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The Big 5 Exhibition (Construction)

20-Dec-11

Steve Freed, Director - ConstructionWeekOnline.com

Following The recent Big 5 Exhibition held in Dubai, there is fresh hope that the construction industry in the region is being revitalised. With a few years of stalled projects and numerous redundancies seen here what does this fresh hope really mean for the region’s construction and engineering candidates?

Since the downturn of 2008, we have seen a concrete jungle graveyard in Dubai of grey unfinished buildings at a standstill. But recently this has shown fresh signs of life and has started to move again, albeit slowly, but it is giving new signs of promise.

However, as things seem to pick up, Abu Dhabi announced it is putting a number of projects on hold,including the downsizing of big names in construction that everyone had previously turned to in hopes of financial stability, including companies such as TDIC, Masdar and Aldar.

Sadly, these are just a few of the causalities. This has really affected a vast number of other companies within the construction community, including building contractors, suppliers and design consultancies, who are also feeling the brunt.

With a large number of construction companies carrying bad financial baggage from non-completion or payment of projects, is the Middle East construction recruitment market in danger? The answer is no, as there is light at the end of the tunnel with the establishment of new construction companies, with no financial baggage, embarking on large infrastructure projects.

Job seekers in the construction and engineering sector, however, need to understand what areas of the market still offer continued growth during a downturn. Construction projects across the region offering opportunities will be in infrastructure and essential facilities. It is worthwhile to keep your ear on the ground to work out which projects will continue, and which will not.

Essential infrastructure, as well as transport, of which rail (passenger and cargo) and the metro, will continue to grow across the whole Middle East. The region has a great need to develop, and will continue to do so for a number of years. Some of the projects going ahead or planned for the immediate future can be found out about in the public domain, but here is an overview of the major projects we see as a starting point:

• UAE: The Abu Dhabi Road and Mass Transport system has $25bn worth of works planned. The $11bn rail link between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (Etihad Rail) is already in the construction phase.
• Saudi Arabia: A number of large projects are in the construction phase, including the Emaar Economic City, with a remarkable project value of $116bn; Jeddah Kingdom City, valued at $27bn; the King Abdullah Financial District, valued at $10bn; and King Faisal University Al Ihsa, valued at $15bn.
• Bahrain: The majority of projects are at planning stage, including the Bahrain Rapid Transport Network project, valued at $8bn.
• Qatar: The largest project planned is the Qatar National Rail Scheme, with a value of $25bn. On the horizon is the Sports City Stadium project, valued at $2bn. The largest project currently under construction is the New Doha Airport, with a project value of $10bn.

These projects brings fresh opportunities for candidates, and the recruitment sector is experiencing some of this growth firsthand, working with existing and newly-created companies that have largescale construction projects in the GCC, as well as emerging economies such as Libya and Iraq.

With numerous new companies and projects mobilizing, and hopefully learning from the mistakes of others, the Middle East will once again see construction thriving, with tower cranes as far as the eye can see, creating a viable new future.
This will bring with it new prospects for candidates within the wider construction and engineering sectors. Candidates may, however, have to broaden their geographic horizons. The new construction job market will reward the brave, optimistic and geographically mobile.

Steve Freed is a director at the Gulf Recruitment Group.

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