Skills shortage hurting Gulf construction sector: expert

September 24th, 2008 - 6:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Sep 24 (IANS) The booming construction industry in the Gulf is facing a shortage of skilled project and programme managers, according to a leading industry expert.Raed S. Haddad, senior vice-president for corporate programmes at American project management training and business analysis firm ESI International, said this shortage of skilled personnel has resulted in industry salaries for technical personnel going through the roof.

Coupled with high cement and steel prices, this is delaying various projects across the region and also eroding profit margins considerably.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge of all is sustainability,” Haddad said in a statement.

“Industry leaders in the Middle East cannot simply ‘buy-in’ the expertise they need. To sustain the current level of development, talent must be produced from within, through training and development programmes,” he said.

According to database company Proleads, the total number of active projects under development taking place in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is close to 3,400 with an estimated value of over $2.4 trillion.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprise the GCC.

Civil engineering and infrastructure projects in the region lead the way with 2,081 projects with a combined value of $1.3 trillion.

Haddad said the sheer scale of activity in the sector has put question marks on the viability of some projects.

“For example, ETA Star Group recently announced that their Dubai Lifestyle City project in Dubailand has increased from an initial $2.4 billion to $4 billion. The significant proportion of that was consultancy fees which had risen anywhere from 40 percent to 70 percent,” he said.

He added that had there been enough technical expertise in the market, competition would have driven down market rates.

Haddad, an expert in attraction and retention of key personnel in corporates, is of the view that companies in the region should adopt alternative strategies to retain skilled people.

“Most regional CEOs recognise that their human resources are their most valuable asset. It is imperative that they now put that mantra into practice. If they don’t the consequences could be severe, delayed handovers, poor quality finish or worse still, negative profit,” he warned.

He also stated that programmes to develop individuals that improve their quality of life and their career prospects are as important as the salaries they are paid.

On the perception that companies in the region are not mature enough to adopt such human resource policies, Haddad said: “In reality they have little choice, they had better start examining these issues now, or risk being left behind.”

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