Andrew Murie, Soben’s CEO of APAC, shares his personal thoughts on his experience and knowledge of working in the construction industry and considers why people with apparent well-paid professional jobs are making the move to our industry.
The construction industry often bemoans its poor public image with long hours, low pay, and dirty conditions. Yet, over the years, I have seen people from seemingly aspirational professions, such as banking and law, switching to construction to work as quantity surveyors or project managers.
They moved roles and industries because they weren’t getting the job satisfaction they needed. That’s a phenomenon underlined and exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. People re-evaluated their working lives – and often found them lacking.
Although Australia’s ‘Great Resignation’ wasn’t quite as great as the US’s, around 10% of Australians quit their jobs in 2021¹, the most significant number of people changing jobs since records began in 2012. And a 2021 survey of 1,800 people by PWC found that 38% were looking to leave their current employer within the following 12 months².
There are many reasons why people want to move on. Remuneration is often cited as the most critical factor. Still, quitters are also looking for better opportunities for advancement, the chance to do something meaningful, and a work culture where they are appreciated and respected.
This could be excellent news for construction. As well as offering the opportunity to climb the ranks to managerial and board levels, a commercial role in construction means working on projects that genuinely make a difference to communities and individuals.
What kind of person makes a good quantity surveyor?
Anyone who has an analytical mind could consider a shift to quantity surveying. Alongside people from the financial services and law sectors, I have seen economists, actuaries, accountants, data analysts, and others successfully shift careers.
Some people are attracted by the variety that the role of a quantity surveyor offers. This could mean working on multiple projects, sometimes concurrently, and interacting with different organisations and teams. That variety can also extend to locations; personally, my job has taken me to the UK, Singapore, and Australia.
Working in a commercial role on a multi-million-dollar construction project also provides an excellent grounding in all the skills needed to run a business or a business unit. From optioneering and feasibility studies to funding bids, programme management, contractual and other legal issues, negotiation and, of course, finance, budgeting, and project controls.
But perhaps the most rewarding part of a career in construction is the chance to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working on projects such as hospitals, schools, pipelines, and power supply schemes. It is hugely satisfying to walk away from a project site, knowing that you are leaving a positive legacy behind you.
I am also passionate about developing our profession. As quantity surveyors, we have all the skills and training to lead the industry in best practice, ensure best value for our clients, and retain and attract industry talent.
At Soben, that legacy extends to people too. We always look to employ and develop local talent to build the skills and competencies of local communities alongside the hard assets and infrastructure.
I would urge anyone who is feeling dissatisfied with their current job to consider construction. That could be in a commercial role or a host of other roles that make up this complex and fascinating sector.
And to my fellow construction professionals, I would say: let’s talk more about the positive things that come from the projects we work on and why that makes us want to spring out of bed in the morning! We want to keep developing and improving our profession to make it the career of choice.