BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

The aspirant apprentice

In the first of a new series, a trainee surveyor explains how she came to take the apprenticeship pathway into the profession after deciding a traditional route through A levels and university was not for her

Author: Jordanne Wilson

23 September 2019

After completing my GCSEs four years ago, I started studying for A levels in business studies, maths and English literature at a business and engineering sixth form I had wanted to attend since I was 13.

However, after just a few months I found myself completely lacking motivation to continue my studies and, worse, I was failing all subjects as well as disliking school quite a bit. This was an entirely alien concept to me, as a student who had always enjoyed school and never failed a subject. It was the culmination and celebration of all my hard work, but I hated it – I felt as though I'd been set adrift and I wasn't sure what to do next.

Giving it some reflection, I decided the reason I couldn't engage was that I had no clear goal, no career or university course to steer towards. I'd also discovered I didn't even like the idea of a business vocation that much any longer.

After some research, I decided that building surveying sounded like a career that would suit me. Varied, challenging, interesting and with the chance of influencing the environment around me, it was something I could see myself doing and perhaps even enjoying.

Around the same time, I also realised that no matter how much my tutors ushered me towards redbrick institutions and traditional degree subjects, university just did not appeal to me at all. But the engineering students at my school suffered no such ushering. They were all presented with exciting opportunities called higher apprenticeships that allowed them to get qualifications – even degrees – as well as hands-on experience.

Better yet, these apprentices would also receive a salary and avoid incurring student loans. I wondered whether there was a similar pathway for aspiring surveyors, and naturally did what any millennial would do – I googled it. Among the first results was a Savills webpage offering just what I was looking for and I enquired further. After receiving a job description for a position in Birmingham aimed at 18–25-year-olds with level 2 qualifications such as GCSEs, I applied immediately –despite that fact I was 17 at the time – deciding that the worst thing they could say was 'No'..

"Every project I work on to completion gives me great satisfaction and allows me to learn useful lessons"

Fast-forward to now, and I have been an apprentice building surveyor at Savills for three years. I can say at this moment I am still thoroughly enjoying it, and safely predict I will feel the same for the foreseeable future.

Although it may sound trite, the profession really is everything I hoped it would be. No two days are the same, and every project I work on to completion gives me great satisfaction and allows me to learn useful lessons.

In my first two years I completed a level 3 diploma with the University College of Estate Management (UCEM), during which I achieved my AssocRICS status. I have now finished the first year of my building surveying degree at Birmingham City University, having taken three modules – Introduction to the Built Environment, Law, and Integrated Digital Design – and I begin my second year soon. The full course will last five years and culminate with my APC.

I'm also a subcommittee head for the RICS Matrics Birmingham group, and spend a lot of my time promoting apprenticeships and the surveying profession in schools. My UCEM diploma was completed via distance learning, whereas my degree course involves more traditional face-to-face teaching. So though I have some experience managing both, I know there will be a new set of challenges ahead to face.

Jordanne Wilson is an apprentice building surveyor at Savills jordanne.wilson@savills.com

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