Becoming a quantity surveyor takes hard work – but it's worth it, explains recent graduate Andrew Frost, who's eight months into his first job at Turner & Townsend. If you're thinking about beginning a career in the construction industry, read on and find out how to become a quantity surveyor.
Name: Andrew Frost
Company: Turner & Townsend
Industry: Construction & Property
What is your job? Assistant cost manager
How long have you worked here? 8 months
University: Nottingham Trent University
Degree subject: Quantity Surveying (BSc)
1. What was your very first job?
My first job was at JJB Sports in Leicester and my first industry-based experience was with a small private quantity surveying consultancy based in Leicester when I was 16 years old.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
I had always wanted to work within the construction industry, and eventually at sixth form I decided to choose a career in quantity surveying.
3. Many of our readers won’t know what quantity surveying is. Can you explain it?
Quantity surveyors are in charge of the costs of a construction project, from the materials used to the work involved in putting them together. I work "client side", which means I work as a consultant for a client, and they control/advise on project costs throughout the whole process of a project – this means they set the budget for different expenses and I make sure these budgets are met.
4. How did you find out about the industry?
My uncle is an architect, and a family friend is a quantity surveyor. I spoke to them thought quantity surveying sounded like a job I would like to get involved in.
5. How did you get there?
First of all, I thought of the A-levels needed for me to get onto a quantity surveying course. I worked hard at A-levels and got into my university course.
During university, I secured summer placements, which were valuable experiences, and I also took an industry year out with a contractor. That, included with my first-class degree helped me to stand out. I applied for a job at Turner & Townsend in Nottingham, and got the job after two interviews.
6. What is a typical day like?
A typical day for me is to analyse any changes the contractor has applied for. I will interpret what I think the change is worth and compare that to the contractor’s proposal. I will then arrange a time and date to speak to the contractor about my comparison, so we can agree to a cost.
I will drive to my project site to agree the monthly payment for the contractor’s work done that month, which the client needs to pay. This involves comparing the contractor’s estimate of the cost to what has actually been done on the site to make sure they match.
A project I am currently on is a refurbishment for a grade-two listed theatre in Newark. I am working as a consultant to Newark and Sherwood District Council.
7. What’s the best thing about your job?
The different experiences I am exposed to in the property industry is great. Construction is everywhere and anywhere so you could be involved in building your local leisure centre, a new town hall or if you are in a main city, a large skyscraper. You can really make a difference to your community.
8. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is keeping control of a projects costs, especially if there are a lot of changes. Ensuring the client is aware quickly, and you give them the cost effect of that item again quickly and accurately. Efficiency and accuracy is the key.
A big aspect of my job is also time management, as I have a lot of tasks to do. Allocating my time to all the different tasks and prioritising those can be difficult when you have demanding clients.
9. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
The advice I would give if you want to become a quantity surveyor is:
Personal qualities, skills and challenges of the job
- Work on your communication skills: Relationships with both clients and your colleagues is important.
- Work hard on your mathematics skills: Quick and accurate calculations.
- Organisational skills: Ensure all tasks are completed well in time.
- You have to be motivated in our industry to improve your skills and to keep winning projects through your great reputation.
Work experience, study and extra-curricular activities
- Get as much work experience as possible and learn/improve from it. Get experience whilst you are at school or sixth form.
- Work hard. The better grades you get and the greater knowledge you have, the more you will stand out from others.
- Get involved in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) extracurricular activities and training courses.
10. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
The more work experience the better. Get on a RICS accredited degree rather than CIOB accredited.
11. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I would like to be a chartered surveyor, working towards being an associate director and potentially working abroad, in America.
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