Property / Construction

Mutual recognition furthers industry prospects over into mainland China

by Ada Ng

Stephen Lai, managing director, Rider Levett Bucknall Limited;
chairman, quantity surveying division
The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors
Photo: Nolly Leung

Well-constructed training equips young quantity surveyors with tools of the trade

Fresh graduates entering the quantity surveying profession can take advantage of a two- to three-year cadetship programme that equips them with the necessary practical skills and project management experience they need to work towards their Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) certified quantity surveyor examination.

"The work-based training programme, usually offered by building and construction consultancies, offers a great route towards an exciting career in quantity surveying," says Stephen Lai, managing director, Rider Levett Bucknall Limited (RLB), a global property and construction practice.

Mr Lai, who is also chairman of the quantity surveying division of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS), says the 7,000-plus member institute requires graduates to pass the APC exam so as to obtain full membership of the HKIS. To date, about 2,000 of the institute's members are accredited quantity surveyors.

"Graduates are required to keep journals and log books and record their apprenticeship work experience in order to be qualified," Mr Lai notes.

Once they have passed the qualifying exam, quantity surveyors have a range of career options, from working for property developers to statutory bodies, contractors or taking on consultancy roles.

Quantity surveying degree programmes currently offered by local universities provide the foundation. However, the industry requires more than just textbook knowledge, says Mr Lai. "We need a young workforce with the know-how to apply theories in real life," he adds.

Holistic approach

While most small- to medium-sized building and construction consultancy firms assign fresh graduates to specific tasks throughout their entire cadetship, larger firms such as RLB adopt a different approach.

"Quantity surveying projects can range from infrastructure projects and building redevelopments to renovations and theme-park constructions. We assign newcomers to different teams under a director-in-charge and other senior quantity surveyors so that they can follow through an entire project, from estimation to building material quantity measurement and post-contract service," he explains.

Getting young recruits to work in different roles is one of the best ways to ensure that they fulfil the cadetship requirements needed to sit for the APC exam. Mr Lai remarks that RLB trainees tend to achieve an above-average passing rate in the exam while the average Hong Kong passing rate is about 20 per cent.

"The services offered by third-party quantity surveyors are broad in range but specialised in nature, as their work involves accounting and legal aspects," Mr Lai says. Quantity surveyors could be involved in tendering processes or post-contract billing, or work as arbitrators and estimation specialists. Other tasks include liaising with developers, government officials, owners and contractors.

"We therefore look for all-rounders who are capable of logical thinking and taking a methodical approach to problem solving. Since the bulk of the job includes analysing complicated documents and interacting with a wide range of people, they must also have good communication and interpersonal skills," he emphasises.

Mainland growth

RLB has seen exponential growth in mainland China since the company opened its first office there in 1992. The company now employs 600 people across the border.

There are no formal quantity surveyor training programmes on the mainland and universities there only offer courses related to construction. This gives Hong Kong-trained surveyors a competitive edge. "We usually base experienced quantity surveyors in China to lead local teams," Mr Lai says.

Since there are marked differences between the Hong Kong and mainland markets, new recruits looking to work in China should equip themselves with good Mandarin and Chinese business writing skills.

Two years ago, the HKIS and the China Engineering Cost Association signed a mutual recognition agreement for quantity surveyors in Hong Kong and cost engineers on the mainland. This mutual recognition of professional qualifications is the first since the establishment of the mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) in 2005.

With effect earlier this year, the agreement requires practitioners wanting to work on the mainland to complete a series of tests over three days, including an examination on experience and industry knowledge and an interview testing their Mandarin skills. Of the 200 candidates from Hong Kong and the mainland respectively, 173 candidates from Hong Kong and 193 from the mainland have passed the tests.


Taken from Career Times 24 October 2008, p. B3
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