ALL YOU SURVEY
If you’d like to make an impression on the built environment in a really big way, then why not consider becoming a Civil Engineering Surveyor (CES)? They are responsible for civil infrastructures such as roads, railways, bridges, water supply systems and power stations, and are involved right from the initial planning stage through to completion.
Without the input of Civil Engineering Surveyors, our modern world just wouldn’t be able to function. Our transport systems would collapse, our power supplies would fail, and we would have no access to fresh water. That’s why working in this sector can be so appealing – what you do here really does make a difference. Although there is currently a downturn in the British housing market, Mike Sutton, the President of the Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES), says this has not affected the buoyancy of the CES sector. ‘In the major civil engineering works there is a load going on and that won’t stop,’ he declares. ‘Not only is there the major upgrade of the rail network happening, but also the huge Crossrail project, and the Olympics — which is really short of construction professionals. That’s because it is not just about what is going on at the Olympic site, but also about its legacy. A great deal of the Olympics has been planned so when the Games are over the buildings can be amended to be suitable for different uses. That includes the reconstruction of certain buildings, including the Olympic Village, which will be converted into apartments. Also, the main arena is so vast, after the Games it will be changed to have a reduced capacity suitable for football matches.’
There are two main branches of CES, offering distinct career choices, and which you choose will depend on your strengths and interests.
Commercial Management (also known as Quantity Surveying) is all about evaluation and measuring. Commercial Managers prepare the initial documents for projects; they have close contact with the contractors and subcontractors asking for quotes, and then pick the right company to do the work at the right price. They will prepare an estimate of the overall cost of the project, and must monitor the work as it continues to make sure it is not going hugely over-budget. Sutton says: ‘The Commercial Management side is where we manage projects by bringing together all the people involved, from architects to engineers, to oversee the whole project. This side, including Quantity Surveyors, suits people who have a good idea of figures and science, are good planners, and have good negotiating skills.’ Commercial Managers do some site work, but a lot of their work is desk bound. It is the most lucrative side of CES with pay starting at around £20,000, rising to £40,000 after five years.
Geospatial Engineers tend to spend much more of their time on site. They will be surveying the land on which projects are to be located; measuring to make sure they have the best position on which to build bridges, tunnels and roads. Much of their time is spent on using measuring instruments and producing charts, maps and plans for the build. They must also monitor work in progress to make sure the initial measurements are being kept to. Geospatial Engineering is the biggest sector within CES, and includes specialist areas such as hydrographic surveying (measuring surfaces covered by water such as the seabed, lakes and rivers), and photogrammetry (studying photographs to gain information on a potential site). ‘Geospatial surveyors work with Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and many people on this side are interested in geography, because they usually have good spatial awareness and that fits in with the job, so people with geography degrees do well,’ explains Sutton. ‘They tend to go in right at the beginning of the project, so that designs can be done from the initial plans, and are also involved in making sure everything is in its correct and accurate place and is fit for purpose.’ Most people in this branch start as part of a field survey team as a Geospatial Junior Surveyor, and with more experience of using the field instruments they become Surveyor, managing a group or team. Pay starts at around £20,000 going up to £30,000 after five years. With the basic geographical nous people in Geospatial have, there are plenty of other areas they could go into including design and architecture.
British surveyors are very valued abroad for their technical skills and many now travel to work in the Far East and to the Gulf States in order to double or even treble their earning power. This is great for them but, as Sutton says: ‘This leaves a bit of a shortfall in this country, which means we are actively trying to recruit more people into this sector.’ All this means there are golden opportunities within CES, read our case studies to see if this could be the career for you.
For more information on ICES go to www.ices.org.uk