Shortage of surveyors, say HKIS

Shortage of surveyors, say HKIS

Danny Chung

The increased workload in the construction industry in recent years, apart from leading to shortages in the labour workforce, has also led to shortages in surveying staff especially those working in construction.

According to an online survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, it was found that 72 percent of surveying firms had experienced shortages in surveying professionals in the past six months.

“Furthermore, 72 percent of the respondents expect an increase in the company’s workload over the next six months,” the HKIS press release said.

The survey was carried out from March to May this year and responses were received from 31 surveying firms, which employed over 800 members of the HKIS.

The HKIS said 75 percent of the respondents expected an increase in employment for surveyors especially those at assistant surveyor positions.

Speaking to Construction Post, HKIS president Stephen Lai Yuk-fai said about 65 percent of the respondents were working in the construction industry with the remainder in general practice (GP) surveying and land surveying.

The response from land surveying firms in particular was out of proportion when compared to the number of members in the land surveying division of the HKIS.

Lai said, depending on the firm, the position of assistant surveyor could mean anything from a newly hired fresh graduate all the way up to a qualified surveyor with several years of experience.

“These are most in demand and they have been snatched by others,” Lai said, referring to the practice of poaching by other firms, contractors and developers.

Another problem was some trainee surveyors leaving after a year or two because the profession was not what they had expected.

HKIS president Stephen Lai Yuk-fai says surveying firms are most keen to hire assistant surveyor grade staff to cope with increased workload (Danny Chung)

HKIS president Stephen Lai Yuk-fai says surveying firms are most keen to hire assistant surveyor grade staff to cope with increased workload (Danny Chung)

In order to alleviate the shortage of surveyors, Lai said suggestions have been made to the government about adding more classes for surveying subjects at universities but the suggestion has stalled due to government red tape over university funding for courses.

“If another class was added, we would still be able to absorb [the graduates],” Lai said, pointing to the good job prospects in the construction industry.

Lai noted there was an unfortunate problem caused by streaming in university courses on surveying.

“Especially at the University of Hong Kong. At HKU, class sizes are about 40 students. Slightly less than half do GP. You can see then how many are left doing QS. In the BS (building surveying) stream, there’s even fewer [students],” Lai said.

In order to meet the increased workload while coping with staff shortages, Lai agreed that some firms may be forced to turn away some jobs.

“There’s starting to be some talk on this,” Lai said.

Ultimately the solution to the crux of the problem was getting more youngsters interested in surveying in the construction industry.

As such, members of the HKIS have started holding career talks at secondary schools.

“As far as possible, at their old schools,” Lai said.

He added having a professional surveyor as the Chief Executive of the HKSAR helped somewhat in promoting the surveying profession.

As such the focus was on convincing prospective school leavers there were subjects other than hot ones such as finance and banking.

“Otherwise, when they go to university and not choose your subject, what then can be done about it?” Lai said.

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