Towards Macau and Dubai

by Anna Tong

Top-notch professionals find career success away from home

Local construction and building companies are extending their reach to overseas cities like Dubai and Macau. In a recent Career Times conference Heading Towards Dubai and Macau, three seasoned professionals shared their experiences.

Local platform

George Chan, director, Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Limited, has witnessed first hand the changes in the building and construction industry during the last 45 years — most notably the height of buildings with the first high-rise buildings showing up in the 80s starting with the HSBC Tower and Exchange Square. "Some 45 years ago, the tallest building was the City Hall," Mr Chan said.

George Chan, director
Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Limited
Over the years, Mr Chan has helped construct many famous high-rise buildings that now line the Hong Kong skyline including the 490-metre tall Two International Finance Centre, which is currently the tallest building in Hong Kong. He is presently building the International Commerce Centre — another wonder of structural design.

Taking a holistic approach to a project is the key to success in building efficient and robust infrastructures, Mr Chan noted. "In the US engineers look only at their own parts but in Hong Kong we consider a project as a whole."

International acts of terrorism have prompted concerns from clients on building safety. Therefore, buildings are now structured in such a way that they have far greater safety built right in to the design, Mr Chan added.

As China's economy continues to expand at a fast rate, Mr Chan is confident that Hong Kong professionals will benefit. "Our footprint in China is growing with 60 per cent of our building and construction projects now coming from outside Hong Kong so if you cannot find a job in Hong Kong you know which way to look," he said.

Hot stuff

Dubai, a fishing village in the 1970s, has become an important centre for Middle East logistics and finance. It is home to the seven star Burj Al Arab hotel and is the second richest city in the UAE after Abu Dhabi. Jackson Cheong, executive director and deputy general manager, China State Construction International Holdings Ltd, has been working on a number of infrastructure projects in the city of gold.

Jackson Cheong, executive director and deputy general manager
China State Construction International Holdings Ltd
"Three man-made islands are being constructed and there are rumours that the tallest building in the world is on the books at 1,000 metres," Mr Chan said. The company looks after their multinational staff by providing accommodation in strict compliance to the local labour laws and provides transport to work and for shopping. To help staff adjust to the culture shock the company has imported a Chinese chef. "The chef cooks devil fish in water Szechuan style — a small but important taste of home," Mr Cheong noted.

"The weather is very warm and eggs may cook sunny-side-up on the tarmac. It is hot," he said. Little rainfall and intense temperatures does not deter Mr Cheong from wearing a suit even though outside temperatures often reach 47 degrees. "The country is Muslim, which means there are lot of different customs to get used to," he remarked. "Dubai is a safe place to work and you don't even have to close your doors at night."

A tax free salary and a local benefits package makes Dubai an attractive place to work. Finally Mr Cheong has this advice for professionals interested in working in Dubai: "Come and see me."

Collect the winnings

"The building and construction business has boomed with the opening up of the monopoly to outsiders," said Keith Buckley, executive project director, Hsin Chong Engineering (Macau) Ltd. "The projects are very exciting because you get to see the results very quickly. Casinos like the Venetian have 3,000 rooms. If you want to stay in every hotel room you will have to stay in Macau for at least eight years."

Keith Buckley, executive project director
Hsin Chong Engineering (Macau) Ltd
With more projects on the way the demand for skilled and experienced professionals in the building and construction industry is strong. "We have positions for everyone from clerical to even my replacement," Mr Buckley noted. "All these projects have very tight timelines. This kind of work is the busiest I have ever seen."

Staff working there receive an allowance for accommodation with transport provided. "If you flat share then you can save up more money," Mr Buckley added and advised people wanting to work in Macau to ensure that their employer is covered by the Hong Kong ordinance rather than that of Macau. "Should anything happened, they'd pay less in Macau," he remarked.

Taken from Career Times 26 May 2007
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