Quantity surveying is a profession with one of the most significant staff shortages. Even today, many construction firms worldwide, not just in the US, report a skill shortage in the profession. Robert Kim, Director of Soben North America, shares his thoughts on the situation.
When I arrived in the US, I felt we spent most of our time figuring out how to explain quantity surveying. A decade on, there is a fundamental shift in the market.
Many more clients are looking for specialists to help them control their capital projects. Often, they ask for quantity surveyors (QSs) who are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Why? This is because of the rigorous training and assessment program required to become chartered.
Global skills shortage
But chartered QSs are still a rare breed in the US. There are approximately 134,000 qualified and trainee RICS members worldwide, just 1,300 of these in the US, according to the US RICS office. That means that 1% of the world’s chartered QSs are working in a country that accounts for over 15% of global construction output¹. We desperately need more, and if we are to meet that need, companies like Soben must work with RICS-accredited universities to create a talent pipeline.
Fundamentally, there is a global labor gap as we come out of the pandemic, global construction output is still in double-digit growth¹, but the increase in RICS members is failing to keep pace at less than 3%. In the US, this is made even more challenging by the limited pathways to chartership via a degree; RICS accredits only ten college courses across the US. This means that US college graduates from non-accredited courses face an extended pathway to chartership than their peers in most commonwealth countries.
This growing demand for QSs, combined with a scarcity of chartered professionals, has increased salaries. According to the careers platform Zippia², the average salary of a QS in the States has risen by 10% over the past five years to $71,438. In specific locations, average salaries are much higher, above $90,000 in San Francisco and New York, for instance.
The latest RICS Global Construction Monitors for Q2 of this year, published in August 2022, did find that companies in the US – in line with most other countries – expected their teams of surveyors to grow³. US firms reported that headcounts had increased by around 13% over the past three months and predicted a 40% growth over the following 12 months.
Construction forecasts aren’t certain over the next few years, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. With the US$1 trillion infrastructure spending bill, the ‘Made in America’ movement, the CHIPS Act to strengthen domestic semiconductor manufacturing and continued growth in the data center sector, we can expect some high capital spend programs. That means a continued, and likely rising, demand for competent QSs, as governments and corporations continue to see the benefits of working with chartered surveyors.
At Soben, our people are fundamental to our quality of service and longevity as a business, so we are investing to help bring through the next wave of quantity surveyors. Our new Graduate Training Program is set to launch in 2023; we are developing relationships with key universities to help find careers for the best and brightest. Meanwhile, we are creating a training program to help develop experienced staff joining us from other professions.
If you are interested in joining our business or learning more about becoming a chartered surveyor, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me here.