There’s been some alarming titles in the press for more than a decade now: “A global crisis of the surveying profession” (2008), “Surveyor skill shortage approaching critical level, warns RICS” (2015), “Easier to employ a ballet dancer than a quantity surveyor” (2017)…
The latest CIOB-cross industry research report published in January 2019 highlights that the issue is far from being solved, with 42% of construction businesses reporting difficulties recruiting quantity surveyors, both now and by anticipation, post-Brexit.
The RICS Construction and Infrastructure survey of Q1 2019 also confirms that quantity surveying is still the occupation with the greatest staff shortages, beyond trades, bricklayers and other construction professionals, with 60% of companies reporting skill shortages in the profession.
Why are there shortages of quantity surveyors?
The construction sector in general is experiencing an ageing working population, with nearly 430,000 construction workers to retire between 2010 and 2020. More specifically, the quantity surveying profession experiences difficulties attracting young students, due to the complexity of the role and the lack of clarity on the definition of the profession.
While a problem not limited to the UK, the uncertainties surrounding Brexit are enhancing this issue. As 26% of the UK construction workforce comes from the EU, the deterioration of the sterling makes the country less attractive as a work destination. Construction material costs inflation also leads to a greater need for complex cost estimates (and great quality quantity surveyors!).
What are the solutions to address the quantity surveyor crisis?
The government is looking at increasing the attractiveness of the profession, promoting apprenticeships and easing the barriers to immigration as different solutions to address this challenge. One of the recommendations of the CIOB-cross industry research report is to include the quantity surveyor profession to the future “Shortage Occupation List” of the Migration Advisory Committee.
As a construction business owner, there are three routes to explore to find quantity surveyors.
Take on apprentices
23,000 apprenticeships started in England in Construction, Planning and the Built Environment in 2017/18. Taking on apprentices can be a really great way to attract young professionals, especially as quantity surveying apprenticeships are fairly quick to obtain – from 2 years for a Surveying or Geospatial Survey Technician apprentice (Level 3) up to 5 years for a Chartered Surveyor Apprentice or Geospatial Mapping and Sciences Apprentice (Level 6).
The latest apprenticeship data from the Department of Education in January 2019 shows that only 9 people started an apprenticeship as a Geospatial Survey Technician since 2015/16, 506 as Surveying Technicians, and 1,892 as Chartered Surveyor Apprentices – there’s still room for many more!
Look for temporary contractors
Rather than desperately trying to recruit permanent quantity surveyors, recruiting contractors from temporary recruitment agencies can be a way to avoid turning down projects. While this route is typically more expensive than recruiting permanent members of staff, it can be a great way to release the pressure and gain flexibility. It might also lead some contractors to convert to permanent positions in the future.
Becoming familiar with 3D modelling packages and BIM (Building Information Modelling) software (e.g., Estimator360, HBXL, PlanSwift, Clear Estimates…) to price projects can be another way to fix the crisis. While the barrier to entry can be high in terms of cost, digital skills required, and time required to select, implement and be trained on how to use estimating software packages, it can also be a great way to make the profession more attractive to younger generations too.
Whilst the crisis will not be solved overnight, there are some solutions out there to explore to help you address this challenge now.