It’s been 21 years since I graduated. 19 years since I professionally qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and 4 years since I started my own business. We operate in the construction and property market as a professional services business. That means we trade on our expertise, experience and knowledge. We practice. “We” is people, human talent supported by technology and best practice procedures equipped to deliver professional services as part of the Service sector.
I was fortunate to join a leading International practice called Davis Langdon & Everest. With a profile that acted like a magnet for graduates – bespoke training programme, high-profile project exposure, blue-chip clients, premier league design consultants, opportunity for international travel etc. it was no surprise that they attracted the best. Even now, the success of the new (relatively) start-ups following the AECOM acquisition evidences the talent and leading ability of Davis Langdon alumni.
But here in the UK (and for me, based in the North-East of England), I’m struggling to access and capture the human resource needed to support the growth of my business, our projects and our clients. This prompted me to access empirical data to allow me to understand the challenging environment that I’m encountering.
With the support of the Regional Director (North & Midlands) of the RICS, I’ve been provided with the current picture within the RICS itself. Having had a gut feel and recent experience of the challenges, I’m staggered by the challenge facing our profession.
Part of my business focusses specifically on a 100-mile radius around the North-East of England. The data shows that I have access to only 2.4% of the UK’s RICS membership. The Pareto ratio applies with 82% of this talent pool being qualified and presumably gainfully employed. The remainder are developing their professional capability.
2.4% equates to 2,211 members. Statistically, the largest designation group of Chartered Surveyors should be Chartered Quantity Surveyors but it appears that the General Practice and Valuation Surveyors are the dominant force in the North-East. There’s no data available to verify. So as a Cost, Project and Business Consultancy, I’m realising the scale of the challenge.
It doesn’t get any easier though.
I’ve assessed that there are approximately 50 firms in the area delivering those types of professional services. Crudely that equates to an average of 44 chartered surveyors per entity. However, between embedded surveyors within client or public sector organisations at one end and a plethora of self-employed or sole practitioners at the other, the largest ‘local’ practice is estimated to have a 20 to 25-strong qualified talent pool. That is a £1.5M to £2.0M p.a. revenue generating business.
Within this group, the age profile is mature, to say the least.
With retirement now set officially at 67 years old, there is just over 50% of the talent pool remaining, at normal working age, dropping dramatically to only 288 members (16%) constituting the fresh young talent coming through the profession.
Last but not least, the gender profile is worse in the North-East compared to the rest of the UK. Only 13.6% of members in the North-East are female.
The North-East market represents around 3.55% of the UK GDP. With UK economy estimated as £1.8 trillion annually, approx. £106 billion of which is attributed to Construction output, the North-East contributes between £2.5-3.5 billion per annum proportionately. It is estimated that the North-East construction output is biased to new-build (72%) versus refurbishment / repair and maintenance (28%). The market sector distribution can also be assessed as:
Irrespective of the lower-quartile position of the North-East in the UK’s economic geography, the market has capacity for growth and opportunity for Chartered Surveyors to service the market demand.
So where is the talent going to come from?
The North-East has 4 excellent Universities – Northumbria, Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham. Northumbria is accredited by the RICS but is not generating sufficient output to satisfy the obvious needs in the North-East. With an ageing population of Chartered Surveyors, talent is being lost to other areas of the UK or the International market. Apprenticeships and/or part-time work / funded education contracts will also grow local talent but will take time. Leakage from one firm to another does not solve the underlying issue.
In my business, I’m taking a multi-channel approach. The business is being designed strategically to face the market with a service offering, products and people that are required for both contemporary and future needs. This creates the foundation for new roles and types of individual talent. As the profession moves from process working to knowledge working, we’re working with the University of Sunderland to create and market technology tools that will facilitate this. We will be growing Chartered Surveyors that are Data Engineers who are as familiar with algorithms as we are with standard rules of measurement and project management tools. We’re planning our business around what the market will need and designing our talent needs around that. The traditional model is just not going to work.
Nurturing talent is very important to us and underpins our business model. We believe our values reflect and shape who we are, what we do, why we do it and how we do it.
We’re committed to a vibrant, dynamic and innovative business. We want everyone to realise their full potential and share that ethos in the way that we serve our clients.
Our people are, and will be our business. A talent factory with no inventory though is a short-lived enterprise.