Expatriate Quantity Surveyors - Britain Needs You!

Posted by Stuart Hackett on Thursday, November 24, 2016

That's right. I'm going to do my best Lord Kitchener impression! I can offer you a much more enticing prospect than he was offering back in 1914 also.  I will stop short of Photoshopping my own image onto the iconic poster, however tempting it may be.

The UK has set out some ambitious plans for the UK Construction industry over the next 20 years. Whilst the news has been welcomed by most in the industry, there appears to be an Elephant in the room. A question that nobody wants to ask. That is; who is actually going to build these projects?

With the market already experiencing skills shortages in Labour and technical professionals such as Quantity Surveying, it's a very fair concern to wonder where the labour force is going to come from for projects such as HS2, Heathrow and a number of other large schemes currently in planning.

The impending Brexit negotiations have left some uncertainty as to who will and won't be allowed to come into the Country to work in the coming years. The most logical step for me would be to try and attract back to the UK some of the talented British staff working Overseas in markets such as the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Not an Easy Task

Attracting expatriates back to the UK will not be easy at all, working Overseas is a fantastic experience that in the large tends to pay very well. There are some truly wonderful places to live and work in the construction industry outside of the UK. However there does come a time in most expatriates’ careers when the comfort and security of being home has a certain appeal.  See our advice about returning to the UK.

The Overseas market has appeared to plateau over the last 18 months. We've seen large numbers of redundancies in Qatar recently due to projects being scaled back and cancelled. The low oil price has certainly stunted growth in the Middle East and despite upcoming major events in the region such as Expo 2020 (Dubai) and FIFA World Cup 2022 (Qatar), the scale of opportunities available for expats has been very disappointing compared to what we've come to expect in the region previously.

What Can the UK Offer?

Ok, we can't do anything about the weather before we get started; but you'll learn to live with it. However the UK could be seen to have a number of attractions:


For the first time in as long as I've been recruiting in Construction, I can honestly say the UK market has more need for Quantity Surveyors than any of our Overseas markets. In fact It's not even close! You will see 1,000's of Quantity Surveyors jobs advertised currently. It doesn't have to be just about finding a suitable job in the UK anymore, it can be about finding the most suitable job with the choice available. We can often cater for desires such as location, salary, project sector and size of employer depending on what really matters most to you.

Exciting Projects

There are some huge projects in the UK currently that can rival anything overseas. Crossrail, Thames Tideway Tunnel, Battersea redevelopment, 22 Bishopsgate are just but a few ongoing. HS2, Heathrow Expansion, Hinkley Point C are just a few set to start in the next few years and staff is already being recruited for at least two of those projects. London now has the tallest building on Europe in The Shard, which was completed in 2013. There are tower cranes all over UK's major cities. London, Manchester, Birmingham are all busy as the market is rife with activity.

More Familiar Way of Working

Stronger emphasis on Health and Safety, better working conditions, stronger systems and procedures, more established supply chain and generally just a more familiar and sophisticated way of working that we expect is more aligned to what you are used to. All just a few of the things I hear about the UK when talking to candidate's who have worked both in the UK and Overseas.  Get tips on working in London.

Family & Friends

Granted, I totally accept that many expats have made lives for themselves Overseas now and would consider that their home. Most commonly though, an expats family and core friends are left behind in the UK. Over time this can be tough. Particularly for couples and young families where not everyone buys into the Overseas lifestyle equally. Returning to the UK could improve family relationships, make things easier with issues such as childcare.


In my experience no expat moves back to the UK for money. With low tax or tax free earnings on offer in many locations and accommodation costs typically being covered by the employer, it's very hard for the UK to compete on salaries. More commonly, it's a lifestyle change or personal circumstances that attract an expatriate back to the UK.

However, it is relevant to point out that UK salaries are experiencing unprecedented rises whilst salaries Overseas have stayed very stagnant over the last couple of years. Meaning that your earning potential in the UK is now as attractive as it has ever been. I'd be happy to chat through earning potential with any expatriates considering a move back to the UK.

So as mentioned, I don't believe you'll be tempted back by salaries alone, but the UK market is doing all it can to make the transition as comfortable as possible financially.

Home Comforts

Sunday Dinners, Fish & Chips, Cadbury's chocolate, Full English Breakfast, a proper cup of tea, British sport, cheaper beer, wet and muddy music festivals, the English countryside, driving on the left side of the road, talking about the weather. Hopefully at least a couple of them might appeal to you.


With Maxim Recruitment having a strong brand name in the UK and Overseas markets, we've had particular success in assisting good expatriate Quantity Surveyors and technical professionals return from overseas to settle back in the UK.

In the last 12 - 18 months, I have seen UK construction companies bending over backwards to secure the best expatriate talent. Many candidate's that come to us wanting to explore returning home are able to secure multiple interviews and job offers in the UK. Many of the salaries offered are at the very top end of the market rate with companies occasionally choosing go above their typical pay structure to secure particularly strong candidates.

The two busiest times for recruitment seem to be the New Year and the end of summer after the school and holiday season ends. Therefore the next couple of months are the perfect time to be looking for work in the UK. If you are a British expat considering relocating back home and returning to the UK for a prolonged break over Christmas and the New Year, why not use your time back in the UK to explore your opportunities while you can attend interviews face to face.

I'd be interested in having a conversation with any expatriate staff considering a return to the UK in the next 12 months and wanting assistance in understanding the current market, salaries on offer and specific opportunities in their geographical location.



Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant – UK & Middle East