The region’s top MEP contractors are investing more and more in their people as part of their respective future-proofing strategies.
Indeed, a general increase in staff numbers was reported to MEP Middle East as part of a recent survey, the results of which paint an optimistic picture of the construction landscape heading into 2020.
Voltas, the firm that headed MEP Middle East’s recently announced Top 25 Contractors rankings for 2019, reported spending $850,000 on training initiatives over the past 12 months.
Internal and external staff development courses ran alongside “specialised systems” measuring competency across technical, behavioural and HSE for each member of personnel, feeding into “training need identification” processes used to map out an individual’s skills matrix – and any gaps within it.
However, no company in the Top 25 list outspent Efeco when it came to investment in people in 2018.
The budget line for training and development tipped $6.1million last year – with a notable focus on BIM – and featured an extensive UAE national development programme.
Under the programme’s umbrella, participants are recruited into graduate placement schemes (which run for two years), as well as internship positions and summer jobs.
BIM was also a top priority for Anel Group in 2018, when more than 1,700 hours of training was dedicated to up-skilling BIM engineers.
Semco, represented in this year’s Top 25 Contractors list by vice president Subhash J Pritmani, predicts it will investment $1.5m in its people this year, having shelled out approximately $400,000 in 2018.
Elsewhere, China State Construction Engineering Company’s Middle East arm has allocated $150,000 for training this year, up from the $125,000 spent in 2018; while Al-Futtaim Engineering & Technologies has committed to 800 man hours of training in 2019.
The policy coming from the contractors’ consultancy contemporaries is similarly people-centric.
Black & White Engineering reported investing nearly 3% of revenue on staff education and training last year, while the Hilson Moran Academy – established in 2009 – delivers more than 150 training and development-related events each year.
Similarly, a training budget of 2% gross local revenue was allocated for training in the Middle East in 2018 by Ramboll, with attention on training engineers on project tools “a priority”.
Responding to a survey commissioned by MEP Middle East in Q2, director of MEP engineering for KEO, Martin McFadden, said that people were his firm’s greatest asset.
He added: “Their combined experience, creative problem-solving skills, and team spirit help our firm to achieve greater heights each year.
“Over the past 12 months, KEO has invested heavily in the development of our staff, focusing on specialised classes in BIM, AR, other advanced software to give our engineers an unbeatable edge.”
Other entities in the construction industry are also priming staff for the future.
In a summer update statement, Empower reported that more than 200 members of staff had received training in the first half 2019.
Chief executive officer Ahmed Bin Shafar said that courses were conducted as part of the firm’s annual development agenda, and represented a “major part of Empower’s strategy to raise the performance level of its staff to the highest international standards.”
This year’s training workshops featured various technical, safety and soft skill courses, including supervisory and communication skills, data analytics, and fire safety fundamentals.
Bin Shafar added: “We give high importance for the training and development of our employees professionally, especially our Emirati staff, with an annual agenda aimed at enhancing their performance level and productivity. Empower’s training courses indirectly contribute to implementing the vision of our wise leadership, which pays great attention to sustainability; and to the challenges of climate change, which is a real obstacle to growth and prosperity.”
What does this all mean for the future of the construction industry and MEP sector in the GCC? Well, the results of the MEP Middle East survey give a clear indication that the sector’s major players see the best potential ROI in their staff.
Breakthroughs in technology are well documented as being approached with caution in the Middle East – particularly in the construction industry – leaving personnel as the best solution to pressing forward with innovation while also maintaining a relative status quo in working methods.