Local government facing shortfall of building surveyors

Victorian local government is facing a collective shortfall of more than 120 building services staff, a  survey of councils suggests.

The Building Inspectors and Building Surveyors Salary Survey 2023, conducted by recruitment company Planned Resources in partnership with the Victorian Municipal Building Surveyors Group, found vacancies in council building departments and difficulties finding and retaining talent.

The survey found there were 65 vacancies within council building departments, with some councils still looking for a suitable candidate after five years. 

Extrapolating that figure, which is based on a survey of 49 councils, to all of the state’s 79 municipalities and shires, the report says “we would be reasonably confident in predicting that there are around 122 current vacancies within building services departments across Victoria with an average of 1.54 vacancies per council.”

On average the vacant roles have been open for more than a year and a half, (12.7 months) with some councils having failed to find a suitable candidate for 4 or 5 years, the report says.

Talent drain

The report attributes this to a talent drain caused by an overheated market in which councils are failing to compete. The findings show that salaries for council building surveyors have increased by almost 50 per cent since 2021, but they are still at least 14 per cent below the competitive benchmark in the current market.

Asked why they believed they were missing out on potential candidates, 90 per cent of managers said council salaries were a reason for candidates not looking at the council sector, however 45 per cent said they thought applicants expectations were unrealistic.

When asked about leaving council employment in the last year, the majority listed ‘more money’ as the main reason.

Source: Building Inspectors and Building Surveyors Salary Survey 2023

The statewide average Building Inspector Limited employed by a council receives a total package of $107,250, compared to the competitive price of $119,609.

The average Building Inspector Unlimited gets $111,424 compared to $125,282.

The average current salary for a Building Surveyor – Limited was a total package of $121,147. BS-U’s are currently paid an average of $134, 171. To attract a similar level of candidate today councils would have to pay $134,171 and $150,400 respectively, the report says.

Meanwhile, a Municipal Building Insprctor in Victoria gets $171,317, with an expectation that to get a new MBS councils would need to pay in the region of $195,429.

The main reason for councils losing talent was because of more money being offered by another council. Interestingly, this accounted for more losses than defection to the private and state sectors combined.

“This indicates that there is a pool of candidates who are interested and bought-into local government sector work, but are also aware of the current ‘war on talent’ and prepared to use their skills to find the most suitable role for themselves,” the report says.

The survey says the limited pool of candidates being created by VBA registration requirement is likely to see a continued ‘talent war’ and salary increases in the sector.

“This is further backed by managers still envisioning moderate growth in their team and the continued requirement of the sector to replenish an aging employee cohort comparative to other industries,” it concludes.

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