In the latest of his series on regional job markets, Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose looks at the South Coast, where QSs are in BIG demand
The South Coast is as busy as a Bank Holiday beach: Hays Montrose has registered a 19% increase in permanent jobs in 2002 compared with 2001. Positions with local and medium-sized contractors are credited for this growth, and the work is coming from local authority new-build, design-and-build and refurbishment projects, commonly worth up to £2m.

Steve Blaymires, consultant at Hays Montrose Southampton, says one of the main concerns of candidates and recruiters is training. "As management structures have flattened out, opportunities for promotion have decreased and there is a growing trend towards offering guaranteed training to candidates to enable them to become better at their jobs, rather than helping them to achieve a promotion."

Training is generally offered in health and safety or for specific jobs. The other side of the coin is that clients regularly request candidates who have a Higher National Certificate in Building Studies.

As large contractors usually offer good, continuing training, other employers particularly value candidates who have gained experience with a main contractor. Continuity of employment with any large or medium-sized company is also looked on favourably.

However, temporary contracts are acceptable if they were completed, and with a recognised contractor.

Owing to a general shortage of applicants, especially in the housebuilding sector, salaries have risen enormously over the past five years. "Clients have countered shortages by raising salaries to keep current staff and attract the best candidates," says Blaymires.

Not surprisingly, the most dramatic growth in salaries has been for quantity surveyors up to the age of 35, and graduate quantity surveyors with work experience.

For example, Blaymires recently filled a position for an intermediate quantity surveyor with a large contractor on a £6m new-build and refurbishment project. Applicants had to be degree qualified, about 30 years of age, with five years' experience through one main contractor and with proven continuing training. The client felt five years' experience demonstrated loyalty, competency in working on site on the candidate's own initiative and strongly developed skills.

The successful applicant had started with a main contractor as a trainee and his career progressed steadily with the one employer to intermediate level, working on new-build, refurbishment, and design-and-build projects up to £5m. The salary for his new role was £35,000 with a generous package including a £6000 car allowance, company pension, death-in-service allowance and health care with a family option.

"The position was difficult to fill, not just because of skills shortages, but because clients view longevity with a main contractor and the continuing training this provides highly," says Blaymires. "Yet candidates with this experience are rare."

Five years ago, the typical salary for the quantity surveyor role Blaymires filled would have been £23,000 with a car.