There is a severe shortfall of technical staff in the Middle East production industry and it appears that the situation might get worse if authorities do not step in with adequate measures.
As more international companies set up their regional headquarters in Dubai, the demand for technical personnel such as camera operators, editors, TV producers and broadcast & electronic engineers is on the rise.
Added to this, several governmental entities especially in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Jordan are aggressively wooing Hollywood and Bollywood producers to use their locales for film shoots. However, there is no adequate pool of skilled personnel in the locality to fill the roles of technical and support staff or 'extras'. Having to import skilled technicians would not only be too prohibitive, the lack of them in-house may make Arab countries less appealing for on-location shoots.
Likewise, there is a concerted effort to grow the indigenous film industry while there are no parallel efforts to develop a pool of local scriptwriters, directors and other creative talent.
What we need at this juncture are parallel large-scale efforts to develop the kind of skills that will be necessary to cater to these industries. MediaPro, for instance, which has just set up a big office in Dubai Studio City, is facing huge challenges in terms of recruiting operational staff such as cameramen, editors, engineers and producers.
"Most people we have seen have only 30% of the skills they should ideally have and this is probably because production in this region has been very low so far," says Paco Herrero, manager of MediaPro Middle East. "Most do not have skills in new equipment like HD cameras, hard disk recorders and so on. Most also have very old-fashioned design concepts and old school approaches to the production market."
Some international companies have now understood this situation and are seeking to rectify it by providing training in the region. EVS, for instance, has opened a training centre at its Dubai City office to teach people to use its solutions. Likewise, Herrero says MediaPro is opening a regional training centre to "not just train young people who are interested in TV and audio but also to recycle old operators."
However, governments must see in this a huge potential to employ nationals and take every effort to invest in local training centres that will enable them to have adequate work skills to take on such jobs.