Quantity surveying is a good discipline to be in if you are looking for a new job in construction. Demand for the role has grown in 2013, according to contractors and recruitment agencies, and so have salaries.
Recruitment firm Hays says firms have sought to recruit more QSs over the year amid more projects starting, and there is particular demand for project QSs.
The recent pick-up in the housing market has also led to greater demand for office-based residential QSs, according to Hays. Companies are starting to hire more permanent, rather than temporary, QS staff.
Hays’ salary survey found wages for QSs have grown by between 3 and 4 per cent since 2012 and are expected to rise further.
The consultancy said assistant QS salaries start at around £20,000, rising to £30,000 in London and the South-east. A senior QS could earn between £35,000 and £50,000, depending on location, with higher salaries possible for some roles.
Hays Construction director Duncan Bullimore says: “With recovery in its early stages, controlling costs remains a priority and QSs play a key role in this.
“The increase in housebuilding activity has created new work in the residential sector, noticeably in the London high-rise market, and we’re already beginning to see evidence of shortages of the skills needed to meet higher demand.”
Demand outstripping supply
Mr Bullimore explains that the overall volume of new site starts is creating demand, while civil QSs are also increasingly sought after.
“We are already experiencing demand for experienced site managers, QSs and estimators that outstrips supply; employers will need to act now to ensure they have the pipeline of staff needed to meet the planned output,” Mr Bullimore says.
He adds that employers are keen to find candidates who can give examples of projects they have worked on and profits they have helped generate.
“Employers also prefer candidates with the ability to win work, who are degree-qualified and already have professional qualifications, so don’t require further training,” he says.
There are also opportunities for employing more junior staff. Bam Nuttall has been recruiting apprentice QSs for about four years. It began by taking on four per year, rising to six from 2011, and will recruit 12 in 2014.
The company’s apprentice QSs spend their first two years studying for an NVQ and BTEC in quantity surveying and another two working towards an HND in civil engineering commercial management at Stephenson College in Coalville.
After four years of work and study they are ready to become chartered with the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors.
Apprentices vs graduates
Bam Nuttall regional commercial manager Ian Cowling says: “Apprenticeships will be our preferred route rather than graduates - although there will always be a need for graduates - because after four years they are very much moulded into the company processes and there is a fair bit of loyalty there.”
It is, of course, also cheaper to put an apprentice through college than to pay tuition fees for an undergraduate.
Mr Cowling says the firm boosted the number of apprentices it took on in 2011 in anticipation of increased workloads. It needed to plan ahead due to the four years it takes to train an apprentice.
Contract and costs knowledge
Now that big civil engineering projects are coming through, it is time to take on even more apprentices. He says it is beneficial to have employees who understand contracts and costs.
“In the tough times we are in at the moment it is vitally important that we have good, professional people in the industry,” Mr Cowling says.
“People are concerned about change, contracts, budgets and forecasts. It is important that costs are under control for both client and contractor.”
Housebuilders are also on the lookout for QSs on the back of recent expansion. For example, Redrow is searching for junior QSs and graduate trainees.
Karen Jones, the company’s human resources director, says recruitment is likely to “continue to grow to match the business growth”.
She adds that the firm prefers to develop its own staff so it might prioritise personal qualities in junior applicants such as work ethic and interest in the industry, ahead of previous experience.