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.


Russian arrests of foreign businessmen shocks Western investors

Updated 15 min 35 sec ago
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Russian arrests of foreign businessmen shocks Western investors

  • Baring Vostok's executives were arrested in a case brought with the help of the FSB security service
  • It is just the latest in a long line of cases in which top business people have been accused of crimes motivated by commercial or political interests

MOSCOW: The arrest in Russia of prominent US and French investors on suspicion of fraud has sent shockwaves through Western business circles and sparked fears of cutbacks in foreign investment sorely needed for economic growth.
The founder and employees of the Baring Vostok private equity firm were arrested on Friday in a case brought with the help of the FSB security service.
The arrest took place on the same day Russia hosted leading business people in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for a major economic forum which trumpeted the country’s openness to investment.
Michael Calvey, a US citizen and the founder and director of Baring Vostok, has been placed in pre-trial detention in a Moscow jail for the next two months for alleged fraud, along with five others — including Philippe Delpal, a French citizen.
They are accused of defrauding Vostochny Bank of at least 2.5 billion rubles ($37.7 million). All of them deny any wrongdoing and blame the case on a shareholder dispute.
In an opinion piece on Monday in the Vedomosti business daily, Maxim Bouev — vice-rector of Moscow’s New Economic School — wrote the case proves what investors have long known: “If you want to invest in Russia, you have to accept your risk of eventually being arrested and finding yourself in the dock.”
This is the latest in a long line of cases in which top business people have been accused of crimes motivated by commercial or political interests, but these have rarely involved foreigners.
Business figures and economists reacted strongly to investigators swooping on Baring Vostok, founded 25 years ago, which has brought in investments of more than $3 billion to Russia despite the geopolitical tensions and Western sanctions of recent years.
Arkady Volozh, the CEO of Russian Internet giant Yandex, defended Calvey in a statement, saying he “has always been a standard for the market of decency and law-abidingness.”
Other business leaders said they fear the case will deal a severe blow to an investment climate already marred by corruption and the lack of independent courts — especially given the strong-arm tactics employed.
“This gives Russia a hateful image abroad,” the president of the French-Russian chamber of commerce, Emmanuel Quidet, told AFP.
The chamber on Monday said it was “very concerned” about the arrests in a joint statement with the Association of European Businesses, a federation of multinational companies working in Russia.
The case could “severely damage the climate and attractiveness of Russia for direct investments from abroad,” it said.
The Kremlin sought to dispel those fears, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying Calvey’s arrest should “not affect the investment climate” in Russia.
He added he was aware of the contribution to the Russian economy made by Calvey, who has met President Vladimir Putin numerous times.
The government in early February unveiled a 340 billion euros ($385 billion) plan to achieve its economic goals and support growth that is forecast to slow this year. This will require major private investment.
“It’s an electric shock,” a source in the Association of European Businesses told AFP.
“You get the impression that business rivals are using the justice system and Russian (security) services to settle their scores. But the fact that the authorities are letting this happen sends out a very negative signal. You wonder who will be next.”
In the Novaya Gazeta independent newspaper, outspoken commentator Yulia Latynina claimed that in the context of current East-West tensions, “for security officials, business people are criminals and foreigners are spies.”