John Aranui’s decision to leave school in Sixth Form and sign up to a Quantity Surveying degree at Unitec turned out to be a good one. After working in Australia for a number of years, he’s now a Senior Quantity Surveyor at Woods Glass - New Zealand’s market leader in commercial glazing and architectural glass supply.
John studied IT at Unitec before deciding to switch over to Quantity Surveying (QS). He spent the next three years completing the two-year diploma, all while working full time and becoming a new father. He says Unitec’s flexibility and course structure made the juggle a lot easier.
“Unitec had tailored its QS and Construction Management courses to suit full time workers, so I was able to work a 45-50 hour week while studying. It made things a lot more manageable! The knowledge I’d gained in my IT degree didn’t go to waste either. We use a lot of software and IT in the construction industry - excel, basic programming, estimating software - so I had a good foundation in these tools.”
Four years after graduating, John relocated to Brisbane, where he worked at a number of well-known international companies on some of Australia’s largest construction and infrastructure projects.
“I moved from sub-contractor to main contractor level, working for the likes of civil construction company McConnell Dowell, G James (Australia’s largest façade company) and OHLA, one of the largest construction and concession companies in the world. I was lucky enough to be part of some high-level projects, working with big budgets, including an $11bn highway infrastructure project in Sydney and the Gold Coast Light Rail project. It really galvanised my professional career.”
Moving into the NZ industry
In 2015, John moved back to New Zealand to take up the role of Senior Quantity Surveyor at Woods Glass - a subsidiary of commercial window designer, manufacturer and contractor, Thermosash.
“Woods Glass and Thermosash take care of the whole façade of large residential, retail and commercial buildings. As QS, I look after tendering and business development from the early stages of a project - pricing off the plans, tendering for the work locally and internationally, ensuring the contracts protect the company, and keeping costs on track throughout the job.
“I like to keep moving, so the variety of work suits me. We typically work on multiple projects at a time, across a range of building types - from the 38-level Commercial Bay tower, to the NZ International Convention Centre and Auckland City Rail Link. In civil construction you might work on one project for two to three years, while here I stay on a job for two to 12 weeks, stepping in and out as required.”
John says his Unitec diploma gave him a solid foundation for his career and armed him with the skills required to join reputable companies overseas.
“My degree was a good combination of ‘street smarts’ and professional training. We were taught by some senior people, most of whom worked or had worked in the industry, and it helped that I could apply what I was learning to my job. I was only 23 when I completed my studies, but I felt confident enough to deal with people who had been in the industry for 30 years. Then, when I travelled to Australia, having that formal qualification combined with some work experience helped me secure a great job, despite having no local experience.
“The relationships I formed at Unitec were also invaluable. I’ve maintained a strong connection with my classmates, who are now business owners and leaders in the construction industry - so they’re good contacts to have.”
A growth industry
John believes Quantity Surveying still has a lot of room to grow in New Zealand and says the opportunities for those graduating are huge.
“Quantity Surveying is in demand, it pays well, and you can get some amazing opportunities. Being a QS is about more than budgets. When you’re working on big projects you’re not just measuring, you’re essentially building something step-by-step and pricing it in accordance with that methodology. You need to consider everything, from cranes and hoarding to traffic management. It helps to have construction experience and a good understanding of how the whole process works - not just the money side of things."