consultancy BBT, part of Randstad. www.bbtmena.com

Construction News and British Expertise are running a trade mission to Saudi Arabia from 25 to 29 April. Place are limited. For more information contact trademissions@emap.com or Nina Lovelace on 020 7728 4832.

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