The RICS’ campaign to persuade the Home Office to relax the rules preventing overseas QSs staying in the UK is a no-brainer.
As the institution points out, there are more than 6,500 vacancies for QSs, yet firms are losing talented, motivated staff because their visas have run out. Although it’s not impossible to get permits extended, firms first have to prove that they have exhausted all means of recruiting a British worker. The RICS wants this rule waived, as it is for, say, engineers and teachers, on the grounds that the country is in urgent need of more offices, schools and Olympic infrastructure.
But even if the Home Office does acquiesce, it would be wrong to think that will solve all our problems – not least because Australia and South Africa, where many QSs come from, have their own construction skills shortage, some of which is being met by our graduates.
Each year in Britain, about 450 people qualify as chartered QSs. The good news is that this figure has been rising, as has the quality of the students, thanks to the RICS and the larger firms, which have got conversion courses for non-cognates up and running. But demand for QSs is increasing even faster, thanks to booming workloads and the continual expansion of the QS’ role. So, it doesn’t take, well, a QS to work out that the situation has been allowed to get out of control, and will continue to worsen unless more is done to tackle it.
The QSs have been guilty of an every-firm-for-itself attitude to recruiting, and their willingness to tackle the problem has been affected by memories of the recession of the 1990s. Nor does the RICS smell entirely of roses – its promotion of the profession has been poor and it has been slow to understand the needs of employers. And where does the Construction Skills Council fit in, exactly?
It’s easy to be simplistic – talented graduates are like gold dust, and not just in construction. But for a profession that’s concerned with figures and finding solutions to complex problems, its sums clearly don’t add up and its project management skills are looking shaky.
We’ve got a little job for you
Too much choice can be a burden. How else do you explain the fact that Second Life – the virtual world where anything is possible, where the architect adorning our cover can grow a cat’s tail, and where business meetings can take place in fish tanks – is blighted by suburban sprawl? Chad Oberg, an architect who has studied the global phenomenon, says most of what he’s seen reminds him of “dollhouses”, and Building gained a similar impression when it went “in-world”. Which is why we’re leaving the design of our own virtual office to skilled professionals (that’s you). You can read the brief at www.building.co.uk/secondlife.
Denise Chevin, editor