ow one quantity surveyor discovered a source of skilled staff in a most unusual place … Carol Greed of GF Partnership tells the firm’s story

When quantity surveying consultant GF Partnership was having trouble finding skilled staff in 2001, it decided to look outside the UK. Demand from clients was high but there just didn’t seem to be enough good-quality QSs at an intermediate level of experience to fill the demand.

The Bedford-based company had taken on a husband-and-wife team of Malaysian surveyors who had replied to an advert in the UK trade press, and glowing reports were coming back from clients about the pair’s work. So the firm hit on the idea of recruiting within Malaysia itself and took out an ad in the Kuala Lumpur Star newspaper asking for QSs who wanted to work in the UK.

In September 2001, Graham Freeman, chief executive, and Derek Mynott, managing director, flew to Kuala Lumpur to interview 22 of the 28 applicants, selecting those who had either studied in the UK or worked in a QS role there. The standard was so high that job offers were made to 10 people before Freeman and Mynott had even left Kuala Lumpur, all of whom accepted to join the company in a phased transition over a three-month period. Flights, work permits and B&B accommodation were arranged for all the new staff.

Same … but different

Fauzi Ahmad was one of the first to arrive. Following graduation from Salford University with a BSc Hons in quantity surveying, Ahmad had spent three years employed as a quantity surveyor by a consultant in Kuala Lumpur working on average for 12 hours a day, six days a week.

In contrast, his first UK placement with contractor Kajima on a DEFRA project in Cambridge required him only to work up to 50 hours a week, which must have confirmed that he’d made the right decision.

Fauzi Ahmad says: “There are several similarities and differences in working in Malaysia and the UK. Contractually, both countries practise analogous contract conditions but with some adaptations to suit each country requirements. Technology wise, Malaysia has benefited from its location by being a hub for technology transfer between East and West. Construction companies from countries such as Japan, South Korea, United States, UK and Europe have done some tremendous projects in Malaysia and therefore contributed and shared their expertise with local Malaysian surveyors. Meanwhile, by working in the UK, surveyors will learn in great depth of business and management principles in construction, thus helping in the development of their ethics.”

Kajima then engaged Ahmad on a long-term PFI Countryside Residential Project based in Cambridge and in February 2002, he started RICS studies, receiving technical support and mentoring from Derek Mynott. Demonstrating strong IT skills, Ahmad showed interest and competence in the complex Kajima RIB costing information system and his work experience on this project formed the basis of his RICS final assessment submission. He attained MRICS status in July this year.

Was it worth it?

Three years on and Ahmad is still placed with Kajima and is the longest standing “freelance” member of its quantity surveying team.

Five other surveyors came over to work with GFP in 2001, although unfortunately the appointments of the remaining four had to be postponed because of the downturn in business after 9/11. Two served up to two years before taking on a role with a main contractor, one discovered that she was pregnant and returned to Malaysia and two are still working with GFP today.

“This was a most worthwhile exercise and one that we would repeat,” said Graham Freeman. “These surveyors are diligent, loyal, hard-working and have an excellent work ethic, which I believe is a result of working for Chinese bosses in Malaysia who tend to have an autocratic style. Unfortunately we do encounter some discrimination when seeking placements, but Ahmad has proved just what he can offer in the workplace.”