Building surveying: apprenticeships

Opening the door

20 March 2015

Matt Clare discusses the apprenticeship route to becoming a surveyor

When you hear someone talk about an apprentice you could be forgiven for thinking of the popular BBC reality show featuring Lord Sugar. The reality of the modern apprentice could not be more removed.

The apprentice system can be traced back as far as the 16th century, and was to an extent organised by craft guilds. Fast forward 500 years and the scale of the movement is staggering. Last December, Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed that the government had met its target of starting two million apprenticeships in the current Parliament.

This is not just the preserve of mechanics and the trades; apprentices are now to be found in surveying, and their number is growing. In 2013, schemes were launched by JLL and CBRE, but offering an apprenticeship could work for any firm of any size.

Importantly, apprenticeships open the door to our profession to a wider group of individuals. The majority group in our profession follow a graduate-based route to RICS membership, but not everyone enjoys the same opportunity and surveying can be seen as elitist and accessible only to the privileged.

Lagging behind

RICS President, Louise Brooke-Smith, says: "Chartered surveying is a globally recognised profession, and we must ensure that it is open to all, whatever their background, or gender. We are a proud industry, but have lagged behind others in terms of making the most of a diverse workforce."

Apprenticeship is about giving an opportunity to an individual that they might otherwise not have had, which can in turn enrich not only the apprentice but also your firm and the profession

The Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT) is working hard to tackle the issues of equality. Established 30 years ago by the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors, it is now an independent charity, although the two retain a close association. Its remit is to act as a support network for young people aged 16 to 24.

The programme runs from application to qualification in helping young people to become qualified surveyors, says CSST, "regardless of their academic, social or financial circumstances".

CSTT programme

The CSTT apprentice programme is adaptable based on each case but generally involves a foundation course. This is followed by a Level 3 National Vocational Qualification in surveying, property and maintenance or a 2 year period of structured competency-based work experience with a CSTT and RICS approved firm, leading on to a Level 3 diploma in Construction, a Diploma in Surveying Practice, RICS Associate qualification and paid employment. At the end of the programme, apprentices are still supported as a trust-managed student and can continue on to an RICS-accredited degree and ultimately the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence to become a chartered surveyor, typically involving around 5 years of hands-on experience and development.

Internships became popular during the recession, when the difficulty of finding work saw many graduates and school leavers willing to give their time for nothing. This is not what apprenticeship is about; employers must pay an appropriate wage, certainly the minimum wage but perhaps using the living wage as a more realistic benchmark.

There are, of course, widely varying levels of maturity within the 16-24 age group and almost without exception a new apprentice will have limited, if any, experience of working in an office environment. The shift from classroom to workplace is a big one. However, an apprentice should not be running errands and photocopying all day. If that is what you need, employ an office junior.

Apprenticeship is about giving an opportunity to an individual that they might otherwise not have had, which can in turn enrich not only the apprentice but also your firm and the profession. Direct them wisely, helped by CSTT.

Matthew Clare is Director at Trident Building Consultancy

Further information

This article was taken from the RICS Building Surveying journal (March/April 2015)