Gulf construction companies continue to seek talent for projects

Updated 19 September 2015
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Gulf construction companies continue to seek talent for projects

DUBAI: Construction companies across the Gulf region continue to seek talent for their projects, according to a panel of company directors from the construction sector who spoke at a leading industry event held in Dubai on Sept. 15.
The event was organized by regional online recruitment firm, GulfTalent, which was attended by over 50 delegates, including CEOs, HR directors and other senior executives from the region’s largest construction companies and related advisory firms.
The discussion panel consisted of senior executives from Amana Contracting, ARCADIS EC Harris, Laing O’Rourke, Al Tamimi & Company, as well as GulfTalent.
The panel found that, with public sector spending under pressure from lower oil prices, award of new construction projects had slowed down. However, previously awarded projects were continuing without impact. As a result, the sector is facing a continued need for skilled staff across most roles and specializations, albeit at a more moderate pace than a year ago.
According to the panel, the UAE remains the easiest market for hiring expatriate talent, while Saudi Arabia is the most challenging.
One panel member reported having to decline lucrative projects in Saudi Arabia, due to not having sufficient staff. As a result, construction professionals are offered the region’s highest salaries in Saudi Arabia.
The Middle East region, as a whole, remains an attractive destination for construction professionals globally, according to the panel, especially in the context of a slowdown in Asia and other emerging markets.
For employers targeting this pool, the rising cost of living in the region, especially housing and school fees, is a concern, exacerbated by recent cuts in subsidies.
Media coverage of armed conflict in parts of the region had heightened perceptions of regional risk among some potential candidates, some employers reported, although overall interest in the region remained strong.
Several employers present reported facing challenges in filling their vacancies due to restrictions on employment of certain nationalities in parts of the Gulf region.
While over the long run, they could switch to alternative sources of talent, they found it particularly challenging when such policy changes were introduced at short notice.
One speaker described the challenge of adapting to changing visa legislation as "following a moving target."
On the subject of attracting local talent, firms faced the biggest challenge in Saudi Arabia and Oman, where nationalization targets are higher and are most rigorously enforced.
Panelists cited an "inaccurate" image of the construction sector among nationals as a key obstacle to attracting them, on top of the general shortage of skilled nationals in the engineering domain.
One speaker said: “For many young people, their image of a career in construction is someone pouring concrete on a hot day, whereas in reality our roles are much more diverse. The private sector, the industry associations and the governments all need to work together to change such perceptions.”
The panel also complained that the region’s construction sector was not investing sufficiently in the development of young talent. This was driven in part by the extreme competitiveness of the market and high price-sensitivity of clients.
The "project-based" nature of the construction business in the region made it even harder to plan for the long term and invest in developing talent over many years.
As a result, graduate programs were far less prevalent in the Gulf than in other parts of the world.
Instead, many construction firms rely heavily on rapid hiring of experienced staff on a ‘just-in-time’ basis when they win projects, and trimming down staff numbers quickly when projects come to an end.
The event organizer, GulfTalent, is described as a major online recruitment portal used by over 6,000 employers in the Middle East across different industries, including construction, providing them access to over five million professionals, covering both local and expatriate talent.


US poised to end waivers for 5 countries importing Iranian oil

Updated 43 min 11 sec ago
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US poised to end waivers for 5 countries importing Iranian oil

  • Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China and India were exempted from sanctions until May 2
  • Since November, Italy, Greece and Taiwan have stopped importing oil from Iran

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is poised to tell five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, that they will no longer be exempt from US sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran, officials said Sunday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to announce on Monday that the administration will not renew sanctions waivers for the five countries when they expire on May 2, three US officials said. The others are China and India.
It was not immediately clear if any of the five would be given additional time to wind down their purchases or if they would be subject to US sanctions on May 3 if they do not immediately halt imports of Iranian oil.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Pompeo’s announcement.
The decision not to extend the waivers, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was finalized on Friday by President Donald Trump, according to the officials. They said it is intended to further ramp up pressure on Iran by strangling the revenue it gets from oil exports.
The administration granted eight oil sanctions waivers when it re-imposed sanctions on Iran after Trump pulled the US out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. They were granted in part to give those countries more time to find alternate energy sources but also to prevent a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude.
US officials now say they do not expect any significant reduction in the supply of oil given production increases by other countries, including the US itself and Saudi Arabia.
Since November, three of the eight — Italy, Greece and Taiwan — have stopped importing oil from Iran. The other five, however, have not, and have lobbied for their waivers to be extended.
NATO ally Turkey has made perhaps the most public case for an extension, with senior officials telling their US counterparts that Iranian oil is critical to meeting their country’s energy needs. They have also made the case that as a neighbor of Iran, Turkey cannot be expected to completely close its economy to Iranian goods.