Quality assurance and safety training among top skills in demand in the energy sector

21 January 2014
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Dubai International Academic City reveals energy sector skills in demand during WFES 2014 

Ahead of World Future Energy Summit (WFES), taking place from 20 to 22 January in Abu Dhabi, Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) released key findings from a Workforce Planning Study , which has identified some of the key trends and skills in demand within the fast-growing energy and resource sector.

The DIAC Workforce Planning Study revealed that quality assurance, safety training and energy risk engineering are the top three skills in demand. Quality assurance is more in demand for an entry level candidate, safety training on middle level, whereas energy risk engineering was in high demand on a senior level.

The survey of over 2,400 students across 17 markets in MEA and Asia and a cross section of companies was held in conjunction with leading consultancy firm Deloitte. It is the region’s most comprehensive, independent study regarding workforce skills gaps that currently exist within emerging markets.

Dr. Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village said: 
“With the high economic and population growth rates that the UAE has been witnessing, the UAE’s energy consumption increased tremendously over the past decades, recording one of the highest 10 times of average energy consumption rate per capita in the world, according to Energy Information Administration. In order to effectively address all the challenges facing in the energy sector, we should seriously look into recruiting the right human capital that will support and contribute to the industry.”

“Major institutions are working tirelessly to build and create the manpower needed by the energy sector such as Masdar Institute of Technology, Petroleum Institute, Herriot Watt University, Amity University, UAE University and others. The programs offered by such institutes reflect the type of commitments made to fulfil government’s vision and support the industry needs. These programs range from solar energy program to renewable energy programs, energy conservation and built environment as well as energy management and energy audit programs.”

In line with the Government of UAE’s vision to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy, the UAE is making forays into driving the country’s economic growth in diverse sectors, which resulted in a huge demand for specialized programmes and niche courses. DIAC & DKV are playing a leading role by providing the right infrastructure needed for international universities and institutes to provide high quality education and training in this region, not only in regular disciplines but also in niche areas that are gaining increased importance. This includes the energy sector, as the UAE plans to invest over US$100 billion in renewable and clean energy technology in the next 5 years.

Dr. Ayoub added: “To support the UAE’s efforts, DIAC is helping develop a new generation of researchers, scientists and engineers to manage the energy systems of tomorrow. We believe that public as well as private sectors must work closely with academic institutions in the country and fund R&D projects intended to develop existing technologies as well as seeking innovative ideas to tackle energy and water security issues.”
Manpower projections

The study also revealed manpower projections that estimate an increase in manpower by 7 per cent by 2015 in the UAE.

The findings coincide with end of Abu Dhabi’s oil concession, which underpins the growing importance of building a highly competent and specialised national workforce to run the UAE’s long-term energy programmes together with the newly selected partners.  Additionally, the rapid economic growth the country is witnessing – in light of the latest win of the EXPO 2020 hosting bid – will also result in a huge demand for specialized programmes and niche courses.

Commenting, Saad Hasan, CEO, Qaiwan Group, the leading player in oil refining, power and energy, said: “With our refinery and power plant expansion plans we are facing an increased need for skilled manpower.”

David Spencer-Percival, CEO of Spencer Ogden Energy, the award winning global energy industry recruitment specialists, added: “The findings highlight in clear and unambiguous terms the gap between supply of talent and demand from the industry. We understand that there is such variety in the roles and functions within the industry, and as such we welcome studies such as this that clearly identify where the gaps are in order to find the right people for the right role. The key is to raise awareness of not only the job opportunity to candidates, but also being able to work effectively with the industry in identifying the talent that can meet their requirements.”

Major industry trends

Key trend identified in the study include that the GCC markets are keen to encourage diversification away from dependence on oil and gas and invest in renewable sources of energy such as solar power. According to the MENA Renewables Status Report 2013, more than 100 renewable energy projects including solar, wind and biomass are currently under development in the region.

Marwan Abdulaziz, Executive Director of TECOM’s Sciences Cluster which includes Enpark, a free zone dedicated to facilitating and fostering the growth of the energy and environmental industries, said: “In order to truly grow the UAE’s alternative energy sector, emphasis must be placed on developing customised training programs for our future engineers, operators, and industry-specialists.

“We must also focus on adopting a collaborative practice model to strengthen relationships between the academia and the industry. At present, there’s a large disparity between what happens in the market and what is taught at university. A closer partnership will help develop a workforce system that serves and advances the energy sector and will ensure that future graduates in this area have a better chance of securing employment once they have completed their studies,” Marwan added.

Last year, in direct response to industry demand, universities at DIAC increased the number of courses on offer by more than 10% for the 2013/14 Academic Year. Amity University, Heriot Watt and IMT added an additional 35 degrees to their existing portfolio – particularly STEM subjects such as engineering, along with tourism and hospitality and accounting.

Professor Ammar Kaka, Vice-Principal of Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, said: “We offer a broad range of engineering programmes catering for energy and environment sectors.  The curriculum content is pertinent to the modern industry. We encourage graduates to undertake internship programmes or field development projects to add work experience to their academic learning. The principal objective is to provide specialist high-quality learning and teaching experience, informed by transferable skills such as employability and research awareness.