Bauxite engineers in demand abroad

Published: Wednesday | December 4, 2013 Comments 0

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Noel Brown, academic and president of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers (JIE), said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia is just one of several countries currently recruiting Jamaican engineers and other workers from the bauxite sector for jobs abroad.

Ma'aden Aluminium in Saudi Arabia - a joint venture with Alcoa - is the latest company seeking Jamaicans to work in the Middle Eastern country.

"The world is aware that the bauxite alumina sector in Jamaica took a hard blow during the economic recession. This has resulted in the displacement of a number of workers, including engineers," said Brown on Monday in response to a Wednesday Business query.

"It is a wise move by Saudi Arabia to recruit these professionals from Jamaica; Australia is doing the same. Some of these individuals have years of experience working in this sector, therefore, the cost to retrain them would be low," said Brown, who is also an associate professor and head of the School of Engineering at the University of Technology Jamaica.

Calls to Alcoa revealed that Ma'aden is also prospecting in India for engineers for its new US$11.5-million smelter in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ma'aden, in the advertisement placed on Sunday, has asked for planners, area reliability engineers, lead laboratory technicians, digestion main-tenance supervisors, descale trainers, mechanics with rotating equipment experience, refinery operations, among other positions.

The workers are being promised competitive salaries, housing and transportation allowances, Ramadan bonus, performance bonus, medical insurance and a settling-in allowance, among other incentives to uproot.

"We do not know how many engineers are needed," a member of the human resources department, who was listed as contact on the recruiting ad, told Wednesday Business.

She said, however, that the recruits were not likely to come from engineers formerly employed by Alcoa in Jamaica - as none were laid off - but from competing bauxite operations that were shuttered, such as Alpart.

Brown of the JIE said that many local engineers have started their own businesses both engineering and non-engineering-related and are currently themselves employers of labour.

He said he was unable to comment on levels of engineering employment in the sector.

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