The Property Management Graduate Job Conundrum
Graduates who have completed their property management training and gained their registration are finding it difficult to gain jobs in the property industry. With a shortage of quality property management candidates continuing to hinder the industry together with some reluctance from employers to take on graduates with no experience, how can the property management industry bridge the gap between training and productive employment? We spoke with Adam Blight, Director of Property Management at Ouwens Casserly and Emma Slape, CEO at Turner Real Estate for their views on this topical issue.
In discussions with industry leaders, there is no easy solution. Should the industry or the training organisations take more responsibility? Where does the responsibility lie?
What is the main reason property management graduates are finding it hard to get jobs in the property industry in South Australia?
To be a property manager you need to know a lot about a lot. It's not as simple as knowing the act. There are lots of programs out there and technology that you need to get your head around. I've been in the business for 17 years and at least once a week, we'll come across something that we haven't had to deal with before.
To get someone to go from graduation to being a productive property manager takes anywhere from 6 months to two years, which is a significant investment for businesses and even more so for smaller businesses. Even if you're only being paid a smaller wage or a traineeship wage, an assistant property manager is still not paying for themselves for the first 6 months, so you do need significant resources to employ someone.
Real estate is demanding from day 1 so in busy times, businesses will look for experience so that their new team member can hit the ground running. Unless agencies have senior staff who have time allocated to train, support and mentor new recruits, the fit often doesn’t exist for an inexperienced graduate, unfortunately.
How are property management graduates with no experience viewed by property employers?
We've always viewed property management graduates with no experience as an opportunity. They don't have any bad habits and are potentially a lot more optimistic than those who have been in the industry for a long time. It's a chance for us to mould them into what we want out of a property manager. For our organisation, being one of the larger real estate companies, we have the resources to bring them in.
One challenge we’ve had, especially in the last 3-4 years, is having graduates come in with no experience and not having the patience to learn the ropes before wanting to manage a portfolio themselves. Some of the young people coming into the industry have unreasonably high expectations of where they should be in a short space of time. Being a property manager is a very high trust role with responsibility for high-value assets, so, businesses carry a lot of risk if they choose to promote somebody before they are ready.
In saying that we have some excellent young guns in our team who are doing well, and seven out of our ten property managers started with us with no experience, so it's a channel that we've had a lot of success with. The challenge for employers is getting the timing right when to promote trainees. Doing this too early can result in them burning out and becoming overwhelmed.
This really depends on the agency and recruitment model. At Turner Real Estate, we love starting newbies in their PM journey and we gradually build their skills, brick by brick as they learn our systems and processes. We’ve had a lot of success with this model, but we also have senior team members allocated to train and mentor. Generally, the larger agencies have more opportunities for graduates, whereas smaller agencies often need team members with experience and a full PM skillset from day 1.
What could bridge the gap to employment for graduates with their property management license?
It's hard to substitute on the job, 'hands-on' experience. In a theoretical environment, when you don't have any background or any context on why rules are and how they're implemented, I think it's a tough ask for the training organisations to produce a graduate that’s ready to go, without real-world experience or work experience, unfortunately.
More practical training in the PM license is necessary to bridge this gap. Currently, a lot of the training is online, which is great for the theory components, but more simulation of ‘in the field’ work would go a long way. Personally, I’d like to see priority given to conducting quality open inspections, routines and ingoing reports so that the entry-level graduates can immediately help the more senior team members. It is time-consuming to train and learn this, it might be weeks of practice – but they are core skills which would be attractive to employers from day 1 and graduates could then show employers their level of detail and understanding of properties.
What support would employers need to take on licensed graduates with little or no real-world experience?
I think if there was a little bit more flexibility in what trainees were able to do without having their property management license, it would be easier for businesses to be able to offer traineeships in property management.
Back when I started in the industry, I was on a traineeship which meant a low wage, doing my training over a year. At that time, I could be productive and still do property inspections and work unsupervised. The challenge now is that trainees can't work unsupervised and do property inspections of any sort.
Employers, especially small employers would need significant financial incentives to take on graduates because of the limited resources they have. Also, the difference between having someone without experience and someone who is experienced isn't that much of a significant difference pay wise.
You have to have a dedicated team member taking responsibility for training. New people can’t be expected to just watch and learn by osmosis – they need to be supported, reviewed, mentored and counselled when they get off track. It is a time-consuming process, but it’s extremely rewarding to see people reach the next level and employers will also find incredible staff retention and loyalty when they make these investments in their team.