Building work on third bridge across the Bosphorus Sea in Istanbul.

Country focus: Turkey

We take a look at the opportunities for young engineers in Turkey: what skills employers are after and what kinds of engineering projects are planned or currently underway.

Turkey is a vast, rapidly developing country. It has a population of more than 75 million people and in terms of land size is bigger than France and the UK put together. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecasts it will be the second fastest growing country in the world by 2018. Its annual GDP in 2013 was just over $827bn and it is currently the 16th largest economy in the world with predictions it will move into the top ten by 2023. It began accession talks to the European Union in 2005 and negotiations continue.

What’s going on there?

Recent years have seen Turkey focus on improving its infrastructure and this is likely to continue for the next decade especially given its young and rising population. It has one of the highest urbanisation rates in the world with 72 per cent of the population living in urban areas, according to figures from the World Bank (migration from rural areas began in the 1950s).

To help meet its needs, the government announced the development of housing, education, transport and other infrastructure projects on military security zones in the west of the country in 2013. There are also a number of specific construction projects that are key to the country’s growth and economic aspirations over the coming years.

These include the construction of one of the longest suspension bridges in the world across the Dardanelles, the strait in northwest Turkey between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The 3,623m Çanakkale Suspension Bridge will form part of the Çanakkale-Tekirdag-Kinali-Balikesir highway, which connects the populous cities of Istanbul with Izmir. Turkey would like to see the bridge completed by 2023, the year in which it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first Turkish Republic.

More immediately though, it is the third bridge across the Bosphorus Sea in Istanbul currently under construction that is grabbing the attention being described as a “bridge of firsts” and a symbol of “modern Turkey”. It claims to be the widest suspension bridge in the world at 59m and the longest spanning suspension bridge with a rail system on it (when complete eight lanes of motorway and two lanes of railway will be located at the same level). It also has the highest tower of any suspension bridge at more than 322m. It forms part of the Northern Marmara Motorway project and will be located at Odayeri-Pasaköy section.

Turning attention to the air, Istanbul’s third airport is also under construction (due for full completion in 2018) and is aiming to become the world’s largest in terms of passenger capacity. The city is already seen as a global travel hub and, with the capacity for 150 million passengers a year, Istanbul New Airport on the European side will further bolster its credentials in this department.

What skills are in demand and where?

The infrastructure and building activity has made construction one of the top five industries in the country. Hugo Campo, managing director of recruitment firm PageGroup Turkey, says there is a big demand for engineers to meet the needs of construction projects and the vast majority of them are trained and recruited locally in Turkey.

“The government is our main client as it prefers to find talent from local engineering companies; however, if the project is big then we will source overseas candidates for consultancy and managerial jobs,” he says, adding that the number of trained engineers is growing because of young people’s interest in the engineering profession. As you’d expect, the demand is in the major cities.

“Istanbul is a popular city for a large majority of engineering roles as there are always new bridges, subways, airports, motorways and property being constructed or maintained,” says Campo, adding that Kocaeli in Eastern Marmara and Izmir on the Western edge of Anatolia are becoming more popular for industrial buildings and factories. “While Ankara [the capital] is booming with property and government buildings.”

It isn’t just about construction though: oil and gas and renewable energy are cited as priorities for economic development in UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI) Turkey trade and export guide which also reports that Turkey aims to become a major European energy hub. It currently has the capacity to transport 121 million tons of oil per year, typically from the Middle East and Caspian to EU markets. UKTI says the country plans to double this with new pipelines and is planning to open up a Southern Gas Corridor.

Meanwhile, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources have joined forces to develop the country’s first renewable energy action plan to help it reach its 2023 renewable targets. The strategy involves hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

Such activity is likely to increase the demand for experience and skills in the oil, gas, and renewable energy sectors.

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