Quantity Surveying – Is It the Profession For You?

So we spoke to the Project Managers, and now it’s the Quantity Surveyor’s turn! Have you ever considered a career in Quantity Surveying? Do you like a varied role of working on site and in an office? Are you good with numbers, have good people skills and attention to detail? If so, a Quantity Surveying role could be the right one for you! We spoke to Associate Director Nick Wdowczyk and Assistant Quantity Surveyor Ben Roberts about what made them want to be in the Quantity Surveying profession, the skills you need and what they enjoy about the job.


Assistant QS Ben Roberts (left) and Associate Director Nick Wdowczyk (right).

Ben, how did you end up becoming an Assistant Quantity Surveyor here at Walker Sime?

Ben: After finishing school I decided to go to Liverpool John Moores University to study Quantity Surveying as this was one of the top universities in the country in Quantity Surveying. Upon graduating, I decided I wanted to work in a SME quantity surveying firm as I felt I would be more involved with projects than at a larger firm and would get a broader experience of the industry. I used the ‘find a surveyor’ service on the RICS website to find the companies I thought would give the best training and experience, of which Walker Sime was included. I then updated my CV and issued it to my selected companies and following a successful interview, managed to obtain employment at Walker Sime.

What made you decide to get into Quantity Surveying?

Ben: My parent’s friend worked as a Quantity Surveyor for a company in London. I spoke with him about what the job entailed and decided to get some experience myself at the company my brother worked at (Imtech Central). I really enjoyed the variety of working on site and in the office and being part of a project with the end result being a physical building.

What is your favourite part about the job?

Ben: I really enjoy the variety of working on site and in the office and various projects which provide new challenges to overcome. I also enjoy the responsibility and trust bestowed upon me by my clients to provide accurate cost advice that will influence the projects I work on. I also really enjoy the social side of the job and the industry, whether that be with my colleagues, other consultants and clients or the contractors.

What is, in your opinion, your best achievement to date working for Walker Sime?

Ben: Pre-contract works for a new Effluent Treatment Plant. The purpose of the works was to create a new building and service yard for our client to convert their waste effluent discharge into a biogas that can be used to provide electrical energy to power their machinery. The installation of the specialist plant was to be designed and installed by a specialist contractor and the civil and warehouse works were to be undertaken by a separate main contractor. Based on very limited design information, I produced an initial cost plan to provide initial cost advice for the client. The costs were above the clients budget (it was not disclosed to us what this budget figure was), however it was agreed that as the design moved forward, there was a reasonable chance that the costs could go down slightly as our assumptions could be backed up with design information. Upon receipt of more detailed design information, I produced another cost plan, which was slightly higher than the first cost plan as the building required more design elements than originally thought, thus adding cost. I advised the client that value engineering was required to bring the costs back to within budget. As such, I created a list of potential value engineering options for the design team to decide which were suitable. Only a few of our suggestions were required and implemented to bring the costs back to the clients estimate. I then created the Tender Documents, with a detailed work schedule for the contractors to price against, and issued out to each of the framework contractors. The Tenders sums returned were within 5% of our initial cost plan and our latest cost plan with value engineering included. I then compared the submitted Tenders and created a list of queries to be discussed at the tender Interviews. Once myself and the client had decided which Contractor to employ, I drew up for the Contract Documents and issued to the Contractor and subsequently the client for signing. This was a challenging project as the hygienic food sector is not a sector we have done much work for in the past and as such and internal cost data was sufficient enough to produce a cost plan, I therefore had to rely heavily on the current market for several obscure items.

How vital are placement years when looking to enhance your employability?

Ben: Having a placement year will never harm your chances of obtaining employment as the experience gives you a better understanding of how the industry works, how the quantity surveyor role fits in and gives you a chance to implement what you have been learning at university. This helped me to focus my studying and to understand the wider picture as to how my studies linked into the work place. However, the importance of obtaining a placement to obtain long term employment largely depends on the state of the economy. During the recession when the economy was under-performing, companies were not looking to take on new employees and there were lots of applicants for each job vacancy. This resulted in very high levels of competition and in this circumstance having a years’ experience working in the industry was crucial to set you apart from the other applicants. However, the economy had started to improve whilst I was at university and it was not necessary to have placement experience.

Ben, what advice would you give to students currently looking at becoming a Quantity Surveyor?

Ben: In my opinion, the best route would be to complete a part time degree, so you can apply what you learn at university to the job and to apply what you learn on the job to your studies, which will give you a better understanding and focus at university. If the company can pay your tuition fees then that is also a bonus! I would recommend undertaking a placement year, although I would also not rule out getting your degree out of the way and getting into the industry, that’s where you’ll learn the most. However as mentioned above, that depends on the state of the economy. Overall, it’s a great, social job with good variety in a vibrant industry.

Nick, what skill sets do you think are essential to get into Quantity Surveying?

Nick: To be a good Quantity Surveyor the basic skills you need are to be good at mathematics, English and fundamentally have a good proactive attitude with a will to learn. As a Quantity Surveyor you need to be able to work with fellow colleagues, other construction professionals and Clients so it is important you have good communication and team working skills. Having the right attitude and skill sets can help you stand out from the crowd and help turn bad situations into good.

How important is networking, as well as the technical skill set?

Nick: Networking is an important part of any professionals working life within most industries and is no different for a Quantity Surveyor. Not only is it important to get out there and meet new people and potential Clients, it is important to understand what is happening in the construction world and any new potential leads. At Walker Sime we strongly support our staff in networking to help boost their contacts and which will aid them for years to come.

What advice would you give to yourself ten years ago with regards to your job?

Nick: Be proactive, use every opportunity to learn, visit as many construction sites as possible and fundamentally always provide honest and professional advice, even if that means a difficult conversation is required.