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NSW Building Services Market Update - March 2021

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Have we seen a bounce rebound in the market? Are things back to ‘normal’?

Well to begin, the start of 2021 has possibly been the busiest start to a year I have ever seen in terms of activity, hitting pre-covid numbers in the number of positions out there and the number of candidates being placed into new positions. The typical ‘January lull’ that we are used to in recruitment didn’t happen, and the new requisitions started flowing in from 4th January from clients who were ready to interview and hire candidates for immediate starts.

For the best part, we are seeing that middle tier (tier 2), sector been the most active, but we have seen a real mix with a great deal of smaller boutiques and of course the Tier 1’s also hiring.

Whether or not these were consultancies experiencing growth or rebuilding from a tumultuous 2020 is difficult to gauge and quantify, but I think for the best part it is a mix of both.

Market confidence is slowly coming back with the talk of a vaccine, and previously stalled projects are recommencing. This coupled with new private and public sector funded projects coming online means that many consultancies are suddenly finding themselves overwhelmed with workload and either having to ‘rebuild’, or seriously think about growing.

What sectors are busy?

It will come to no surprise to many of you that the stars of the show are undeniably transport infrastructure, healthcare, high-rise commercial, data centers and education.

Huge infrastructure projects such as Sydney Metro, Gateway, TAP, and Paramatta Light Rail are well underway, and the surge is showing no sign of a slowdown with some $33 billion worth of transport infrastructure investment earmarked in the 20-21 State Budget.

There are currently over 80 active healthcare projects in NSW, ranging from billion-dollar precinct redevelopments to new hospitals, community health facilities and ambulance stations. There is no sign of the sector slowing down with a further $10.7 billion investment earmarked for health between now and 2024. Public and Private sector education continues to be busy and remains a core for many at the mid-tier with large upgrade and refresh programs and new builds underway.

On the commercial front, in Sydney CBD alone we have so many major developments underway with the likes of Atlassian, Quay Quarter, Martin Place and Pitt Street OSD’s, Sales Force Tower and One Circular Quay. Not to mention North Sydney, Parramatta, and the Inner West!

Sydney continues to be a growing data center hub and was recently ranked third on a list of global data centre markets by Cushman & Wakefield. The fight for engineering talent within the DC sector continues, with consultancies at all levels fighting for market share and many of the key leaders being snapped up client side.

This shows no sign of slowing – in recent months, Equinix have submitted plans for a large, 200,000 sq ft expansion to their Sydney based SY5 DC, DCI have announced plans to build a $400mill facility and Digital Reality have acquired two 20-acre plots of land in Western Sydney with the potential for 250MW of capacity.

Surprisingly, the sectors that I don’t think many of us expected to bounce back quickly – fit out, retail and residential are showing some very positive signs of growth!

You can check out Sydney’s top 20 development projects here - https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/sydney-major-development-projects

Are people returning to the office?

The city is certainly bustling again!

Most consultancies are pushing to get their staff back into the office at least 3 days a week, and from the conversations I’ve been having with clients, a 3-day office, 2-day work from home split will be the norm moving forward. How this is being handled differs from company to company, with some preferring to offer complete flexibility and others preferring to dictate which days are WFH days.

Is there still a talent shortage?

100%! And more so than ever….

What COVID has highlighted with the borders closures and increased difficulty in obtaining visas is that we do have a huge shortage of talented engineers here in Australia, and that is not going to change anytime soon. Unless we can push for further visa reforms and change mindsets around candidates that do not have “local Australian experience”, spending time upskilling them rather than discounting them, I don’t think things will ever ease.

Which roles are in highest demand?

·         Electrical Engineers w/ data centre, comms, security, or IT experience

·         Fire Safety Engineers (C10)

·         Fire Protection Engineers (FPAS)

·         BIM Managers, Coordinators and Digital Engineers

·         Client facing Mechanical and Electrical Leads w/ business development capabilities

These are only a few topics that I have had discussions with clients and candidates on so far this year, and I’m sure there are many more to come as the year progresses.

As ever, I’d be keen to speak with people in the industry for more views and opinions they may have and of course, assist in securing a new role or hiring new building services talent.