New MBA course in Dubai hots up the construction job market

Education versus work experience is in the spotlight again, as Manchester Business School launches its new MBA programme in Dubai for construction excutives. But, as Zoe Naylor discovered, a new breed of construction professionals look set to steal the show by having the ideal balance of both.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  December 17, 2005

diversity set to prevail as students rock up for the new ‘construction executives’ course, to begin in january|~|100edu200.gif|~|Nigel Banister: “As Dubai [emerges] as the business hub of the region, it was a logical decision to look at the emirate for our third international centre.”|~|Progressing up the construction career path usually means getting your hands dirty with on-the-job training and experience. But for those who prefer a more academic approach — not to mention extra letters after their name — there is the new MBA for Construction Executives, a distance-learning programme being launched by the Manchester Business School Worldwide (MBSW) through its new Dubai centre. According to Nigel Banister, chief executive of MBSW, it is one of the first courses of its kind to be offered in the region by a top international business school. “Traditionally, the construction sector has not been a big investor in management training in the same way as, for example, the finance industry,” he says. “However, looking around Dubai and seeing the massive projects and considering the complexity of them, there’s obviously a great demand here for general managers with a high degree of competence.” MBSW is currently finalising plans to open its third international centre (after Hong Kong and Singapore) in Dubai. “As Dubai continues to emerge as the business hub of the region, it was a logical decision to look at the emirate for our third international centre,” says Banister. Due to open in January 2006, the new facility will be located in Knowledge Village and will provide local support, co-ordination and resources to students. Along with the MBA for Construction Executives, there will also be an MBA for Engineering Business Managers and an MBA for Financial Managers and Finance Professionals. An MBA is a general management qualification, which means (in theory) anyone who completes the award should be able to be a leader or general manager in almost any business or public sector. As well as catering to the specific needs of those involved in construction, the MBA for Construction Executives aims to reach a diverse sector of the industry. “In the modules that we’re providing we’re not only considering the construction sector direct, but also the wider supply side of the industry,” explains Banister. “For example, there’s a particular module on collaboration between all of the participants in a construction project. So the sort of people that would join this course won’t just come directly from the construction sector but could come from the supply sector as well,” he adds. Other modules covered by the MBA include financial, risk and supply chain management, as well as modules on procuring assets and services, marketing strategy and managing a construction firm. The subjects are a mixture of self-study backed up by face- to-face interactive sessions provided by the Manchester faculty (who will fly to Dubai for the workshops held in March and September). “The amount of face-to-face contact with tutors is about two-thirds of the time that someone doing a full-time course on campus would receive,” says Banister. “We can’t make it much more because the students may be doing a full time job.” In terms of the kind of people who will elect to take the course, Banister expects it to be much the same as with all the university’s MBA courses: “On the full-time MBA, they’re typically aged 27 or 28 and are taking time out early in their career to do full-time study.” The average student’s age then rises to 34 for part-time distance learners who are likely to already hold a management position in the company they’re working for. “These people are looking to gain the skills, experience and confidence to be able to not just run engineering projects or parts of companies, but are looking to take a step up so they’re competent to take on much bigger projects.” Judging by the initial applications and expressions of interest, Banister says the course is set to attract a variety of nationalities. “The make-up of the working population of Dubai is heavily expat-dominated. But the course has already attracted nationals, as well as applications from students from other countries in the region who will look upon it as a bonus to come to Dubai and be taught part of their course.” The MBA has also attracted some females, but not many. “There simply isn’t the number of women working at that level in the construction sector,” says Banister. Between 20 and 25 students per group are expected for the first intake. In terms of the length of study, the full-time course is around 18 months while the full MBA on a part-time basis will take between two and a half and three years. “One of the benefits of doing it on a part-time basis is that as you learn, you can link it with the work you’re doing in your company and use those skills on an ongoing basis,” explains Banister. What sets this course apart from the rest, according to Banister, is the relevance of the MBA for today’s industry coupled with the school’s worldwide experience and reputation. “We have excellent faculties and strong international links with the construction sector,” he says. “The modules that have been designed are extremely up to date, very relevant to current construction projects and also very much geared towards all parties in a construction project. “We’re also very practiced at offering part-time executive courses in this way. And for the people of Dubai, it means they don’t have to travel anywhere; they can take a course from one of the top 50 business schools in the world without moving.” The cost of the MBA for Construction Executives is US $23 000 (approximately AED 85 000), but in recognition of launching the new centre in Dubai there will be a 25% scholarship to all students who begin the course in January 2006. In terms of future plans for the MBA, Banister says they expect to roll out the course to other regions: “We’re launching this particular course in the UK and Dubai this January, then we plan to extend it to other countries in July.” ||**||

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