The results of Construction Week’s 2018 Skills Gap Survey have been compiled, and the findings are a stark reminder of the room for improvement in construction training and education in the Middle East.
Between February and April this year, 132 construction professionals from the region participated in the survey, which aimed to understand the measures that employers are implementing to boost the qualification levels of their staff. The anonymous responses to the survey have been dissected by Construction Week’s editorial team to shine a light on the current state of educational advancement in the regional sector.
It is important to know the demographics of our respondents in order to understand their comments: for starters, of the 132 respondents, 53% were from the UAE, and 11.4% from Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of the respondents were between the ages of 30 and 39, with only 15 of the total 132 responses being supplied by women. Forty per cent of the responses came from regional companies – which for the purposes of this survey, were defined as those operating across the Gulf, as well as the wider Middle East – and 30% of the respondents said their company only operated in one country.
Quantity surveyors represented the largest category of professionals to respond to the survey, with their responses accounting for 47.7% of the 132 received. This was followed by consultants (23 responses) and contractors (19 responses).
One statistic that might alarm some, is that nearly 72% of construction professionals believe their colleagues struggle to efficiently carry out their tasks, and only 33% of professionals said that their organisation provided training or professional development courses of some kind. Meanwhile, 61% said they had not received any training or professional development at all.
In addition, although 86% of the 132 respondents said their educational degree qualified them for the job they currently hold, 54% of the total said they would enrol themselves in an educational programme – bachelor’s degree level or higher – that was relevant to their current job.
Construction employers in the Middle East would do well to provide, directly or otherwise, platforms for their employees to further educate themselves. Not doing so, market experts warn, has drawbacks that employers should look to avoid. Emma Davies, human resources (HR) manager at UAE-based contracting giant, ALEC, explains how lack of skills development opportunities could lead to a skills gap in the regional sector.
“Potentially, we could lose knowledge across the region as people retire and move home,” Davies tells Construction Week.
“We need to ensure this knowledge is captured and shared with new members of our businesses and the sector. ALEC has worked with consultants and other contractors to ensure we share knowledge amongst our young professionals, but my biggest concern regarding a skills gap going forwards would be ensuring our future employees get to access the knowledge-sharing.”
Group education and training sessions are an ideal platform to share knowledge and resources, but these too appear to be lacking in the region.
Construction Week’s 2018 Skills Gap Survey found that almost 40% of respondents had not completed any training in the past year.
A further 29% said they had received up to two training sessions during the past year, and only 5.3% said that more than 10 training sessions had been delivered by their organisation during the 12-month period.