Recruitment targets safety and FM

With on-site skills shortages reaching new highs in the region, recruitment consultants are descending on the emirates to fill the gaps in the industry. And, as Zoe Naylor finds out, health and safety and facilities management are fast growing areas for them to target.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  March 4, 2006

|~|111prod200.gif|~|Although civil engineers are in constant demand, there is a growing requirement for safety and facilities management professionals in the region.|~|With skills shortages hitting sites from Doha to Dubai, an increasing number of recruitment consultants are targeting the sector. But while selling the Dubai lifestyle to people working on rain-soaked European sites is hardly a problem, finding quality candidates sometimes can be, according to UK-based Hill McGlynn, one of the latest overseas recruitment firms to establish a base in the region. And while good project managers, sites engineers and quantity surveyors are in perpetual demand, local agents are also reporting a growing requirement for both facilities management and health and safety professionals. “I think what is often lacking is quality,” says Julie Faris, Dubai-based country manager (UAE) at Hill McGlynn & Associates. “The PR and marketing that Dubai and the UAE has had as a whole — especially in western countries — makes it extremely easy to attract a lot of candidates. However, it is the highest calibre we often need to attract due to the scale and complexity of many of the projects running out here,” she adds. Hill McGlynn specialises in recruiting within the property and construction industry. Its Dubai branch covers the six GCC countries and focuses on all disciplines of the construction process, from inception through to completion — including the maintenance of the built environment. Budge Recruitment ME is a UK-based recruitment consultancy set up in Dubai in 2004, also focusing on the middle to top end of the technical and construction sector. Stuart Walsh, director of Budge Recruitment ME, believes that health and safety professionals are increasingly in demand as greater emphasis is put on safe working practices. “A lot has happened over the last three years with regards to health and safety, and as Dubai is put more and more under the international spotlight, it has to ensure that construction practices meet international standards,” he says. “And with a more liberal approach being adopted to journalism, the media seems keener than ever to name and shame the companies at fault.” According to Walsh, most leading developers now have teams in place to monitor H&S practice on the major projects. “We are getting more and more requirements from companies asking for IOSH and NEBOSH-qualified H&S professionals all the time. And our aim is to improve the much-needed quality of the recruitment industry when it comes to looking for qualified and often specialised candidates that clients can’t find in the Middle East,” says Walsh. To date, Budge has recruited for Aldar Properties, Al Futtaim Carillion (for Dubai Festival City project), Damac, MAF Investments, Nakheel and Dubai International Financial Center. While most of its assignments are UAE and Qatar-based, Walsh says they are experiencing a marked increase in the number of requirements for Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. And one of the effects of such a buoyant construction market is that it creates a local skills shortage for higher-end construction staff. “There is certainly a growing skills shortage in the local market amongst white-collar workers simply because of the number of projects underway,” explains Walsh. “However, there is ample resource available in the international market from Europe and the Far East, but clients need to understand that in order to get the people they are looking for, they need to start recruiting internationally, flying the candidates out for interviews and showing them the UAE.” Another recruitment consultant positioned in the UAE construction market is Charterhouse Partnership. The firm’s Dubai-based team recruits internationally for MEP, project management, architecture and design, technical and executive construction candidates. According to Gregor Black, a senior recruiter (construction, engineering and design) at Charterhouse, skills shortages amongst white-collar workers in the region are having the inevitable effect of pushing up the worth of qualified candidates. “It comes back to simple supply and demand economics and has the effect of pushing up salaries,” explains Black. “Candidates realise they have sought-after skills and experience, and simply demand more money.” He says that the result is the company has noticed that more and more of its clients are willing to sacrifice local knowledge/experience and look at better value options from overseas. The salary issue here is often a conflicting one, says Faris at Hill McGlynn: “There doesn’t seem to be much equilibrium in certain sectors from one company to the next, which can make it impossible for some individuals to ever move on i.e. they are getting paid so over the odds by their present employer that they cannot afford to ever move.” One trend that the three recruitment firms have all identified within the sector is the rapid growth of facilities management (FM). This refers to planned and preventative maintenance to ensure potential future problems with buildings are minimised, therefore guaranteeing long-term cost reduction. “Facilities management is a relatively new concept to the area but it does have a huge future, says Black. “Everything that is currently being built will need to be maintained, and given the size and complexity of some of the projects an ongoing volume of work is being created everyday.” He adds that it will be a sector within the industry that continues long after the actual construction stops: “FM is also being recognised at the design stages and implemented at this point to create buildings that are more FM friendly. “Such is the growth potential in this area that Charterhouse now has a dedicated resource working within the facilities management and building services sector.” Walsh from Budge Recruitment echoes the same: “FM is still relatively young in the region but is experiencing tremendous growth. Governmental and private developers recognise that they must consider the longevity of their investments, while tenants themselves expect long-term maintenance service and solutions. “The industry is now witnessing a real demand for operational and front end, client-facing FM professionals and associated disciplines. Our research shows that there is a shortage in the local market to sustain current and anticipated projects; therefore we believe that sourcing candidates internationally is essential.” Faris from Hill McGlynn believes FM is indeed crucial to the survival and continued growth of Dubai and the construction and property industry: “Without a high quality FM strategy, the knock on effect for potential investors, developers and residents alike will be devastating.” She says that while the real lure of Dubai used to be the fact that it seemed to encompass the ‘live for today’ adage, people and companies are beginning to realise that longer term planning is needed. What are things going to look like in 10-15 years? “Attracting short-term investment is one thing but a lot of people now are looking for something longer term,” she explains. “If an individual buys a villa or an apartment on a complex they will expect it to last more than 20 years and be properly maintained.” Perhaps one of the biggest issues with the FM market is the generic terminology of ‘facilities management’ — there are no prerequisite hard and fast qualifications as stipulated by the industry. Faris believes this has led to the emergence of many companies calling themselves ‘facilities management providers’, when in reality they may simply be glorified maintenance contractors or cleaning companies. “It will take the market a while to weed these pretenders out and in the meantime there will be companies who will have to learn a very expensive lesson, having awarded them their FM contract,” she says. But she adds that it is encouraging to see developers and end-users alike starting to recognise the importance of FM. “The key to getting it right is to understand it in a three dimensional capacity and just how crucial it is to the built environment.”||**||

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