One question that we’re increasingly being asked, is where have all the technical officers gone? Many agencies are finding it difficult to recruit and meet demand driven by the recent increases in Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) funding.

It’s a problem which is impacting right across the construction industry with the recent RICS Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey showing that over half of surveying practices are seeing shortages of construction professionals and that 30% of the existing surveying profession is aged over 50.

So what’s the answer? Here are my top 3 suggestions:

Employ apprentices

Designing, specifying and contract managing home adaptation projects is a great way to train apprentices. I began my career training to be an Architect and my first projects were all DFG applications. I learned about plumbing and electrics, building regulations, tendering and managing contractors from the smaller jobs and then about house construction and planning by designing extensions. Right from the start, I had my own projects to manage, while some of my peers were restricted to small parts of bigger construction projects.

I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been involved with adaptations ever since!

We asked the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and they recommended the Level 3 Surveying Technician which includes associate membership of the RICS. They also suggested the Construction Contracting Operations at Level 3 which can also be delivered as an NVQ outside of an apprenticeship.

At Foundations, we’ve had really positive experiences of employing apprentices that have really enhanced our team – as you’ll know if you’ve spoken to Harry, Lydia or Calvin.

Use better tools

If you’re thinking about how to make your existing technical staff more efficient, it’s well worth checking out the new and improved DFG Tenders system. It’s not just for DFGs and doesn’t just do tendering – it’s an online tool that helps you manage all sorts of standard building projects quickly and efficiently.

For standard adaptations, like a level access shower, it’s literally a tick box exercise to produce a specification including instant prices from all of your contractors. The whole process can take as little as 5 minutes and can even be done in the client’s home using a mobile phone. If you would like a demo please get in touch.

Make the most of what you have

How much time do your Technical Officers spend on paperwork and admin? DFG Tenders can help with a lot of it, but could you use their time better?

If you’re struggling to recruit technical staff, could you recruit an admin officer to manage appointments, process tenders and applications and deal with invoices and completion certificates?

It’s also worth considering how much time is spent supporting clients and supervising contractors – and how much time is taken dealing with unnecessary problems and complaints. Agreeing a code of conduct with contractors is a given, but I found holding an introductory pre-start meeting to agree working arrangements between the client and contractor really helps to minimise time consuming problems and disagreements that can often happen. A handbook for clients on what to expect is also good practice.