Glo­be­trot­ters are in luck

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Careers In Construction -

PICK a place where you’d like to live any­where in the world. If you’re in the con­struc­tion game, there’s likely to be a work op­por­tu­nity there, or at least, not too far away. If you picked any­where in Asia or the Ara­bian Gulf re­gion, you’re par­tic­u­larly in luck. Boom­ing de­vel­op­ment has left coun­tries cry­ing out for for­eign con­struc­tion work­ers, and em­ploy­ers are will­ing to put their money where their mouths are.

Penny Bing­ham- Hall, ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager, strat­egy for con­struc­tion gi­ant, Leighton Hold­ings, says their core over­seas busi­ness in­volves in­fra­struc­ture, build­ing and con­tract min­ing.

And to break it down: ‘‘ In In­dia, there’s oil and gas work. There’s a huge need for in­fra­struc­ture. There are niche build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties there - we built Nokia’s first mo­bile phone fac­tory there, and now the area is turn­ing into a busi­ness park.

‘‘ In In­done­sia, it’s in the re­source sec­tor, in min­ing and pro­cesses en­gi­neer­ing. We’re also look­ing at some toll roads.

‘‘ In the Philip­pines there’s min­ing work, but we’re also look­ing at build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.’’

In Malaysia, Leighton In­ter­na­tional has just fin­ished build­ing a big toll road. On the West­ern Pa­cific is­land of Guam it is build­ing mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties and in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port the re­lo­ca­tion of US troops out of Ja­pan. In Ma­cau, the Las Ve­gas of Asia, it’s casi­nos.

The Leighton group is cur­rently work­ing on the $ 1.75 bil­lion City of Dreams casino and ho­tel com­plex for the James Packer- backed Melco group.

‘‘ The build­ing projects are amaz­ing - very big jobs,’’ Ms Bing­ham- Hall says. ‘‘ They are also build­ing en­ter­tain­ment com­plexes and the­atres. There are thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple - now Ma­cau has to spend more money on in­fra­struc­ture to han­dle all the tourists.’’

In Dubai, Leighton Hold­ings re­cently bought a 45 per cent stake in one of the lo­cal con­trac­tors, Al Habtoor En­gi­neer­ing, the com­pany which built the Burj Al Arab Ho­tel - the world’s tallest ho­tel.

Projects in Dubai range from hos­pi­tals through to ho­tels, mixed- use es­planade- style de­vel­op­ments, re­sorts and air­ports.

‘‘ There’s a very broad range of build­ings and civil in­fra­struc­ture, and they’re des­per­ately look­ing for peo­ple,’’ Ms Bing­ham Hall says.

Sim­i­larly, in Abu Dhabi and Qatar there’s an enor­mous amount of in­vest­ment on in­fra­struc­ture, tourist fa­cil­i­ties, ac­com­mo­da­tion and com­mer­cial build­ings.

‘‘ There are a lot of Aus­tralians over there, not just peo­ple work­ing for us, but peo­ple in all ar­eas, lawyers, and those work­ing on the fi­nan­cial side of things,’’ Ms Bing­ham- Hall says.

‘‘ There are also quite a lot of Bri­tish, they’re all tempted over there by the ex­cit­ing work and the pay.

‘‘ Re­sourc­ing con­struc­tion projects has be­come a global is­sue, par­tic­u­larly in the last few years. It’s a very fluid en­vi­ron­ment. There are peo­ple in the Philip­pines at­tracted to go over and work in the Mid­dle East, peo­ple in Aus­tralia go­ing to Ma­cau - there couldn’t be a bet­ter time to grad­u­ate.’’

Work­ing abroad in the in­dus­try en­ables ex­po­sure to a broad range of projects, some­times of a scale far ex­ceed­ing those avail­able Aus­tralia.

The perks are clear, but ad­di­tional fac­tors, such as cul­ture, fa­cil­i­ties and cli­mate, need to be con­sid­ered, ac­cord­ing to Ms Bing­ham- Hall: ‘‘ In some places, like In­dia, it can be quite slow to get some of th­ese ( projects) mov­ing.

‘‘ A coal mine in In­dia is quite dif­fer­ent to a coal mine in the Hunter Val­ley. It’s ex­cit­ing be­cause it’s start­ing out, but there are cul­tural and so­cial chal­lenges.

‘‘ When build­ing re­la­tion­ships, it can take a long time to un­der­stand the lo­cal cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment and to build up trust when you’re work­ing with dif­fer­ent cul­tures.’’

Con­struc­tion com­pa­nies don’t al­ways pro­vide spe­cific cul­tural train­ing for ex­pat work­ers - it’s usu­ally some­thing which gets picked up on the job. ‘‘ We have a core of peo­ple who have worked there for quite some time, so when new peo­ple come in they help with their in­duc­tion,’’ Bing­ham- Hall says. ‘‘ When we’re look­ing for peo­ple to work in those ar­eas, we’re find­ing the right peo­ple who are cul­tur­ally aware and in­ter­ested in the lo­cal cul­tures.

‘‘ Gen­er­ally, Aus­tralians are fairly suc­cess­ful at ad­just­ing. They have an egal­i­tar­ian at­ti­tude to work and work­ing to­gether.’’

Some other fac­tors which can pose a chal­lenge in­clude con­tracts not be­ing writ­ten in English ( par­tic­u­larly in China), avail­abil­ity of clean drink­ing wa­ter, and traf­fic.

‘‘ In Bangkok there are leg­endary traf­fic is­sues,’’ Ms Bing­ham- Hall says. ‘‘ In Dubai as well the traf­fic is dread­ful be­cause the in­fra­struc­ture doesn’t keep up with the build­ing growth.’’

While some work­ers re­lo­cate to as­sist with a spe­cific project and then re­turn to Aus­tralia im­me­di­ately, oth­ers stay for 10- 15 years, and there are oth­ers still who have found the con­di­tions so ap­peal­ing that they have been abroad for over 30 years, ac­cord­ing to Ms Bing­ham- Hall: ‘‘ They are bring­ing back a dif­fer­ent range of ex­per­tise - this ex­pe­ri­ence gives them a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.’’

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