The past year has seen a huge demand for building control surveyors, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. With existing surveyors reaching retirement age or leaving the industry, the pressure on building control teams to find new talent has never been greater. A number of factors have increased the pressure on local authority teams and difficulty recruiting is a major factor exacerbating the problem
The UK Job Market Post Covid
It was difficult to predict what impact Covid would have on the recruitment industry, but one major statistic is that UK vacancies hit 1.1 million between July and September 2021, the highest for 20 years (BBC 2021). This may be a promising sign that the economy is recovering, but with acute skills shortages affecting all industries, including building control, economic growth may be stunted. Times are tough at present for hiring organisations. The good news is that you will be a strong position if you are a job seeker!
A Glut of Local Authority Building Control Vacancies
We must ask the question; why are there so many vacancies across local authority building control teams? I have had this discussion with numerous clients and the same issues keep coming up.
One client of mine informed me that the average age of a building control surveyor is approximately 56. The concern for teams is will there be enough new blood in the industry to replace the number of surveyors taking retirement?
Retraining and testing
Following the Hackitt review as a result of Grenfell, increased competency testing and retraining will be required for all building control surveyors. This has led to a number of more senior surveyors taking early retirement or leaving the industry entirely. I have discussed this matter with many surveyors in this position. Public safety and ensuring a repeat of Grenfell never occurs again is of course paramount. Some surveyors do feel undermined by the new regime and have proved their competency in their 40 years of service to the industry. As a result, more and more surveyors are looking for a way out.
The competition from approved inspectors is ever increasing. With approved inspectors taking up a greater share of the business in each local authority, they need to grow and increase their capacity too. One draw for approved inspectors is they can often command a higher salary than the more regulated and often capped salaries offered by being employed directly by local authorities.
In addition to market factors mentioned above, there are a number of recruitment challenges hiring organisations must face.
The first challenge is low salary gradings. According to the job board Jobsite, the average salary for a building control surveyor is £47,499. Just looking across the job boards in the market you can see a clear discrepancy between public sector pay and approved inspectors. It is no wonder that contractors remain contracting for an average rate of £50 p/h when the permanent salaries on offer are so much lower. The result is local authorities struggle to attract suitable applications especially through online job sites.
Demand outweighs supply. There is a lack of skilled candidates. We are constantly receiving applications from candidates who do not have the requisite qualifications for the job in hand. We are left wondering where are the skilled candidates are going to come from? The demand for building control surveyors completely outweighs the number of surveyors available to fulfil current vacancy levels.
Changes to IR35 have given contractors a problem. There are a number of contractors disgruntled by the fact they have worked for many years through their limited companies and can no longer do so. Some surveyors will refuse to work any other way having done so for so long. With more and more roles falling inside of IR35 regulations it is becoming harder to fill vacancies and harder for contractors to find suitable opportunities.
How can we overcome the challenges?
My first recommendation is to speed up the recruitment process. We are finding that candidates often have multiple offers at any given time. To secure a good candidate you must review CVs, interview and offer as quickly as possible. For temporary staff I would suggest this to be done within one week to avoid missing out on potentially the only available and skilled candidate at that time.
Be open to trainees, apprentices, and graduates. We must think long-term considering our industry is an ageing workforce. Start preparing now by nurturing and moulding the next generation of building control surveyors. Hungry and determined trainees can quickly develop and often become a greater asset to your team than the senior surveyor with their eye on retirement.
Tie contractors down to longer contracts. One thing I am hearing a lot from contractors right now is that they don’t want to move. Once in a long-term contract it is unlikely that the contractor is going to be persuaded to jump ship even for more money. Save yourself a recruitment headache and offer long-term contracts at market rates.
Be more flexible. If you are struggling to find a contractor for site inspections why not bring one in to carry out plan checks for the team on a fully remote basis. You can take this workload from your existing local surveyors so they can focus on site inspections.
Use expert external assistance if you are struggling. I have spoken to organisations that have spent months on their own trying to fill a vacancy and spending money on adverts that are never seen by the right candidates. Use a specialist agency to advertise, headhunt and pre-qualify candidates so you don’t have to. We have access to a huge database of active and passive candidates that you may never know existed. We also spend large amounts of money on multi-channel advertising giving us far more reach than an advert on the council website.
What does the future look like?
The current recruitment challenges look set to remain for a while. It is currently the perfect time for building surveyors to consider their next opportunity. With increased regulation and industry wide reform, access to training and self-development needs to improve. This will leave us better prepared to cope with the candidate skill shortage within our industry. More regulating will mean more challenges and as a collective we must prepare and change our recruitment processes now if they aren’t working.
If you are responsible for recruitment within your building control team and would like to discuss the market or learn about the ways in which we can assist you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 023 9387 6052.
If you are a candidate looking for your next opportunity in building control and would like to find out how we can help you, please also email email@example.com or call on 023 9387 6052.