In Dubai, the first batch of engineers qualified in Sa’fat – Dubai Municipality’s (DM) Green Building Rating System – graduated this May, with the agency now targeting a wider implementation of the course. Fida Al Hammadi, head of the research and building systems section within DM’s Buildings Department, said the Sa’fat Certified Engineer qualification can be added to an engineer’s résumé after they have completed the programme, with the certification also ensuring an employee’s efficiency in the green building sector.

She added: “This [programme] includes two main categories, [the first of which is] professionals – the engineers working in the profession – and [secondly,] the young engineering students in the universities, who wish to develop their academic skills in the green building field.”

After all, as Sarah Willis, head of HR at WSP Middle East explains, construction is a demanding job, and its operational scope could “make it challenging to focus on personal development”, which is even more reason for employers to ensure they play their part in improving their employees’ skills. 

For example, WSP – which this year was ranked as the 13th Best Company to Work for in the UAE by Great Place To Work – focuses on providing “flexibility and diversity” in its learning and development opportunities. This includes offering easily accessible mentoring, online learning hubs, ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, team project visits, professional development roadshows, education sponsorships, and global exchange programmes, Willis tells Construction Week. 

Director of property and buildings at WSP Middle East, Dean McGrail, says the breadth of the company’s operations allows it to exchange knowledge across its global offices. 

“We continually assess our markets to ascertain where a skills gap might exist, not only in the Middle East, but globally. Then, we collaborate with our colleagues to fill these gaps by encouraging the global mobility of our people,” he tells Construction Week. 

“[This] constantly challenges the status quo, and will look to introduce this global skill into the Middle East market [through, for example,] our UK colleagues. Likewise, our people in the Middle East learn skills that are extremely valuable to our other global clients and businesses.

“Where else in the world can your people experience projects of the size, scale, speed of delivery, and complexity of the Middle East?” McGrail asks, highlighting the learning opportunities presented in the region not only for local construction professionals, but international ones as well. 

Indeed, some companies may want to use WSP’s initiatives as a benchmark to accelerate their training programmes, while others may want to customise their modules to suit their existing staff’s capabilities and demands. Either way, companies that are not already investing in skills development should look to self-improvement programmes to ensure their employees are not dissatisfied. 

This is critical, and not least because 53% of the respondents to Construction Week’s 2018 Skills Gap Survey feel their current place of employment does not offer any career growth opportunities. Companies vying for a competitive advantage in the market must first ensure that their workforce is not only ready to take on new challenges, but also equipped to do so.