Middle East Facility Management Association (MEFMA) talks on Emiratisation, education and socio-economic growth with Ali Al Suwaidi, Vice-President, Idama Facility Management Solutions.
What is the current status regarding nationals operating in FM disciplines?
You rarely find FM courses offered in the UAE and therefore a very small number of students actually pursue a career in the FM industry. Although this is the case, Dubai Asset Management Company (DAMC) has been fortunate to have a good number of UAE Nationals working at Idama, 36 per cent of them are in management positions.
Can you quantify the long-term socio economic impact on the region of nonparticipation on a national level or is the situation unique to the UAE?
Any city experiencing rapid growth in the real estate sector would face a similar situation. The unique situation is the recruitment of expatriate FM experts, which counteracts Emiratisation programmes and targets set for both government and private corporations. This is bound to happen in a rapidly growing FM market, where long-term industry experience is paramount as opposed to generic technical knowledge.
The challenge is transferring years of external FM industry experience to UAE national professionals. Although time is required to ensure that national FM experts are up to par with the industry, the commitment is present. For example, with Idama expanding into the rest of the UAE and the Middle East, FM knowledge is set to be transferred to local markets.
Do you think there is a lack of awareness among national students, graduates and related professionals as to the importance of FM in preserving and moulding the built environment?
It is becoming more and more apparent that the FM sector is key in sustaining the real estate industry, and that is why just recently more educational institutions are offering FM courses to students, like Heriot Watt University’s post grad course in Facilities Management. MEFMA’s number of courses which are proving highly popular amongst the industry. This is why Idama has launched a number of FM awareness programmes in schools and the community. This is mainly to provide a clear cut understanding of FM and develop interest among prospective FM professionals.
Will non-participation have a detrimental effect on cultural heritage, meeting strategic governmental targets and contribute to a general disconnect between nationals and the environment?
The government has introduced new regulations for a sustainable environment and better management of assets. Therefore, non-participation is not an option; each FM industry player will play a role in sustaining the built environment. Idama is a locally established FM specific company and is one of the pioneers in the industry. Developing national talent and creating awareness of the industry is an important company objective.
The industry is moving into an exciting new phase under MEFMA, and is set to take a high profile role in the continued socioeconomic development of the UAE and wider Middle East region. What practical initiatives could MEFMA undertake to engage and attract national talent?
Because the UAE FM industry is short of local experts, MEFMA has introduced a professional FM certificate (the Foundation in FM course) to enable individuals to practice at a certain level in the market. Furthermore, MEFMA needs to develop into an industry regulatory body and partner with local FM companies in FM educational programmes for universities and professional institutions.
Facility management is more than a job. It is a role that, in its purest form, affects change throughout the built environment and its communities. How would you communicate this to the upcoming generation intent on entering careers perceived as stable and recognised?
People will continue to live in buildings and real estate will always be present. It is said that the longest period in the real estate life cycle is its FM period. Therefore, a career in FM is sustainable and long lasting. The UAE is home to prestigious and renowned projects such as Burj Khalifa, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Mall, etc. Working in the FM sector in the UAE, adds unequalled experience in one’s CV.