Professionals who have worked in China's construction sector have many competitive advantages. They will have acquired technical know-how and seen at close hand what it takes to manage the largest projects, while learning about budgets, time constraints and quality standards. With this combination of skills, it is no surprise that their employers are so well placed to win a share of the many overseas contracts now up for grabs.
"There are ample opportunities in the UAE and, for us, Dubai has been the first stop," says Sammy Zhou, vice chairman and chief executive officer of China State Construction International Holdings Limited (CSCI). "In fact, our biggest problem right now is a shortage of manpower, so we have an ongoing recruitment campaign." This has been given greater urgency by the fact that the company has been awarded six new projects — four in Dubai and two in India — with a total value of HK$5.3 billion.
Our biggest problem right now is a shortage of manpower
CSCI had realised the need to consolidate their reputation in Hong Kong by completing high-quality projects which gave developers confidence and led to new business opportunities. With a track record of completing large-scale projects successfully, it became easier to win contracts overseas. In Dubai, for instance, the wealth of experience gained elsewhere has made it possible to put together a team with international managers from Hong Kong, site expertise and labourers from the mainland, and technical support from Dubai and numerous other countries.
"In Hong Kong, where the construction sector is very mature, it may take five years to move from assistant project manager to the next level," says Mr Zhou. "However, there are plenty of openings in Dubai and promotions are much faster." Anyone with previous experience of working in an international environment has every chance of moving up quickly.
Mr Zhou notes that some colleagues who were initially reluctant to go to Dubai have subsequently thanked him for providing the opportunity. Many have indicated that they would plan to stay on there for the better prospects, even though they would be first in line for promotion if they returned to Hong Kong. He takes this as a sign of the success of the company's efforts to expand overseas.
"Our staff in Dubai have really shown what CSCI's team spirit can achieve," he says. "Efficiency and management skills have helped us to iron out problems and accomplish a great deal in a relatively short time. Therefore, I encourage people with ambition and an open mind to join us and build a better future for themselves."
Tips for adapting in a new country or working environment
Flexibility to cope with differences in climate, culture and ways of communicating
Open mindset to learn from and get to know the new community
Understanding and support from family members
Active participation in orientation training to speed up adaptation