The disappearing quantity surveyor
Where have all the Quantity Surveyors gone?!
It is no news that there is a severe skills shortage in the UK construction industry. With Brexit now becoming are reality, I am particularly interested in how the skills shortage will impact construction – and most specifically, in the availability of Quantity Surveyors and Cost Consultants to manage the inevitable growth driven by increased demand in this sector.
A cross-industry research report published in 2019 highlighted this shortage by placing Quantity Surveyors third on the list of severe shortage occupations. This means organisations experienced significant difficulty in recruitment and retention of QSes. The full report can be accessed here.
With increased building demand anticipated over the next few years, an aging demographic of the workforce and potential migration challenges post-Brexit, how is the construction industry setting out it’s stall to deal with this skill shortage?
The government’s Construction Sector Deal offers £420m for investment in new technology and tactics that will hopefully reduce both time to build and energy use in new buildings by 50%. Inevitably, this will have a small impact on skills. But when it comes to managing the numbers and supply chain, the budgets and contract agreements on construction projects (regardless of size) will still require management, the commercial relationships will still need to be maintained and the costs will still need to be managed. Without the necessary QS skills, the industry will fall in dire financial straits.
In any skills short market, where demand is higher than supply, salaries will get driven up artificially. New apprenticeship and graduate programs will not have a short-term effect, because they take time. As demand increases, the pool of available talent will start shrinking. This creates the ideal opportunity for fee-hungry recruitment sharks to charge ever-higher fees in return for ever-decreasing quality of service, candidate skills and retention.
In the last recession, exactly the same scenario, alongside greater access to technology and a need to manage exasperating recruitment costs, gave rise to the in-house recruiter. But in a market which is ever-tightening, I feel that there is a limit to how well internal recruiters can service skills-short sectors. This is due to their generalist focus aimed at resourcing across all roles in the organisation, as well as a general tendency to be more passive in actively generating candidate networks in skills-challenged verticals.
When skills are at a premium, the importance of trust, managed costs and knowledgeable recruiters with experience and integrity cannot be emphasised. Retention after recruitment is a metric very rarely tracked by recruiters (Internal or external) and HR departments. I believe that this (specifically, the length of time a recruit stays after with a business) is the true measure of a successful placement. This is where true ROI of the cost of hire can be calculated. Retention, rather than attraction, is also the place were employment spend is most effective.
As I look at the CVs of Quantity Surveyors currently active in the market, I see more jobs in less time. This is a real sign of a skills-short market, and the silent impact of shorter retention on long-term employment costs. They are disappearing at a rate of knots – not off the planet, but to other employers.
For more information on how I can help your business manage costs by recruiting differently yet effectively in this tight market, please do get in touch. I have been doing this for 30 years. I know I can help!