Middle East still attractive destination for engineers

New study finds engineers perceive Middle East as less safe than before, but they are still attracted to the region.

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By  David Ingham Published  November 1, 2006

Engineers believe the Middle East to be less safe than three years ago, but they are generally still enthusiastic about working here. That was the main finding from a new survey of 2128 engineers across the world. The research was carried out by EPCglobal, a specialist engineering staffing company. Of those surveyed, 23% were specialist oil & gas engineers, 20% were in the construction sector, and 14% and 9% specialised in electrical and mechanical engineering respectively. Over half of the engineers questioned have experience of working in the Middle East. “Security is one of many considerations for engineers assessing opportunities to advance their careers overseas,” said Tobias Read, chief executive officer, EPCglobal. “A sense of perspective is, however, difficult to obtain with a focus on conflict in media coverage of the Middle East — so, we sought the opinions of experienced engineers in an attempt to peer behind the headlines. "The findings are instructive, showing a clear difference in opinion between those with experience of working in the region and those without. Namely, those with experience are less concerned about security than those without in the light of their familiarity with the situation on the ground. Still, the vast majority of those without experience would consider going if they received the right offer, which is encouraging for employers concerned about the effects of negative reporting on the supply of talent.” 65% of engineers surveyed think the region has become more dangerous for overseas engineers since 2003. 71% felt the Israel/Hizbollah conflict makes it more difficult for overseas engineers to work in the Middle East. Amongst engineers with experience of working in the region, 59% think it has become more dangerous. US and British engineers are more pessimistic than others about their personal security. The most common single security concern is a direct physical threat from aggrieved groups or individuals (39%), followed by a collateral physical threat from the targeting of installations and buildings (32%). “We can’t ignore that experienced engineers, in common with their peers, perceive risks associated with working in the area to have increased since 2003 and as a result of the present conflict in Lebanon,” said Read. “However, engineers aren’t more inclined now than in previous years to cite security as the main reason to leave the region, showing that the real effects of this perception are limited.” In fact, further digging reveals that most engineers would overcome their fears, especially if the price was right. Only 8% of engineers with experience of the region would not take a position in the Middle East again. Only 17% of those without experience in the region would not come to work here. However, of all engineers that would work in the Middle East, 56% would say yes only with the right level of financial reward. Asian engineers were most motivated by financial incentives (80%). Just 8% of engineers with regional experience would advise others against working in the Middle East and North Africa. A sizeable 50% of those with experience here would recommend or highly recommend to others to work in the region. As for where they would work, 19% of all engineers would not choose to work in the Levant, compared to 60% in the case of Iraq. Of all engineers, the majority think the media exaggerates the level of danger in the region (52%). That figure rises to 73% for engineers who are Middle East nationals. Of engineers without experience in the region, 44% believe media reporting exaggerates the level of danger. Amongst United States nationals, 77% see the the region as more dangerous since 2003, higher than the average of all engineers. However, a higher than average 36% of all US engineers have no objections to working in any particular area of the Middle East and North Africa. US engineers with experience in the Middle East consider Iran the country they’d least like to work in currently. UK engineers are the most pessimistic. Of those with experience of the region, they are least likely to recommend working here (38% versus an overall average of 50%). As a whole, they are the most likely to think it has become more dangerous since 2003 (77% vs. an average of 65%). They are also least likely to take a job here (17% wouldn’t versus an overall average of 12%).

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