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The Quantity Surveyor Shortage Continues...

31/01/18
Posted by: Christopher Ruddick

A number of years ago TDM wrote a blog about the shortage of Quantity Surveyors in the post-recession industry. In that blog we outlined a number of factors that had contributed to the shortage and the steps that could be taken to help alleviate the problem.

The short fact of the matter, since that blog some time ago, is that the problem has not got any better. The industry continues to still have issues recruiting Quantity Surveyors.

More worryingly, rather like other roles such as bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, joiners, site managers and project managers there is also a lack of new entrants to the Quantity Surveyor job market.

The latest survey results by RICS released today, 31st January 2018, covered the Q4 2017 period (Link). The results of which outlined that 60% of surveyors continue to have labour shortages. This along with financial constraints (80%) and planning delays (60%) continues to restrict the level of growth.

A 60% shortage of labour is the highest it has been since the recession ended. In fact, we have to head back all the way to 2007 to find a higher figure of respondents highlighting such a concern.

The other constraints such as the financial constraints from respondents is reflective of a more cautious stance by the banks given the market conditions and Brexit surrounding concern.

An interesting point that is yet to be truly reflected of course is the recent unfortunate demise of Carillion. Time will tell exactly what additional constraints are imposed by financial institutions and what that brings. The most likely result that clearly will happen is even more cautious stance than highlighted in this latest survey.

In addition, a similar result to the RICS Survey found that 41% of respondents were struggling to find people to fill Quantity Surveyor roles. (Lloyds Banking House Building Report – Link)

So, what can be done to make the Quantity Surveying industry more attractive and help resolve the shortage of labour? Well put simply it is very similar to the wider construction industry.

This means that this area of the industry needs to respond to make the industry more lucrative to the young people of today. A further point is that it needs to respond in a way that keeps pace with the rest of the digital world as this is what most of the young people will know best, more so as the whole market becomes increasingly more digitally aware and responsive.

Other areas will need investment as well, such as an increase in funding graduate training programmes or trainee roles that have been so effective in attracting talent to other areas such as IT.  The Lloyds Banking Report did bring some positive results that the industry is now responding to the shortage of labour with investment and programmes, but time will tell whether these are of the right nature for Quantity Surveying directly.

Other areas the RICS survey results did make clear were the viewpoints of respondents to the Autumn Budget and Housing White Paper. Specifically of focus was the target of 300,000 homes per year, every year. Interestingly only 12% had any confidence of the strategy, while the rest were divided between a lack of confidence and generally being unsure.

This is an interesting result as on numerous occasions TDM has highlighted concern of this target being reached based on other report findings and recent results of new homes building in the UK. The fact that only 12% of respondents could find confidence in strategy does show a lack of confidence in the plan. Clearly the Government either need to invest more in the right areas and policies or review the target to be more reflective of the current market conditions.

In a way, technically speaking, the Government has set an interesting tone as there is no actual specific target and the goalposts have been moved slightly already. The aims of Homes England not being “300,000 homes per year” soundbite that has been reported in many places, but an “average of 300,000 homes per year by mid-2020’s”.

Whilst all the above unfortunately is reflective of the current conditions the RICS survey did find a more positive response to the increasing workload in 21% of respondents, with 27% more specifically citing an increase in private housing work. Furthermore, many remain optimistic about the year ahead with a balance of 48% expecting workloads to continue to rise in 2018.

Additionally, 35% also see increasing levels of employment over the next 12 months. The RICS report states that this is the third consecutive quarter that both these indicators have seen an increase, which is something of a surprise considering the level of difficulties being faced.

Overall, clearly the market conditions are very positive for the industry with increasing workloads, specifically focus should be given to the private residential housing sector and the level of increase being seen.

However, the sad truth of the matter is that the shortage of Quantity Surveyors has been going on for a number of years and the industry needs to do more to attract the right talent. Furthermore, the industry needs to be more forward thinking to get the right people into these positions now so that they can be the Quantity Surveyors in senior roles of the future.

If the Surveyors of today fail to respond now the problem of many reaching retirement and leaving the industry is going to become very real and have the same impact as the wider Construction market who are struggling to find the right people. In effect, to be resolved it is going to take considerable time, financial investment and training to resolve the issue.