The Role Sending AEC Employers Scrambling: Finding the Right Owner’s Rep

Talent Hitch

One job in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries – that has no clear path for preparation – is surging in demand and sending employers and candidates scrambling for right-fit solutions: owner’s representatives. Talent Hitch, a search firm that concentrates on the AEC industries, recognizes this issue and is providing a guiding hand for companies looking to find quality owner’s reps.

“With the hot market we’re in, there’s a shortage of qualified owner’s reps,” said Kyle Jacobson, CEO and Founder of Talent Hitch. “This is especially true right now with what seems to be a big push for traditional development companies to be building out their own internal construction teams. This is a great opportunity for candidates from contractor backgrounds interested in development to make a seamless career move without needing much instruction.”

Typically charged with navigating the project management path from vision to completion on behalf of an owner, these high-profile roles require candidates with diverse technical backgrounds, agility in managing unpredictable situations, and a comfort level dealing with all types of personalities. Without a specific career path or a college degree for owner’s reps, and given the wide variation among the roles they are expected to fill, firms and candidates are turning to agencies like Talent Hitch to make connections.

For candidates, the position can be a “game-changer” career opportunity, allowing them to move up the AEC ranks and gain greater status in the industry. A typical candidate that Jacobson’s firm sees usually emerges from the general contractor field with a diverse background of AEC-related experiences. They’ve also usually begun to wonder about “the next best thing” for their career. Often, they’re looking to move to a developer. Talent Hitch, which draws its team from roles in AEC fields, matches candidates with potential employers by aligning the candidates’ portfolio of projects with those the developer is working on.

Talent Hitch
Kyle Jacobson, Talent Hitch

Jeff Gable, an owner’s rep candidate who was recently placed with R2 Companies, a client of Talent Hitch’s, graduated 6 years ago as a civil engineer. He kicked around heavy mechanical and civil industrial construction roles and also worked for a prominent general contractor. After that path became too routine for his liking, he took time off to earn his real estate home inspector license and turned his sights toward joining the owner’s rep ranks. “I wanted something in a project management role with finance and real estate,” Gable said. “I wanted to be with a developer’s arm.”

“Working for developers is great because [the owner’s reps] have a lot of influence in types of projects they will work on,” observes Jacobson. “They also partner with high profile companies.” Plus, with annual salaries averaging from $75,000 to over $140,000 for Senior Project Manager positions, candidates gain greater financial opportunities, too.

For employers, the ideal owner’s rep candidate tends to match their company culture. Gary Stoltz, Director of Design and Construction at R2 Companies, the same firm to secure Gable, hires owner’s reps to help R2 oversee projects. “Development projects are inherently extremely complex. They involve a number of team members, so you need someone who can navigate that in a kind of elegant way,” said Stoltz. “You need someone who brings a sophistication to that and does well in what is often a complicated and potentially challenging environment.”

While some reps interpret their role representing the owner’s interest as a need to focus on achieving the lowest bottom line above all else, Stoltz seeks collaborative and team-oriented candidates who can help his firm “end up with the best project possible not only just economically speaking.” He admits that he is biased and looks for candidates who have architectural or engineering backgrounds. “There is a rigor about the thought process associated with those disciplines,” said Stoltz.

Furthermore, Stoltz said the candidates who can speak the language of the physical and precise requirements as well as handle the demands of interfacing with a wide range of people seem particularly best suited to the roles at R2. Still, he recognizes that a strong candidate can emerge from almost any background. He said he has interviewed people with construction backgrounds and liberal arts educations.

“It’s an interesting role in the profession because there’s no degree for it, so everyone has to come from a different place,” Stoltz said. “Nobody was trained to do it. If they’re successful and good at it, they have the skills.”

BuiltWorlds partnered with Talent Hitch to bring this article to you.