The Business Year

Guy Mehula

President, Parsons

Omran Assa

VP, Middle East Business Development - Civil Country Manager, UAE, Bechtel

With a region-wide trend of megaprojects and grand infrastructure developments, Abu Dhabi-based companies are at an advantage.

Is it hard to attract and retain good human resources?

OMRAN ASSA Certainly, given the amount of work being done in the GCC, there is significant competition for human resources in the construction sector. While the rest of the world is focusing on efforts to generate economic recovery, the GCC is spending heavily in oil and gas to boost revenues. Therefore, infrastructure has to support business and trade, and it has to help social and economic development, including improvements in education and hospitals. We find that the location is very attractive, especially for our people. Bechtel is a global company with over 50,000 employees, working in countries all around the world. We are excellent at mobilizing teams at short notice and supplementing those with local hires. We are committed to hiring local people. I sit on the business board of Abu Dhabi University, so I am familiar with local requirements. First of all, we have formal training programs for employees offered through our Bechtel University, with a multitude of courses across a range of subjects. Secondly, we provide on-the-job training. And thirdly, we engage with local Universities and colleges. For example, at KPIZ, we ran a job shadow day where we brought in some students to shadow a professional to learn from a day in the life of a major project. It certainly stimulates many of the students and gets them more excited about their careers. In the construction industry, we sometimes need to work harder to attract talent to the region, as people tend to want to work in finance or marketing, but we do so successfully, both through direct hire and partnerships.

GUY MEHULA One of our primary focuses is on human resources. In the time I’ve been here, we’ve almost doubled in size, which means that we’ve had to recruit and bring in many more people. This is the case across the GCC, and not just in the UAE. Over the past two years, while the UAE overall has seen rather flat economic development, we have experienced significant growth, and there is a constant battle for resources in the region, which makes it difficult for us to hire the right people. Since the 1980s, we have run programs centered on working together with local Emiratis and bringing the experience of a US company to the country. We want to continue doing this, which is why we partnered with HCT and why we have been working with other groups to establish a strong internship program. We just recently placed a number of interns at the Abu Dhabi airport project, where they had the opportunity to work with local leaders.

Why did you select Abu Dhabi as your HQ?

OA Our headquarters in the UAE has always been here in Abu Dhabi. However, we have been looking to branch out to some of the other emirates as well. While our UAE headquarters remain in Abu Dhabi, we have established a center of excellence in Dubai. Its focus, at the moment, is on the rail, port, mining, and metals businesses. The center of excellence not only serves the UAE—we serve the world from those offices, as the center adds value in support of our projects. For example, we have recently taken on a project in Riyadh to deliver two new metro lines. If the team needs some design or specialized support, they can call upon us to use our resources. This is excellent because it brings business into the UAE and helps us train more UAE citizens, which is good for business.

GM We have been in Abu Dhabi for decades, and began working with the municipality in the 1980s. Having decided to make the UAE our regional headquarters, we have since developed our entire Middle Eastern operation from this hub. We have national managing directors in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar, but we coordinate everything from here. The Middle East represents a large part of our corporate strategy and structure, so strong leadership is an important factor in our success. One-third of Parsons’ employees are based here.

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