Across Australia we have a widening gap between supply and demand for surveyors. This skills gap is predicted to widen, partly due to the high average age of the workforce. In 2015 it was calculated that Australia had a shortfall of 556 in the number of qualified surveyors. This gap is expected to widen to over 1000 by 2024*.
In Victoria, we also have a significant shortage of licensed surveyors. These are people who have completed the four-year postgraduate training to be authorised to carry out cadastral surveying in the state. Cadastral surveying is concerned with establishing property boundaries and ownership and is particularly relevant for projects such as the North East Link.
The opportunities for surveyors are clearly there. Ambitious people can look forward to a secure and well-paid career. The average salary for a surveyor is around $88,000, with experienced engineering surveyors expecting to earn up to £149,000. Surveying also has the fourth highest average starting salary of around $60,000.
In Victoria, the construction sector is thriving. There are exciting major projects planned and underway in infrastructure, housing and commercial building. This is already creating high demand for licensed and near licensed surveyors. It would be a shame if a lack of qualified candidates became a drag on this activity.
The big questions are what can be done to narrow the gap between supply and demand, and to bring down the average age in the profession?
Professional Training Agreements (PTAs)
Before becoming licensed, graduate surveyors normally enter into a PTA. This requires 360 days of supervised training overseen by a supervising surveyor. There are four modules that have to be completed over four years. Unlike many other areas of professional development, there is no opportunity to use online learning to enhance or speed up the process.
Many firms can’t offer all four PTA modules. So people either have to change employer part way through or remain on the PTA without completing.
To make matters worse, only licensed surveyors can supervise a degree educated surveyor on a PTA. They are limited to having two people under them at any one time. So the shortage of licensed surveyors and limitations on specific state registrations all perpetuate the shortage. These barriers would be there even if recruitment onto graduate level courses were to increase.
Perhaps collaboration between firms with different specialisms could provide opportunities to streamline the process and allow more people to complete the PTA. The process for obtaining exemptions for prior training could possibly also be streamlined. This might help attract interstate candidates and overseas candidates who are RICS chartered but need to familiarise themselves with local cadastral and land titling systems.
Cadastral or Engineering Surveying?
Engineering surveying tends to attract higher salaries than cadastral surveying. This could draw more people towards the engineering route who could be positioned to develop a career down the cadastral pathway and become licensed surveyors.
Surveying is an aspect of construction that ought to be highly accessible to women and yet it remains a male-dominated profession. Our experience is that businesses would welcome more female trainees. The issue lies with the relatively small percentage of girls who leave school understanding the breadth of careers in surveying disciplines and who see these as viable and attractive career options.
Many new projects coming on stream around Melbourne are creating opportunities for engineering and licensed surveyors. Meanwhile, the limited supply of licensed surveyors makes the choice of recruitment partner critically important. Because our recruitment consultants specialise in specific disciplines we can help match candidates to the precise needs of your project. For more information contact Adam Lane.