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The president of the Society of Chartered Surveyors on the skills shortage in the property sector...
As she comes to the end of her tenure as the first woman president of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI), Pauline Daly is reflecting on the two main focuses of her year in the role.
“First of all, I wanted to improve the profile and awareness of what a chartered surveyor does,” she says. “Most people don’t know that chartered surveyors touch every area of our lives.” So she went about commissioning a TV commercial to get the message across. ‘The Days’ highlights the importance of the chartered surveyor in advising, planning, building, shaping and managing projects in the built environment and features 10 chartered surveyors on a typical day at work across a range of disciplines within the property, land and construction sectors.
Women in the Sector
Her second priority was to enhance the profile of women in a profession that has traditionally been heavily male-dominated. “The first time I went to one of the annual dinners of the society back in the late 80s,” remembers Daly, “there were three women in the room and now the membership is around 20pc female. There were plenty of women at this year’s dinner – so we are definitely heading in the right direction.”
Daly says that the profession is well suited to women, with careers offering mobility, diversity and flexibility. Crucially, at a time when the profession is facing a skills shortage, Daly is keen to encourage more women to consider it as an option.
“I tell people that it’s not a typical job, in that it is both mind-challenging, as well as having a great ‘people’ side to it. You get involved in projects from start to finish, which is very satisfying,” says Daly. She will be a speaking at the forthcoming conference event, ‘Housing the Next Generation’, at UCD on April 30 next, which is being organised by the Irish Independent.
Daly is a European director of Jones Lang LaSalle and heads up its valuation team. One of 14 children – she has nine brothers and four sisters, several of whom have also made careers in property – she came to surveying from a family background in property, the GWD residential agency on Dublin’s northside.
“After a short spell in the civil service working in Revenue, and a couple of years in the family firm, I discovered that I was better off ploughing my own furrow. And I decided that, in order to progress, particularly as a woman, I needed education. So I enrolled in the four-year full-time course in property economics at Bolton St.” Daly joined JLL as its first woman surveyor, straight from college. “That,” she says enigmatically, “was an interesting interview.” She has been with the firm almost continuously ever since, and has covered all aspects of the business from investments and property management, to asset and fund management.
Ten years ago, she took over JLL’s valuation team, which has 14 members. The SCSI, of which Daly is outgoing president, came into being following a merger of the Society of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) with the Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute (IAVI) in 2011. “Quite a few in the profession were members of both entities,” says Daly, “and it made sense to merge to improve and benefit the profession. It was a natural coming together of the IAVI members, who were all property agents and valuers, and the SCS members, who were surveyors working in a range of diverse fields.”
The merged professional body is now seeking to highlight the range of career opportunities available and coming on stream over the next few years. “Becoming a chartered surveyor was a popular career choice up until the time of the boom, but from 2007 onwards, it started to fall out of favour,” explains Daly. “Applications to the degree courses fell dramatically. But the market has been changing and this year we’ve seen a 27.6pc year-on-year increase in the number of applications through the CAO for the level 8 (honours) courses in Built Environment. “That’s the highest increase that any sector has seen this year and we believe reflects confidence in the continued growth in the built environment sector and economy.”
While the property surveying sector is already experiencing a significant shortfall (expected to reach over 65pc in graduate supply), the demand for quantity surveyors and building surveyors is also increasing and a 25pc shortfall of qualified graduates is predicted by SCSI.
The property regulator now requires new licensees to have studied property at an undergraduate level.
In addition to renewed interest in degree courses, SCSI accredited surveying courses saw a 50pc increase in enrolments nationwide during 2014. “But even with the increase in the number of applications,” says Daly, “a survey of our members is predicting a shortfall of qualified personnel on the quantity surveying side, and in the last few years we have had difficulties recruiting staff, particularly property graduates. “The number of opportunities has expanded and there just aren’t enough qualified people to meet that demand. We have lost a large number of graduates in recent years as many emigrated during the downturn, and so, there are fewer graduates to take up graduate positions, and competition for those graduates has intensified.”
Jobs in the sector have changed over the past few years, explains Daly. “The focus has shifted, in that the international companies that have come in and bought property need asset managers and, with the increase in receiverships, there has been a need for people involved in letting and sales.
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“There is now an improved business environment and there is a 25pc shortfall in the number of quantity surveyors. “As the economy continues to improve, there will be a greater shortfall on both the construction side and the property side. It is important, as we enter this new phase, that the people who work in the sector are fully qualified and trained in order to be able to provide the highest levels of standards of service to clients.”
Addressing the question of the specific challenges and opportunities in the Irish market today, Daly says that the key issue in both the residential and commercial sectors is the shortage of supply. “The focus now should be on dealing with barriers to construction, and assisting developers to get on with the business of developing sites that are lying idle. There is a shortage of both housing and office space in urban areas, and the main barriers to development are difficulties accessing development finance, the slow planning process, construction costs and the level of taxes on new homes.” The SCSI has calculated that on an average new three-bedroom home, approximately 20pc of the cost relates to taxes, including VAT and development contributions. “Rents in both sectors are rising exponentially,” says Daly, “and that’s not a good thing, as it may make us uncompetitive. We need an increase in supply and to develop policies that will ensure that the development of housing, both private and social, is less cyclical and that there is a constant supply to meet the needs of the country.
“In order to ensure that we are building in the right place at the right time, we need good data on demographics, economics and construction costs that joins up the dots and enables construction to be better planned and less reactionary. We know we need around 25,000-30,000 units to be built each year. We are currently building less than half of what we need.”