Interview with Jeff Fahrensohn, Auckland Council Building Control, Manager - Inspections
Why would you recommend studying for the NZ Dip Building Surveying?
Being involved in an exciting time in Auckland’s growth can bring some great rewards for a person who gets satisfaction out of helping Auckland become the world’s most liveable city. Knowing you are an integral part of creating new communities and contributing to the ever changing cityscape is a legacy which our inspectors are very proud of.
What career paths are available for graduates?
Consent processing, building inspections and Code compliance assessors have numerous options open to them and we see the professional and career development of our people as an important component of building high performing teams. The ability to move into specialist positions such as fire design, competency assessment, training, quality assurance and auditing comes naturally to a lot of people after spending time gaining the experience in the job. There is also the natural career progression for inspectors and processors to become seniors progressing to team leaders, area managers, regional managers and general managers. On top of this, Council offer a diverse range of other career paths in other units such as engineering, project management, environmental protection and subdivision planning. On top of this, there are always special projects going on which staff are encouraged to be involved in which help shape the way we work and the future direction of building control. An example of this is where we collaborate with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on changes to building codes, regulations and other legislative changes.
Do you have to have prior experience as a builder or plumber to get a job in Building Control?
No, we currently have a very successful graduate program which has developed highly skilled inspectors and processors. To date we have put through 5 graduates every year for the last 3 years and have doubled our grad intake next year to 10.
What particular attributes are your looking for when you employ building inspectors and consent processing officers?
People skills is hugely important plus the ability to solve issues and make sound decisions using pragmatic and risk-based reasons. Great attitude and team fit play a huge part of our recruitment program.
What makes a good building inspector?
Having an open mind particularly when dealing with issues which are not always black and white. Building is never an exact science and curve balls are always being thrown where the design changes or other knock on effects influence changes which need to be assessed onsite. The ability to handle change and learn new things will help as our industry is constantly changing from ever evolving legislative, product, and technology changes
What was your career path (did you start off with an apprenticeship for example)?
I started off as an architectural draughtsman and moved into building. I was self-employed as a design and build company. Moving to Auckland, I took the opportunity to join Council as an inspector as a way of getting a foot in the door in Auckland. What started as a temporary move became my career.
What in particular has made this a rewarding career for yourself?
Standing in the middle of a new subdivision with communities using new parks, schools and families living in what were once open fields can give you a feeling of being part of growing a better Auckland. We see ourselves as the guardians of a quality built environment which generations of Aucklanders can rely on.
What are the starting salaries for building inspectors and consent processing officers? What salary expectations are reasonable for someone 5 years from graduation?
Approximately $60,000 starting salary and moving up incrementally. Generally after 3-4 years inspectors and processors have increased their competencies to demand around $80k. From this point they can start to contest senior positions as they become vacant. This would push them into mid $90ks.
What does the future look like for the building control sector?
The current building boom is forecast to continue for at least the next 5 years in Auckland however when you look at the population growth forecasting, there will be a lot of building for quite some time. In fact, we can expect the rest of NZ to experience unprecedented building growth over the next 10 years at least.
Do you see most graduates as being employed by the private or the public sector?
Auckland Council has approx. 130 inspectors, 120 processors and 20 CCC assessors. Councils are the main employers but the private sector is growing every year. The ability to branch out to disciplines such as house pre-purchase inspections or dilapidation reporting provides more opportunities.