APC process – No gain without pain?
No gain without pain?
24 February 2016
Karen Rogers talks to a candidate, an assessor/chair and a counsellor about the challenges and rewards of the APC process
As an assessor/chair, Michelle Bernhardt has had many candidates over the years telling her that obtaining professional membership has been the most stressful and difficult thing they have ever done. While she fully sympathises, she says that membership is something to be cherished.
'RICS has a long and established history as a professional organisation: our brand is recognised worldwide for quality and standards. To ensure that all members meet a universal level of attainment, we have a quality education system. The process may be perceived as hard or difficult, but it is important that we have such rigorous standards to uphold the future of the profession.'
Counsellor Kostas Papacharalampos agrees:
'The APC process is indeed stressful and has to be taken step by step. It needs ambition, good spirit and hard work, but by becoming a chartered surveyor you put a global audience in a position to trust your skills.'
A common complaint she hears from candidates is that they feel they are not getting enough support from their employer, supervisor or counsellor in guiding their day-to-day work in relation to the APC. But Bernhardt says it is down to the candidates themselves to ensure that they meet the requirement. After all, it is the candidate who sits in the room at final assessment, not their employer, she adds.
For instance, RICS helps candidates in a wide range of ways: from the basic candidate’s and pathway guides providing highly detailed information on competencies and the assessment process itself, through to specific training courses dealing with interview technique or submission preparation.
'But you would be surprised how often I see submissions that do not meet the stated criteria in the candidate’s guides,' says Bernhardt. 'Case studies may be too long or in the incorrect order and may not address key issues. The guidance is there for candidates, and as an assessor, I expect them to adhere to it.'
Then there are other, more personal, support groups: RICS Matrics, regional training advisors, mentors and the LinkedIn APC community where questions and queries can be posted online. 'These networking-based groups are vital,' says Bernhardt.
'The ability to talk and share concerns or worries is a very important element. I would urge all candidates to take full advantage of all elements of support available to them.'
Papacharalampos recalls his own experience.
'I had good support from my employer with additional training and discussions with my supervisor, counsellor, APC specialists and colleagues. However, an element of challenge was there for me.'
As a result, he says, he finds it important to establish an open and honest relationship with the people he is helping.
'I believe there are no wrong questions on anything. With this in mind, I encourage all sorts of questions from candidates.'
'The challenge is to really own the process. My aim is to establish a strong understanding of candidates’ everyday activities within their APC, both in personal, professional and technical matters. Being a bit of a mentor does help and inspire candidates.'
As the first person within his company to undertake the APC, candidate Ben Stupple says he had to be quite proactive in his approach to ensure he achieved sufficient experience under each of the competencies.
'Fortunately, both my counsellor and supervisor have been very willing to assist, meeting me regularly to ensure I am reaching the required competencies as well as providing the exposure required to obtain level 3. This has been imperative to my training, because without this input it would have been difficult to monitor my progress appropriately.'
'This has been imperative to my training, because without this input it would have been difficult to monitor my progress appropriately.'
'Give yourself enough time. Do not rush towards the final assessment if you do not feel ready. Do not put yourself in the position of having to compile your submissions hastily to meet a deadline. Take time to prepare your case study. Choose a topic that allows you to demonstrate your competencies to the full. Draft and redraft it, then do so again afters others have read and reviewed it.'
At final assessment it is often easy to see the candidates that have comeforward too quickly, Bernhardt adds. 'There are gaps in the submissions, or a lack of technical understanding to demonstrate the necessary level 3 competencies. The APC is not a race. Do it once, and do it well.'
Having submitted documents some months previously, candidates should read them again, she advises. Ensure you are fully familiar with the various cases you have outlined in your summary of experience to demonstrate your competence.
'When the candidate looks blankly at you after an assessor has asked a question, it is not a good start,'
'The other thing that comes up too often is the ‘we’ versus ‘I’ scenario. It is appreciated that as a trainee member there are certain things you may not be able to do. However, constant reference to ‘we’ in submissions or interview can lead an assessment panel to doubt your experience.'
Papacharalampos reiterates this advice.
'There are experienced people who are there to answer your questions during the months of training – the more you get them involved, the better. Make the APC your own personal, professional and technical commitment and seek help from RICS Matrics and APC mentors volunteering across the UK. Owning this process will give you the best rewards.'
Some recent changes in the APC have been announced by RICS after extensive consultations. Papacharalampos’ advice is to keep informed and speak to your employer and the dedicated APC teams in RICS, in order to understand where you now stand in the process and what actions, if any, you need to take to keep in good position with your submission plans.
In the meantime, he says, regularly assess your existing APC plan and actions to ensure you are prepared with your summary of experience and your case study. Is your everyday work relevant to your APC requirements? Is your manager aware of this? Aiming to have interesting and challenging projects in your work pipeline will be to your own benefit as the market is now out of recession.
From the candidate’s point of view, particularly those working for small and medium enterprises, Stupple offers some tips:
- be proactive and do not become complacent;
- meet regularly with your supervisor/counsellor;
- seek out opportunities that can broaden your learning;
- get involved with your local RICS Matrics group – a great chance to meet people undergoing the APC and see RICS in practice.
In the longer term, professional membership will help your career advancement, and the RICS networks will offer you support and assistance as you develop in your working and personal life.
Bernhardt urges members to consider helping others going through the system once they have qualified.
'I qualified in 1996 and shortly after put some time in to help as an APC doctor – now known as mentors.'
'That developed, and my involvement with the APC and education has continued, which is incredibly rewarding and also beneficial to my career,'
For Stupple, as he approaches his session 1 2016 deadline, there is still plenty to do. Describing his current feeling as cautiously optimistic, he is also aware that a failure to perform on assessment day could result in a resit, and so is determined to be well prepared come the final interview.
Karen Rogers is RICS Matrics and UK Operations Manager