Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- SABIC’s vice president of Human Resources, Mohammed Al-Bat’hi has said more than 20,000 engineers and 300,000 technical and trade positions will be required by 2010.
In an address at the Mega projects and Learning Dialogue, organized recently in Al-Khobar by the Gulf Society for Organizational Learning and sponsored by SABIC and Saudi Aramco, he said the graduating engineers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia account for less than 10 percent of the annual university crop.
He gave the gathering a sobering look at the challenges of Saudization, according to a report carried by Saudi Aramco’s website. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s employment statistics, he said, show that of a total private-sector labor force of 6.5 million, Saudis represent just 12 percent. “Although that number is rising, without a concerted effort, money from the massive construction boom is more likely to travel overseas as expatriate worker salaries rather than fueling growth and prosperity in the Kingdom.”
Noting that the Kingdom graduates about 100,000 students from colleges and universities across the land and overseas, Al-Bat’hi said that only about 20,000 students graduate from technical and vocational institutes.
An estimated amount of more than $100 billion will be spent on constructing mega projects over the next five years in Saudi Arabia, the report said. Business, academic and government leaders attended the gathering in Al-Khobar, which focused on an in-depth review of ways to develop the Kingdom’s work force so that more of that money will stay in the local economy.
The discussions also dealt with using the current building boom as an opportunity to lift skill levels in the construction and engineering sectors of the Saudi economy.
“I have a vision for the future, a vision full of possibilities,” said Saudi Aramco’s senior vice president of Engineering and Operations Services, Salim S. Al-Aydh, “a future where Saudi Arabia is a center for engineering excellence, a future where Saudi-based companies are major players in mega projects across the Gulf Region and beyond. This will require that we do business differently.
“In the last oil boom,” he said, “we invested heavily in construction of new plant facilities. We left behind a legacy of steel and concrete. This time, as we build up new plants, we will invest not only in our physical capacity for oil and gas production, but also in the capacity of our people to plan and execute major projects. Alongside the steel and concrete of our new facilities, we want to leave behind a core competency in engineering, procurement and construction for Saudi Arabia.”
Sharing that vision and helping express it were speakers from government, business and academia.
On his part, Mohammed Binladin, a vice president of the Saudi Binladin Group, and Hamed Amin, a vice president of Consolidate Contractors Co. (CCC), both discussed massive training efforts at their companies.
Amin told participants of his company’s support of a Riyadh training center where students learn carpentry, scaffolding, pipefitting, steel fixing, plumbing and welding – all skills vitally needed in the construction sector.
The Saudi Binladin Group employs more than 50,000 workers in the Kingdom. Binladin said the company is working on the creation of the National Institute for Construction Technology, an ambitious effort that could be turning out more than 2,200 skilled trade workers annually in the near future.
“We need to empower human capital and value it more than assets,” Binladin said. “It’s the most important asset a nation can have.”
Dr. Khalid Al-Sultan, rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, addressed ways of tying education to the needs of business. He also discussed “The 2020 Vision,” the development of a new Technology Valley to support research and development and to incubate new business development.
Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Saadoun, head of the Energy Sector for the Saudi Arabia Government Investment Authority, talked about the investment climate in Saudi Arabia, including free-trade zones, WTO accession, incentives for investment, and the growing energy, services and manufacturing sectors.
Mutleq Al-Morished, chief financial officer for SABIC, addressed SABIC’s long-range strategic vision for the petrochemical and basic materials industries.
Over the past three years, Gulf SoL, a society of business and civic leaders committed to promoting innovation and sustainable approaches to development, has organized several events to focus on those challenges. Those meetings have resulted in advancements in Saudi education, training, manufacturing and engineering.