GNcareers, from Gulf News

An insight on bridging the talent gap in Dubai

An insight on bridging the talent gap in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied

At the first Industry and University Partnerships Forum (I-UP) at Dubai Knowledge Village — hosted two weeks ago by Dubai International Academic City, Dubai Knowledge Village, and Tecom Investments' Education Cluster — experts and leaders from various fields discussed whether the construction and real estate sectors were prepared for the infrastructure challenges posed by Expo 2020.

Manpower projections

With the expo expected to create 270,000 new jobs, especially in construction, travel and tourism, and logistics, the question posed to the panelists was whether Dubai and the UAE is ready for this growth. Yousuf Mohammed Amin Kazim, General Manager of Jumeirah Golf Estates, said that during the economic boom before 2008, Dubai had developed skilled manpower in the construction and real estate sectors, which broke down during the downturn and moved to other GCC countries.

''Dubai is still the hub for talent and manpower. As for the future, there has to be a more collective effort among stakeholders to address shortages so that this sector gets a boost.''

To specifically address gaps, he sees the need for an increased number of programmes, internships and scholarships to attract graduates into the industry. Kazim advocated the need for short- and long-term manpower policies to be implemented. ''The right planning of human capital can prevent high attrition rates that can impact 20-25 per cent of project costs.''

Marwan Ahmed Bin Ghalita, CEO of the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera), said, ''Expo 2020 is an event and not an end in itself, and this is doable.''

He added that the emirate has been identified as the most attractive city in the world to live in in terms of professional and private life, as per a recent alumni survey by INSEAD, a graduate business school.

''It's an ambitious vision for the UAE and in this journey, we need to identify what kind of talent we need. Besides attracting knowledge workers here, we have to make them a part of the growth of the UAE,'' he said.

Ghalita, however, voiced his concern regarding the shortage of manpower in building and facilities management sectors, which increasingly need sophisticated skills and experience. ''Everyone should work towards sustainablility. We need a nationwide plan to address skills shortage in sophisticated sectors.''

The CEO also emphasized the need to have longer courses and diplomas, offering the example of Rera's institute that runs three-day, 15-day and online courses for property brokers in Dubai.

Richard Paul, Director of Residential Valuations at Cluttons, said that in an emerging economy such as Dubai, it is natural that ''many sectors were playing catch-up''. The global economy has struggled since the downturn, and there has been a build-up of graduates looking for work.

''We are lucky the global economy is lagging, so we can use those skills. But we cannot depend on outside flow every time. Local expertise is needed,'' he said.

Commenting on the lack of dialogue between industry and academia, Prof. Abdullah Al Shamsi, Vice-Chancellor of The British University in Dubai (BUiD), said institutions can offer specialized programmes after examining whether graduates have the right knowledge of the industry. He wanted the construction, engineering and real estate sector to invest more in education.

At present, a student has limited options to pursue engineering in Dubai. Scholarships and loans have to be made available to persuade students to explore areas they may find interesting. Shamsi said in five years the number of students pursuing engineering may go up.

Mistakes of the past

The consensus among panelists was that the UAE has become a more mature market thanks to Central Bank's policies such as the mortgage cap implemented last December. Regulatory controls are also now in place to ensure transparency and improved corporate governance. These policies would provide impetus for sustainable growth.

''The government has invested in infrastructure and the private sector has also responded by planning in a better way. This is the key to going forward,'' Ghalita pointed out. Paul said developers were now coming to them at an early stage for analysing the market. ''Much planning is going on behind the scenes, which is a good thing.''

Middle-income housing

While the panelists admitted to the gap in middle-income housing, they felt policies regarding right housing, education and transport have to be looked at holistically. Ghalita said Dubai will be launching new initiatives in affordable communities and developments, where rent as well as rent-to-own schemes will be available.

About mobility and accessibility, he said the government will also look into the issue of mass transportation for Expo 2020.

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Source: N.P. Krishna Kumar, Special to Property Weekly