Following last week's profile of a decorator in Iraq, recruitment consultant Richard Dobell reveals why construction workers are clamouring to go there
As contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq are awarded, the hunt is on for skilled and experienced professionals, says Richard Dobell of recruitment firm Beresford Blake Thomas. "We've been inundated with candidates worldwide. But despite a huge response, there's a real shortage of people with the right experience."

Workers are needed in three areas: project management for water supplies; basic infrastructure repairs such as roads, water and telecoms; and the reinstatement of the television network.

Do you fit the bill?
"Ten years of construction expertise, international experience and knowledge of transport, water or communications sectors are crucial," Richard says. "Iraq is an extremely unstable environment. Personal qualities such as good communication skills, determination and openness to other cultures are valuable.

What will you face?
After 12 months of conflict, the living conditions and working environment are basic. "It is exhausting, with working days averaging 12 hours, six-and-a-half-days a week," Richard warns. On the flip side, plenty of leave is available. Those working a 60-hour week can go home every 12 weeks, and those working more than 70 hours a week can go home every eight weeks. Contracts last from a month to six years.

What will you get out of it?
Wages are twice as high as equivalent UK jobs. There are competitive home country base salaries, pay for all hours worked, and a 50% hardship enhancement. Dobell says: "The rebuilding of Iraq is one of the most exciting things happening. The experience makes candidates more attractive to future employers. And it's a chance to apply your skills to a country in real need of them.

Desert dreams – and cash aplenty

David McCourtie, 59, is a project manager from Glasgow. During his 35-year career he’s worked in on projects from Oman to Zambia, Iraq and Libya. He is currently a working on the construction of a seven-turbine power plant in Abu Dhabi.

David is an ideal candidate for work in Iraq and well aware of the benefits of working in exotic locations. “I did it originally because of the variety of work; each project and country is a completely different experience,” he says. What’s more: “There’s often more autonomy working overseas, and my salary is twice as much as I’d earn in the UK.”

It’s also a great way to see the world. He says: “Some projects are miles away from anything – my nine years in Libya were spent in the desert. The experience is unrivalled by anything on offer in the UK.”

But David also has some words of warning – “I’d advise anyone thinking about it to go before they settle down, otherwise you risk missing out on life and your family. The other problem is that you can get to like it so much that you don’t want to come home. To work in the UK you’ll have to take a salary cut, and you won’t have the same level of responsibility. You might be working on projects with a more limited scope.”