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Middle Eastern promise for the UK's young engineers

What to do? You’re a young, intelligent, enthusiastic, problem solving civil engineer and, after four years of study and years of practical experience, you now find yourself staring into the abyss of public spending cuts, project cancellations and recruitment freezes.

Jobs are going to get harder to find in the UK civils market and even if you already have one, it is more likely to be focused around maintaining existing assets rather than the more glamorous new build schemes.

But do you want responsibility, reward, new challenges, adventure and excitement? Do you want to see you career advancing rapidly and your earning potential climbing even faster?

The answer is simple - get yourself out to Iraq with one of the global infrastructure firms now breaking into this new market and start nation-building.

As this week’s Middle East feature points out, there’s over £200bn already slated to be spent rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by 25 years of war and international sanctions and given that oil revenues are flowing again, this is likely to be just a start.

OK, maybe Iraq is a step too far for most. Clearly there are a few more security issues to bear in mind compared to a career based in Surrey, Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow.

Perhaps then you might think about a posting to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Egypt, all of which have massive government backed infrastructure expansion plans.

And without foreign engineering assistance, they will struggle to meet the demands of their ambitious programmes.

And if these are still too remote for you then you could do worse than look towards the still booming markets of Abu Dhabi, Qatar or Oman where traditional oil and gas revenues continue to drive growth.

“For many civil engineering firms, international markets must be seen as crucial to future success”

The reality is that for many UK civil engineering firms such international markets - new and old - must be seen as crucial to future success. And the evidence is that for most, this renewed focus has already begun.
It has to. Because here in the UK, there is certainly good reason for a degree of gloom regarding the prospects for infrastructure- related spending over the next few years. Already we are seeing local transport investment freezes and next week’s Budget is unlikely to contain much to raise a smile.

Fortunately a posting in Iraq isn’t practical or desirable for every civil engineer because, despite the downturn, we are still going to need some of the brightest, most experienced engineering minds on the job here.

There is still a realisation by the coalition that the UK must invest in maintaining transport systems, enhancing power supplies and kick-starting regeneration of vital new population centres.

The new trick, of course, will be to do all this with much less direct public funding.

So managing this reality - and our ability to bring in private sector skills and financing to fill the gap - will be one of the keys to our success over the next few years and will be crucial if we are to get our economy back on track. Only the best need apply.

Readers' comments (5)

  • I 100% agree with AO's sentiment and would even go further and say that such overseas' exposure and hopefully early intense personal responsibility is an absolute pre-requisite within any aspiring professional engineer's C.V.

    I was fortunate in being thrown into the deep end, largely on my own, 40 years ago for 9 of the 12 years following graduation, in various undeveloped parts of the world. It was far more effective engineering and construction training and judgement building and gave me far more insight into contract and specification/claim considerations than any formal training or seminar attendance.

    Unfortunately, too many of the projects within the Middle East and other overseas locations are now being driven by management by committee with additional layers of over-extensive "professional" project managers who do little more than attend meetings and push paper. The exposure and hands-on learning has been drastically diluted!

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  • Why just young engineers? I would specifically recommend the Middle East to older engineers who think they may becoming a bit stale in the UK. Arab nations like to see an old head, with most ME projects require personnel with 15 to 20 years experience in their respective discipline.

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  • One of the most attractive things about engineering is no doubt the opportunity for international working. Its unfortunately true that there are some far better oportunities overseas.

    coming soon!

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  • As a 26yr old engineer who spent 3 years in the gulf working in a senior position managing £20m of construction, I am now back in the UK, in applying for jobs i'm often hearing: 'Your skills/experience is not relevant to the UK'.

    Yes my work in the gulf was an amazing experience and i learned and earned a lot, but be cautious! It is a gilded cage you live in. Having a great salary, apartment, pool, maid, etc only is fun for so long.

    Its not as simple as AO makes out!!!! Be very careful, you may find yourself with untransferable skills.

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  • I agree that responsibility, experience and earning potentials WERE alot higher in the middle east

    It should be noted that expats were the largest group affected by redundancies in the gulf region, probably because of the high employment costs compared with more local professionals.

    Gone are the days with high salaries, luxury accomodation and bonuses as margins are squeezed due to competition. Many projects were shelved and companies are struggling to survive now.

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