Thanks for listening to the NES Fircroft channel on the EKT Interactive Energy Podcast Network.
About NES Fircroft
With over 90 years’ combined experience delivering workforce solutions to the global energy industry, NES Fircroft is proud to be the world’s leading engineering staffing provider spanning the Oil & Gas, Power & Renewables, Infrastructure, Life Sciences, Mining, Automotive and Chemicals sectors.
NES Fircroft provides tailored staffing solutions, sourced from a global talent pool by a dedicated, discipline specific team of consultants.
About the Expert
Mr. Zahi Kamar – NES Fircroft Managing Consultant
Originally from Lebanon Zahi is now based in dynamic and multicultural Dubai.
Zahi has been with NES since 2014. He has an interesting angle on energy transition having made the switch himself from oil & gas to renewables.
In this podcast episode, Zahi shares his insight into Middle East job opportunities in solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear and the evolving hydrogen economy – including what he’s seeing with digitalization in these sectors.
Lauren Webb – Content Manager for NES Fircroft
Based in Altrincham, Lauren is responsible for all web, blog and video communications as well as the EngineeringPro Insights newsletter.
This podcast is designed to get you current on industry developments that can affect your career selection in the Middle East.
Marty Stetzer – President of EKT Interactive
Marty has over 30 years in the industry and has worked onsite in Saudi Arabia.
Since 2018, his team has provided NES with a digital training curriculum covering oil & gas, power and renewables.
EngineeringPro Insights Newsletter
Energy 101 – eLearning for the Energy Industry
Hi everyone, and welcome. I’m Lauren Webb, the Content Manager for NES Fircroft, based in Altrincham.
So I look after all things content, including videos, podcasts, articles, and our Engineering Pro newsletter.
This podcast is one of the learning resources available to our NES candidates. It’s designed to get you current on industry developments that can affect your career selection in the Middle East.
Our NES industry expert on opportunities in this region is Zahi Kamar, based in Dubai. Zahi has been with NES since 2014 and has a very interesting angle on the energy transition, having made the switch himself from oil and gas to renewables.
He’ll be interviewed by Marty Stetzer, President of EKT Interactive in Houston.
Marty has over 30 years in the industry and has worked onsite in Saudi Arabia. Since 2018, his team has provided NES Fircroft with a digital training curriculum covering oil and gas, power and renewables.
Thanks, Lauren, and thanks to our listeners for taking the time today.
Welcome, Zahi. We’re really happy to have your insights, especially with a massive transition from oil and gas to renewables underway around the world.
Thanks, Marty. Good to be here.
Before we get started, can you give us a quick summary of your career, especially your Middle East experience?
Yes, most happy to do so. I was originally born in Lebanon, also in the Middle East. I grew up in a family of five. I started my career as a financial analyst, which is obviously far away what I’m doing right now.
I stumbled across recruitment in 2014 and I came across a job with NES, where I joined as a graduate recruiter back then, and eight years later I’m still with them progressing to management level.
I’m based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and my focus has been since the day one the energy sector, which obviously involves many aspects. Started my career in oil and gas and moved recently to the power and renewables sector.
Moving to Dubai was obviously quite challenging, moving away from home. It’s difficult at the start.
It’s very fast-paced, very competitive market, but Dubai is a very multicultural city and working for NES has definitely helped me integrate into the culture and into the country.
It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me to travel, to meet people from all over the world, and to really grow both on a career level and a personal level.
Zahi, that’s terrific background for our topic. So let’s get started.
In your region, is the energy transition under way and in what way?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, the energy transition has started probably about 10 years ago. Middle East is historically an oil-rich part of the world and has always been for the past 100 years.
What we’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years especially, due to different events, for example the downturn of the oil prices in 2015, that’s when we started to see countries start to change their perspective on oil and start to realize they have to expand their economies and expand their horizon to be able to keep up with the world, and that accelerated massively, especially after COVID in 2020.
We’ve seen countries on the forefront of this transition, like the UAE to begin with, where they were the only country in the region that started to explore a mega project on the solar side or the renewables side, where they built a huge solar park in Dubai, followed very quickly by a nuclear plant.
Since then, since the last two, three years especially, we’re starting to see this being replicated all across the GCC countries and the Middle East region as a wider region.
These countries are obviously very rich in oil, as you mentioned.
However, they also started to realize they have huge access to resources, renewable resources, and to begin with the sun. Obviously, it’s pretty much sunny here 90% of the year, if not 100%.
They started to seek these new avenues of generating energy, and to me, first of all, the local demand of the growing population, as well as achieving net zero emissions, which everyone around the region has signed up for this on different years and different targets.
But overall industry and overall transition is also to reduce the reliance on the oil and gas revenue and expand and increase the GDP within other sectors, including tourism, infrastructure, technology, but more importantly, the sources of energy.
So, Zahi, what kind of hot job opportunities are these new projects creating, not only for recent graduates but also to reposition oil and gas professionals to participate in the new industries?
Definitely it has, and it’s definitely been a challenging transition from what we hear from our clients, our candidates, from obviously senior people, senior stakeholders, and different and various businesses.
To begin with, the transition naturally will increase the number of roles when we’re talking about multi-million dollar or multi billion dollar projects, for example Neom project in Saudi Arabia, which is expected to spend around $500 billion over the next five years.
We expect over 500,000 jobs to be able to meet this mega project. That mega project consists of a lot of aspects, and the biggest part of it probably is renewable energy, to generate power in different resources and a different manner than previously done.
So, naturally you can see a higher demand in expertise or types of candidates that they would need to be able to achieve these projects and reach a level where they are comfortable with the talent in the region.
Now, naturally you look at different parts of the world where they have done this previously, for example in the West, in the US and in Canada and Europe.
They have been doing or focusing on the renewable resources since a long time ago. So, naturally the initial resources would come from there. However, this is only temporary.
Governments and countries are looking at how they can drive their local population and the local talent, whether it is nationals or ex-pats living in their own countries, to either start fresh graduates, start thinking about joining the industry from the start, and actually starting the education before that within the aspect.
Naturally, the ex-pats working in oil and gas sector start thinking about how they can transition into the renewables sector by looking at their skills, what are their transferable skills, what are the aspects that they’ve learned over the years that they can look to take away and move to a different industry.
As started by myself, as I mentioned earlier, I have done this transition in the past years. My experience has been always oil and gas, but there are a lot of takeaways, a lot of skills that I learned over the years that could be a huge benefit and is a huge benefit to my company and also my client.
So a lot of these candidates are looking to make that switch, and I can tell by the trajectory we’re going to see this definitely on the upward side.
So there are opportunities for expatriates and nationals, but, for example, what specific oil and gas skills are transferable and in demand?
The need is definitely for ex-pats and nationals, that’s for sure. GCC countries specifically, the majority of the population is below the age of 35, meaning the young generation will play the biggest role on shaping the next 100 years for the region.
A lot of these nationals are coming out from universities. So the education level is obviously increasing consistently across the younger generation.
However, the generation that has been within the industry or within the previous different industries, have definitely the skills, and some of them… and obviously not to name all of them.
When you’re looking at construction of a renewables project, when you’re looking at commissioning of a renewables project, operations and maintenance, all three are a major aspect of any project, they probably employ the biggest portion of manpower on any given project.
These individuals that have worked on huge power plants that are oil-fired or gas-fired specifically, these are multi-billion dollar projects that they worked on in the past.
They can definitely use that experience within either of these three subcategories, whether it’s construction, commissioning, operations and maintenance, and replicate that on the renewables project.
Nothing can stop them from doing that except obviously the fact that they don’t try it.
So people need to be willing to try working on the other side of the spectrum because it’s the same experience at the end of the day.
Zahi, I had an interesting observation similar to yours when I was in Saudi Arabia and working for Saudi Aramco as a consultant.
For some of the people that I dealt with on the Saudi Aramco side, the nationals, it was their third generation of being trained in the West in either chemical or electrical engineering, and project management, the real strong engineering disciplines.
So they seemed to be very comfortable in their skin, so to speak, and made terrific advancements in the local way they did the projects.
So, is there a skills shortage in the nationalization side that any of the companies or countries are taking a look at to try to get that younger population up the curve on what’s needed for these new projects?
Absolutely. I mean, when you look at it, I think the answer to this question I would split into two parts, the first being you have to look at the industry as a whole.
There’s definitely a shortage on a lot of the industries that are newly and upcoming in the region.
So take, for example, nuclear power, hydrogen as well, technology and artificial intelligence.
So when you’re looking at these three industries, these are relatively new markets to the region, and naturally people did not have the awareness on these five, 10 years ago to be able to make a decision to go within that industry, as in to start their careers.
Historically, as we know, oil and gas is big in the region. So students tend to have that natural tendency to go where it’s traditional.
But we’re seeing a lot of programs, we’re seeing a lot of international companies and local companies starting to raise awareness within schools and universities to make people aware of these new projects and upcoming, that these are the new side of the world that are actually going to change the world as they know it and they need to be aware of this.
Now, the second part is obviously the actual skills in particular.
A lot of the projects around here would require a designing stage, and the designing stage is obviously where it all begins, as you probably know, Marty.
Naturally, these projects, because they are brand new, because they are not familiar in the region, they get designed elsewhere, whether it’s in the West or the East of the world, and they get brought into here for implementation.
Now, generally, at that stage people are not involved, that is in this part of the world.
However, we are starting to see specifically in solar projects, the first big mega project was designed in Spain, but now the next one and probably the ones to follow have more regional responsibility on putting together this project and coming up with the idea.
And then obviously a big part of that is going to be done by local talent and nationals, whether in Saudi or UAE or Qatar or Oman, and we’re definitely starting to see that happening more often.
Zahi, thank you so much for your insights and experience. They will definitely be valuable to the global NES audience, and we will also post them to our EKT Interactive learning community, which now sits at about 8,000 listeners.
You mentioned Neom and the UAE. Are there any other latest trends or future developments in energy that candidates should be aware of?
Oh, absolutely. Within the renewable energy spectrum, we mentioned solar. We’re starting to see projects on wind, power generated through wind turbines, and whether it’s onshore or offshore, which is new to the region.
We have hydropower down in Oman, border between Dubai, UAE and Oman border. We’ve seen hydrogen in both its forms. Well, multiple forms. The two we’ve seen are the green and blue ones. Nuclear energy.
The thing that sits above all of them is digitalization.
That is across all these trends, which is now obviously becoming more and more important, including cybersecurity, including technology, artificial intelligence.
A lot of people will be very much interested in this in the coming 10 years. So people need to keep an eye out for these trends.
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