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Be a Gulf go-getter


The Middle East - playground of the modern civil engineer. 'If you like the action and don't mind working hard, this is the place to be.'

If there is one regret from my time as a practising civil engineer it is that I never worked abroad.

After all, it was in many ways the glamorous and lucrative ex-pat life-style as described to me in the late 1970s by a family neighbour - and later confirmed by careers advisors - that originally opened my eyes to the profession at school.

By the early 1990s when I actually started work, the opportunities overseas were already reducing.

OK, I perhaps also didn't really make the effort to pick up on the opportunities that were there either.

Regardless, I didn't do it.

Of course I don't regret how things turned out. I simply reflect that had I had the drive, nerve, opportunity, luck - whatever - to have worked overseas as a young engineer I'm sure it would have been a unique life experience.

Without question, engineers benefit from life abroad. As we hear this week 'you will learn fast and be able to take a lot of responsibility' while overseas. While I have met outstanding engineers who have never worked abroad, there is no doubt that it is a career enhancing move.

But as NCE pointed out in 2003, the profession has suffered over the last few decades as the opportunities for young engineers to work abroad have fallen.

The reality is that we have seen less and less UK engineering skill being exported as local technical and management skills have grown and instant global communications have reduced the need to travel.

And while there is no prospect of or indeed need for a return to the old days of parachuting in ex-pat skills to solve local problems 'abroad', it is good to hear that the opportunities for UK engineers are once again blooming.

The sheer scale of workload in the Middle East is now the driver. The £500bn of projects now underway across the region will suck in engineering resource from all around the globe.

The mix of petrochemical, transport, building, commercial, industrial and environmental projects truly makes the region an engineering hothouse.

Thus, the attractions of the Middle East are as overwhelming now as they were in the 1970s. Then they were described to me as 'a low crime rate, good climate and excellent travel opportunities'. A chance to enjoy 'exploring a new culture and way of life. To work hard and play hard'.

The engineers featured this week have no doubt that a month, a year, two years in the Middle East is a huge professional and life opportunity. The salaries are an added bonus, of course.

Yes, the conflicts in Lebanon, Israel and Iraq plus the on-going security threat in Saudi Arabia have to be borne in mind. But unless you are thinking of working in Beirut or Baghdad, the risk is manageable - as in most parts of the world, you're more likely to be killed by a car than a bullet. .

So the message is clear.

Engineering is a global profession and if you want to be part of it, the opportunity is there.

There may be a booming UK civil engineering market at your fingertips, but if action and hard work is your thing, don't rule out the Middle East. It could be the making of you.

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

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