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Quantity Surveyors: are we facing a skills shortage?

Quantity Surveyors

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a constant decline in the number of quantity surveyors in the UK’s construction sector. The residential property market is already feeling pressure in some parts of the UK, especially in England. In 2018, the shortage of professionals is so severe that it poses a crucial question - will the government will be able to keep up with its target of building 300,000 homes every year?

Although the Q1 2018: RICS UK Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey reveal 23% of surveyors reporting an increase in their workload, the shortage of quantity surveyors continues to restrict profit margins. 60% cited a shortage of workforce as the biggest impediment to growth as the lack of sufficiently skilled workers remains an obstacle for many businesses, particularly with regard to professional services such as quantity surveying.

The opportunities in the Aberdeen Construction sector are plentiful. For example, housing projects such as Countesswells Housing Development and other multi-million Pound projects like the AWPR, Aberdeen Harbour Project, and the Union Terrace Gardens Redevelopment.

At Eden Scott, we have observed a high volume of organisations seeking to recruit quantity surveyors with three to six years’ post-graduation experience. With a limited pool of candidates available at this level, it has proven very difficult for employers to attract suitable candidates. There is also growing demand for quantity surveyors’ skills from other industries outside of construction, leading to further shortages.

Barriers for employers recruiting Quantity Surveyors at this level

The two main reasons it is difficult for employers to attract quantity surveyors at this level are:

  • The pool of quantity surveyors on the market is extremely small; and
  • Most of the quality candidates are quite settled at this stage in their career and well looked after by their employers, which makes it very difficult to tempt them to move.

The solution to the first reason is clear – encourage more people to pursue quantity surveying as a career – but this can be over a significant period of time. From a career perspective, young people and university students are more and more inclined towards the digital and tech sectors. Therefore, it is imperative to generate more of an interest in pursuing a career in the construction industry.

It is important to foster the next generation of professionals to fill the gaps when the current quantity surveyors move up the career ladder or retire. This will ensure that senior roles are filled easily in the future, unlike the present situation. As the more mature, experienced quantity surveyors are reaching retirement age, without proper succession planning the knowledge gained over their careers is most likely to leave with them, creating a vacuum that will be required to be filled by a new generation of quantity surveyors. 

However, creating awareness and encouraging students to pursue quantity surveying as a career will take time and substantial financial investment. Apprenticeships, graduate schemes, mentorship programs, and industrial placements need to be promoted for quantity surveying to be considered a career of choice for young people, hopefully preventing a significant skills gap in the future.

The second reason, companies tend to favour candidates with three to six years experience, is generally due to limited resources and time to invest in quantity surveyors with any less experience.  However, as mentioned earlier, candidates at this level are most likely to be very comfortable in their position at this point in their career and are rarely given any reason to make a move.

This makes it entirely a candidate’s market now.  There are some organisations acknowledging this issue and are introducing variables in job offers that would be worth considering. High-quality QSs, who understand how in-demand their skill set is, can find themselves with two-to-four job offers if they decide to actively seek out a new role. This affords them the liberty to cherry-pick roles from the variety of offers they have - with some even deciding to take the lucrative option of going freelance.  

We identified the four main benefits offered by employers that have inspired in-demand Quantity Surveyors to move:

  • Career progression through promotion
  • Varied experience due to moving between construction sectors
  • Salary/benefits improvement
  • Moving to a team that contains more experience and can offer more guidance and development

Next steps

There needs to be an immediate, significant and coordinated effort to deal with the shortage of quantity surveyors in the construction sector. As more and more will choose to leave the industry, either through retirement or due to other industries becoming more appealing, it may pose a severe threat to the future of the sector, especially in northeast Scotland. From a candidate point of view, the current shortage results in a job market where high-quality construction QS’s can find themselves with a selection of fruitful options should they be interested in discovering positions available in the market. So while short-term gains are being made by individuals, the long-term implications will affect the entire industry.

Get started by browsing our latest Quantity Surveyor jobs or get in touch on Adam.Emery@edenscott.com or 01224653361

Find out which other specialisms in the construction industry we recruit for.

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