Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quantity surveyor: If you can calculate the cost of a new building, this is the job for you

By Caitlin Davies
Thursday, 19 July 2007

Could there be anyone more useful in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics than someone who can calculate the cost of putting up a new building? Enter the quantity surveyor, whose job is to work out the expense of constructing anything from a stadium to a hospital, and to ensure it meets budget.

Quantity surveyors work for clients or building contractors on new developments, renovation and conservation. They study plans drawn up by architects or engineers, work out the materials needed and the cost of time and labour, and advise on legal and contractual issues. They also monitor the progress of a job once it has begun, to make sure it is on schedule and to the right standard.

The usual route to becoming a chartered quantity surveyor is to take a degree accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). But if you can't afford a degree, you could follow in the footsteps of Elsie North, 18.

Originally, North wanted to go into the fashion industry, but did A-levels to give her more opportunities. Her father is a carpenter, but she'd never thought about working in construction until she went to a school careers event. There she saw a stand run by the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT) offering what it calls an advanced apprenticeship. This is a work-based learning programme that involves one day a week at college and four days a week with an employer. "It meant I would get my education, but I could do something practical too," says North.

She applied, the Trust created her CV, and she got a job at Faithful & Gould, a firm of property and cost management consultants. She's now training to be a quantity surveyor. First she needs a National Certificate in Construction, which takes two years, then a Higher National Certificate. She also needs to do an National Vocational Qualification in surveying support, then a RICS-accredited degree and finally a year doing an Assessment of Professional Competence. The next eight years of her life are planned out. "I like that," she laughs. "I like structure and I like challenges." Under the programme she doesn't pay any fees.

According to the CSTT, North is one of an increasingly number of young people looking for a route into quantity surveying. "We are getting more and more inquiries because of top-up fees," says Jane Rutherford, CSTT marketing manager. "People feel they have been priced out of a degree and there is a dearth of young people coming into the profession, so firms are looking to train new blood." The CSTT receives 300 applications a year, although only 40 trainees make the grade.

North started work at Euston Tower in a project manager team. Now she's at Canary Wharf in a quantity surveyor team. Her on- going project-managing role is with a pharmaceutical company, while her quantity surveying is with an oil company.

Demand for quantity surveyors is high, although the precise level depends on the property market. The recession of the early 1990s, for example, led to a drop in people joining the profession. Jobs exist in local authority or government departments, private practice, building contractors, property companies or commercial organisations. Starting salaries range from £17,000-£27,000, rising to £55,000 at senior levels.

"There has never been a better time to consider a career in construction," says Edward Tooth, an RICS marketing executive. "Demand for chartered surveyors continues to outstrip supply. They can work on multimillion-pound projects, like Wembley and the Olympics, and these are far from dull."

North's dream project would be the Olympics. "It would be great to say I was involved with that. Already it's nice walking round London and being able to say, 'I did the cost management for that'."

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS): 0870 333 1600,
Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB): 01344 630700,
Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT): 020-7785 3850,

1 comment:

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