Back to basics

The Middle East's network infrastructure market has enjoyed a boom in recent years leading to a dearth of skilled staff in the region. Ronan Shields speaks to leading industry figures to investigate.

  • E-Mail
By  Administrator Published  April 1, 2007

"Many companies adopt a practice model offering limited scope to learn basic skills. Systems integrators are often concerned with generating an immediate profit but this comes at the expense of their reputation over the longer term."

However, vendor Sun Microsystems counters these claims and maintains the high levels of staff turnover are part and parcel of business given the rapidly developing nature of the market.

"Admittedly, the fluctuation rate of staffing levels is very high in the Middle East compared to other regions of the world but this is merely a reflection of the nature of the economy," says Dr Thomas Bayer, Sun Microsystems' chief learning officer for South and East EMEA.

"Our strategy is to counteract high levels of staff turnover is not to under-invest in our staff as the reputation of our company is reliant on their ability to make our solutions and hardware an asset to our clients."

Industry insiders also report that job satisfaction is a prime determinant in many engineers' decision to leave their jobs. "I have encountered many employees who have left their companies claiming they are not receiving enough opportunities to learn, and who have subsequently become disillusioned," says Ganesan.

Many sources also claim the rush to generate new office space has led to some of the fundamental aspects of service provision being overlooked by cable vendors who fail to see how the benefits of employing highly trained staff.

Training providers are also calling for companies in the Middle East's IT industry to abandon the ‘box-pushing' model of the past and to adopt a more sophisticated service-orientated attitude when negotiating, and implementing, large contracts.

"A lot of the cable manufacturers are going to the extent of providing 25-year warranties on their products as the market becomes more competitive," says Stevens.

"But if they're offering a warranty on a high-profile deal while relying on a poorly trained maintenance team they are carrying out a fool's errand."

So with training providers clearly stressing the need for a high standard of staff training necessary, just what is the pedigree of engineering staff recruited by systems integrators?

"Primarily infrastructure companies recruit two types of entry-level engineers: firstly there are the installers, or technicians, who are educated to diploma level; secondly there are employees educated to degree-level in a discipline such as IT or engineering," says Ganesan.

While many of the region's companies are recruiting highly qualified staff many emphasise the need for companies to foster a culture of continual learning.

"Many companies are now using Category 6 and 7 cabling systems for the first time in the region, meaning engineers will have to update their knowledge to facilitate this new technology," says Stevens.

The constantly evolving nature of infrastructure technology demonstrates the need for companies to regularly update their installation practices using independent companies.

Both e-sharp and CableNet Training heavily stress how educational bodies such as BICSI and Edexcel accredit their respective training courses.

"Our courses maintain very high standards by using a qualified technical trainer and not a sales guy who has a conflict of interests," says Ganesan.

"Manufacturers have moved from training staff with their own in-house instructors, which usually lasted for a day or two, to establishing a prolonged programme of educational courses that are independently accredited," says Stevens.

He predicts that trends in the Middle East's network cabling infrastructure industry will emulate the UK market.

"I have been coming to work in the Middle East for the previous eight years and in that time the development of the market has been nothing short of phenomenal," says Stevens.

"Fifteen years ago a network would have been installed at the very end of a building's construction process and installed in any space that was left over. Now the trend is towards the designing the entire building around the communications hub," he says.

Industry insiders report a growing awareness among systems integrators in realising their responsibility towards both their clients and employees by increasing levels of investment in staff training.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code