Quantity Surveying shortages are currently at their most acute in almost a decade. So, if it’s a candidate’s market, what do you need to do to take advantage of the skills gap, and fast track your career?
Being in demand feels great. But having the skills, contacts and experience to take advantage of it? That’s a sure fire way to take your quantity surveying career to a new level.
Construction projects are bouncing back from the recession of a decade ago. The Government’s Housing Programme still promises to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. But the lack of quantity surveyors continues to pose a real challenge to all sectors of the industry. Is this a skills gap or a lack of qualifications?
For Kerrie Doherty, Recruitment Partner at project management consultancy Faithful + Gould, the challenge is summed up in one word: infrastructure.
From Kerrie’s vantagepoint, that’s the sector that currently presents some of the greatest stumbling blocks. The drive to build better connectivity, from roads to broadband, bridges to container docks. “In the UK we can see major infrastructure projects across the country taking place,” she says, “and with big projects you need resource.”
Do your skills fit the quantity surveying gap?
Which means if you’re looking for a new quantity surveyor job, there’s never been a better time. But, as Kerrie confirms, you need to be in the best shape possible if you’re to really take advantage of the skills gap.
Softer skills really matter. Impeccable mathematical skills, excellent written and spoken English, a persuasive negotiation ability and calm demeanour count. When it’s time to move on, however, training is everything.
“QS vacancies within Faithful+Gould are higher than any of our other disciplines right now,” Kerrie says. “Yet it remains a competitive marketplace out there.”
Infrastructure Quantity Surveyor jobs require real insight into the challenges specific to the sector. There are lots of training opportunities available on the RICS site. Or you could book your place on the one-day Infrastructure Conference RICS is holding in March 2020.
Hone your skills to progress your career
In 2018, there were 55,000 chartered surveyors in the UK, a fall from its 2011 peak of 63,000. The most recent RICS report, from January this year, shows that while workloads continue to rise, labour shortages are the main barrier to growth.
“With firms reporting to have turned down work due to shortages of staff, opportunities are abundant for those with the right skills in the right place. Ability and agility are important in equal measure,” says Jeffrey Matsu, RICS Senior Economist. In other words, it’s about not being so comfortable in your current position that you wouldn’t consider a move vertically into another sector.
“Don’t be too quick to become a specialist in a specific sector, if you really want to take advantage of the clear progression opportunities both vertically and laterally,” Kerrie says.
“We’re seeing the best people move around more,” Kerrie adds. The cream of the crop, she believes, can negotiate better deals, better positions within their new company, and better opportunities to shape their career. “There are plenty of incentives out there, even if you think you’re happy where you are.”
Quantity surveyor jobs in the UK: bringing experts in
For Faithful+Gould, the skills gap has seen them sponsoring quantity surveyors from outside the UK who have either worked or studied in the UK in a QS discipline. Faced with the added competition from those overseas looking for quantity surveyor jobs in the UK, Kerrie’s advice for anyone looking to move their career up a gear is simple: “You have to know your market sectors, and understand what each needs in order to be successful,” Kerrie says. “Train, and train smarter. Choose a sector you want to excel in, and do all you can to be the best you can at it.”
Networking will make a difference
For Elliot Wright, from recruitment specialists Carriera, it’s not just about on-the- job experience. It‘s about showing a real passion to go above and beyond the job spec.
Making time in your schedule for networking events, such as those organised by RICS Matrics for younger professionals is a must. Attending a selection of RICS seminars and RICS training events is helpful, too.
“It’s showing you’re committed. Businesses are looking for high flyers. They want to know what networking you’re doing. How you’re building up your black book of contacts. That’s what gets the work in,” Elliot says, citing events such as CoreNet and other industry conferences organised by RICS as must-visits for those who want to expand their industry connections.
“Rubbing shoulders with developers, land estate agents and institutions. Building personal relationships. It shows you’re going to add real value to a company’s bottom line,” Elliot says.
Aside from the fact that there are jobs available, why would a comfortably-placed quantity surveyor want to make the move? For Elliot, the advantages are clear.
“Some employers may be willing to take on graduates who haven’t reached accredited status. Many will support them to obtain this whilst working,” Elliot says.
“I’ve even seen quality surveyors who haven’t made chartered being offered Associate status,” he says. “There are consultancies willing to take a punt on a candidate. If you show the right level of passion, connections and commitment, anything is possible.”
Choosing the right CPD will help to get that surveying job
For candidates, taking a role in a smaller company offers more than you’d think. It may give you a greater role in driving the business forward. It could present a more varied workload, and a chance to gain wider experience. It may allow you to have input on strategic decisions. “It’s a chance to get noticed,” Elliot says.
For Edgar Cowen’s Andy Pearson, it’s about being ready to take the plunge. “CPD is important, and it should always be front of mind. From a recruitment point of view, it’s not something we ask for. It’s a given. If you’re a chartered quantity surveyor, you can’t allow yourself to get left behind with the increasing pace of new tech and new working practices. Data management and familiarity with things like CostX, these are expected nowadays, ” he says.
Attending seminars, such as RICS’ CPD-boosting events, is one way to ensure you’re making the right CPD choices. It’s about skilling up and staying one step ahead.
“Right now, good candidates are in the driving seat like never before,” Andy adds. “Being someone who’s seen as an early adopter, or an internal agent for change would put you in a strong position with a consultancy who perhaps is too busy running the business to make time to train their team.”
Necessary: experience, tech knowledge, training
“You have to be nimble. Know what’s going on, and adapt,” Andy adds.
The future of the Quantity Surveying landscape is exciting. New technologies are set to make the role leaner, smarter and more in-demand than ever before. But some things don’t change: “Ultimately, if you’re looking to take your career to the next level, experience is everything,” he says.