The Persian Gulf is in poised to become one of the most incredibly modern regions in the world. Doha is ramping up infrastructure improvements for the World Cup in 2022 and its bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. I just read an article on gulfnews.com about how design work has just begun on a metro and light rail project that promises to bring together different parts of Abu Dhabi, arguably one of the region’s most modern cities along with Dubai.
|Expansion in Doha, Qatar demands significant engineering resources.|
Having been in the business of finding engineering talent for projects for over 15 years, I must say, the job is not easy but, it can been done successfully.
Let’s first address the pressing question: What makes a candidate right for this type of work? Europe and Asia are renowned for their rail engineers. However, you have to look at more than a skill set when identifying candidates for projects in the Gulf Region. An engineer may have 30 years of experience on light, high-speed and tunnel rail systems and still might not be the right fit.
One might pose the question, “How could this not be the perfect person for the job?” The answer is simple. If that same worker has spent all of his or her career in Europe or Asia with little experience travelling the world, the transition can be overwhelming and downright detrimental to a project’s success. One must really examine each candidate’s personality and mindset before making the commitment to bring them onto a project.
The next question that arises has to do more with the engineering and technical industry itself. The professionals in our industry have enjoyed great success over their careers, be it in oil and gas, rail, industrial and commercial construction or civil engineering. They are virtually all about to retire over the next five to 10 years with only a handful of younger engineers eager to replace them. We can place experienced professionals on projects anywhere in the world but, what happens when they decide to finally buy a villa in Italy or travel the world for pleasure?
The short answer is to mend your pockets so that they are even deeper. The competition is heated right now and will be even more so in the future. For example, there are railway projects underway or in the planning stages in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, with continued expansion in Singapore. In addition Australia, UK and the USA all have projects targeting infrastructure skill sets needed for these rail projects.
The tougher, more realistic answer is that we need to act now to ensure the supply of talent meets current and future demand.
Training and cross-training engineers from other industries will help in the short term. In the US, after the auto industry nearly collapsed, in conjunction with the local, state and national government grants, industry professionals and area colleges and universities, my company took auto engineers and prepared them for new careers in oil and gas.
An engineer is an engineer.
It takes a specific type of thinking to be an engineer and see the big picture of how everything in a system or process is connected. If you educate and engineer from one industry that may be slowing to the systems and processes in another, the transition will be much faster than training a new engineer how to lead and manage a project.
Long term, one of the only answers is for industry and governments in the region to grow the engineering workforce organically from within.
Curricula focused on long term needs of the region and its modernisation must be formed. Countries in the region must reach out to programs in established modern engineering hubs around the world and develop their own programs. In fact, one might say that true modernisation might only be possible if our region opens its doors to welcome outside influence and culture while lessening some of the tight Visa restrictions on inter-Gulf travel and work. Educators and perspective candidates will be looking to come to the Gulf not based simply on the promise of a lucrative payout but rather, to get in on the ground floor of something much larger.
In other words, education and fundamental shifts in the way we look at staffing engineering projects are keys to future modernisation in the region. If we stay the current course, modernisation and the benefits of it to the Gulf may be at risk.