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The TikTok Generation Will Save The Real Estate Sector — And Be Well Paid For It


Real estate has suddenly woken up to the fact it has a huge skills gap, one that could hit profits hard and have a detrimental impact on the planet.

The gap in the sector’s knowledge relates to environmental, social and governance issues, particularly sustainability and decarbonisation.


Real estate firms are scrambling to bring in the skills needed to make their businesses resilient.

“About 25% of all placements my team has received this year have been ESG-related, compared to none last year,” Madison Berkeley Director of Development and Construction Christine Scott told Bisnow. The firm is a specialist real estate recruitment consultancy. 

Who is going to fill this gap? Younger workers, the "TikTok generation" as Scott puts it — workers who have left university in the past five years and chose to pursue degrees and acquire the skills real estate now needs to help it decarbonise.

In an example of a virtuous circle, having those skills will be a career accelerator for younger workers and give them a big salary bump.

But the need to hire workers with this skill set, wherever commercial real estate can find them, will also help the industry in another way: It can be a path toward greater diversity in the industry. 

Scott said that the leap in firms looking to hire workers with ESG skills has been sudden and dramatic. One of her clients, a major UK property agency, is currently looking to fill 60 ESG-related positions in various parts of its business. 

From conversations with clients, Scott said it has dawned on real estate developers and investors that regulations, such as Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards in the UK, mean they have to take action to reduce the carbon intensity of their assets now. And many don’t have the right staff to do that. 

Analysis by Cushman & Wakefield, reported by Bisnow earlier this year, shows that 96% of the office buildings in London don’t meet the Energy Performance Certificate B standard, which means that after 2030 it will be against the law to lease them.

It will take a lot of money to fix this problem. But it takes people, too. 

Scott said there is a particular gap when it comes to staff with ESG skills in the UK. Senior roles, the head of ESG-type positions, are often filled by recruiting outside the sector. Below this, however,  is a chasm that needs to be filled by those with two to four years of career experience. 

And having the right skills pays well because demand is outstripping supply.

“You are offering people a 20%-30% uplift on their base salary, and people are still receiving counteroffers from their current employers, or have other offers on the go in the background,” Scott said.

Employers need to act very quickly.

Scott said the specialist skills needed for the positions being created mean that real estate is hiring from outside its traditional talent pools. Rather than hiring candidates with only real estate qualifications from university, those with engineering or environmental science degrees, among other areas, are now in demand. 

This is enforcing a degree of open-mindedness and diversity on an industry not typically noted for being outward-looking.

The Land Collective's Sarah Hayford

“I had one client who until recently wouldn’t hire anyone who didn’t have a real estate degree,” she said. “That just wouldn’t be possible now. The industry is being forced to break out of its mould, which has led to a particular way of thinking.”

One organisation is looking to tap into that trend with the creation of a programme surrounding ESG in the built environment for diverse youth.

The Land Collective this year launched an eight-week programme providing ESG training and skills to diverse young people in the UK. The organisation looks to increase participation in the built environment sector by people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“We went out to our members and asked them what kind of training and skills they were looking for, and ESG was the most common answer,” Land Collective founder and CEO Sarah Hayford told Bisnow.

“I was blown away by the interest in the programme. I expected to receive 40-50 applications for a place, but we received 85.”

The programme was open to to young people with a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, who met social mobility criteria, such as having received free school meals in their childhood.

Sponsored by consultancy firm Aecom, Hayford said even Aecom's existing staff expressed interest in joining the programme.

Hayford pointed out that the programme covers the S in ESG as well as the E.

“There is so much discussion around sustainability, and rightly so, but it can be easy to forget that real estate needs to be aware of its social impact as well.”