Have skills, will travel

What is life like for the young surveyors, architects and engineers who have moved abroad in search of work? And will they come back?

Amentum made a pre-tax profit in 2012 of €873,842, up from €542,279 in 2011.

Amentum made a pre-tax profit in 2012 of €873,842, up from €542,279 in 2011.

Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 00:00

Having left Ireland for the four corners of the world, will the emigration generation of surveyors, architects and estate agents come back, or are the opportunities in their adopted countries too great? And how difficult is it to start over in a new part of the world? Professional bodies here are ensuring Irish qualifications match up with international standards, making it relatively easy to up sticks and spirit levels, but what is life like on the ground?

Diarmuid Waters, Site engineer,
Esc Al Sharafi Steel, Abu Dhabi

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Leaving Ireland in 2011 was a wrench for Diarmuid Waters. Strong family ties in his native Limerick, where he also gained his degree in civil engineering, meant it was a reluctant move.

Working in London was followed by short stints in Australia and Canada, and despite offers of jobs in Ireland, he felt the challenge of working in the Gulf region was “too good to turn down”.

“The positions in Ireland lacked long-term security,” he says, though he also admits the opportunity for international experience, plus “the lure of a warmer climate” meant Abu Dhabi was an offer he just couldn’t refuse.

Abu Dhabi had been going through a period of rapid construction growth, but the opportunities also brought challenges.

“Adapting to the heat of the summer was the hardest part of my working day,” he says. “And having red hair and fair skin doesn’t help”.

Although, he adds, communications can present an equal challenge, with construction teams on the huge sites coming from multiple nations including India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Most of the men’s first exposure to English is when they arrive here for the first time. Having said that, they adapt quickly and make a significant contribution to the expat community here.”

With his girlfriend still living in Ireland, Waters keeps a close eye on what’s happening at home.

“Every week you read about another business going into liquidation, and many of these are local businesses I grew up around, which makes the news all the more difficult to take in.

“But Limerick has always had a never-say-die attitude. The city has had its critics over the years but has always strived in the face of adversity.”

More recent trips home have raised his levels of optimism, however.

“The City of Culture has created a great buzz around the city. I will definitely be coming back, though ‘when’ remains to be seen.”

Recognising that the experiences he’s gaining are invaluable, Waters says he would nevertheless jump at the chance to work in Limerick.

“Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful lifestyle here, one that has allowed me to meet many new friends and enjoy new experiences. Some of these just aren’t possible at home, but it’s not home all the same.”

Liza Jane Kelly, Sales director,
Marsh & Parsons Estate Agents, London

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Timing isn’t necessarily everything. Liza Jane Kelly left Ireland in 1999, “just as the Irish boom took off”. Having worked at Sherry FitzGerald for six years in Dublin, she realised that she wanted to broaden her horizons. “So I went, just as people started to talk about the Celtic Tiger.”

The London she found herself in then was very different from her work environment today.

“It wasn’t as busy, and there was less focus on customer service than there had been in Ireland, though that’s changed completely in the meantime. You also saw fewer Irish people working in the property business there. That’s changed too.”

Initially working with an international estate agent, Kelly is now sales director with Marsh & Parsons. “The issue in London is lack of stock,” she says of that city’s notoriously expensive property prices.

“What drives London is so different, it’s really international, but also changes by area. ‘Superprime’ London was quiet in the first six months of 2013, which I put down to worries about Mansion Tax and job security.

“But ‘Outerprime’, areas like Clapham and Fulham, took off, driven by domestic market. We saw prices go up 20 per cent in those areas, and 12 per cent in London as a whole.”

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