PROPERTY JOURNAL

Inspire programme offers rewarding roles for volunteers

RICS Inspire Ambassadors widen the appeal of surveying by presenting young people with new career options – helping ensure a diverse, sustainable future for the profession, one volunteer explains

Author:

  • Khumehra Mohammed MRICS

08 March 2024

Photo of RICS logo on a brick wall

RICS Inspire Ambassador Khumehra Mohammed MRICS

Being the first person in my family to go to university, the options presented to me by my secondary school careers adviser and family were the core curriculum subjects such as English, science and history, leading traditionally therefore to a career in teaching or studying law or medicine. 

This was because they weren't aware of the opportunities for women in construction, in particular surveying, which was still considered a male-orientated industry. Further, I got little insight about routes into the profession. 

Having come from a non-cognate background, and having studied law at university, I knew little about a career in surveying until I was selected to be Birmingham Future's Graduate Apprentice for 2015–16.

The scheme gave me a unique opportunity to complete three separate placements in rotation over the course of the year, with various professional services firms in the city. 

During my second placement, I learned about possible careers in the construction sector, including building surveying, project management and quantity surveying. 

Following this, I was offered the opportunity to work as an assistant quantity surveyor and take my master's in the subject on day release. 

This was beneficial because shortly after finishing my course I was able to sit my RICS assessment, having completed the required 24 months of structured training and thus became chartered.

Volunteers share insights with next generation

As a result of my own experience, I wanted to ensure that young people learn early about the possibility of a career in surveying, in particular in construction.

My aim is not only to help reduce the skills gap, but also to demonstrate the sector's diversity and opportunities, with employment and training available around the world. This is why I chose to become an RICS Inspire Ambassador.

As an Inspire Ambassador, you volunteer your time to give presentations or workshops promoting the surveying profession. All materials are supplied by the RICS Early Engagement team, so whether you are attending a careers fair or delivering a presentation to year-10 pupils – aged 14 or 15 – all you need to do is understand the resources provided so you can speak confidently about the profession. Enthusiasm is important too, as it helps to get students' attention.

Being an ambassador means that you are in control of when you volunteer and can share your insights into the profession with the next generation. It also provides an excellent opportunity to network with your professional peers.

As an ambassador, I have given presentations alongside building surveyors, developers and valuation surveyors. Together we have been able to demonstrate to students the depth and breadth of the surveying profession.

These presentations are delivered in person in schools and are around 20–30 minutes long. Related class activities give students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the various roles in the profession.

Becoming an ambassador was a straightforward process. I saw the opportunity advertised on the RICS website and simply expressed my interest. Following this I was vetted and then contacted by the RICS Early Engagement team, before being added to a mailing list where opportunities to participate in events are advertised. I then need to confirm which I am available to attend. 

I also received training from RICS on the roles and responsibilities of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subject ambassador, including a safeguarding element and check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to ensure I was suitable to work with children.

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Broadening young people's construction career options

Birmingham has one of the youngest demographics of cities in the UK and is attracting much investment. However, 43% of the city's population live in its most deprived areas. 

Therefore, engagement by organisations such as RICS with schools to present further opportunities for study is crucial, given that it enables young people to learn about a variety of surveying careers they can access as well as the pathways to doing so.

I often meet students who think working on a construction site means labouring. One of the things I therefore advocate for them are degree apprenticeships in surveying, which are increasingly widely available and prepare them for a professional career in the sector.

Degree apprenticeships provide students with an academic perspective in gaining a degree, so they learn at the same time as working in the field of study. This offers a balanced approach to gaining qualifications rather than traditional full-time university courses.

It also means students earn while they learn – an important consideration, because university fees are often a barrier when considering a degree given the economic pressures people face.

My promotion of degree apprenticeships has encouraged many students to read the RICS materials I supply and enquire about further opportunities in the surveying profession. 

Open-plan collaborative seating and tea point © Thierry Cardineau

Inspire event at Ormiston Sandwell Community Academy © Khumehra Mohammed

Four-person privacy booths with AV © Thierry Cardineau

RICS promotional materials © Khumehra Mohammed 

Inspire programme central to early engagement

The Inspire programme is a fundamental part of RICS' early engagement strategy. It encourages ambassadors – including RICS members, apprentices and graduates – to commit time and energy to engage with schools, colleges and universities.

They can do so either through events organised by RICS, or by arranging initiatives themselves with support and resources from the early engagement team. In either case, the aim is to raise awareness of the diverse career opportunities in the built and natural environment and create equitable access to the profession nationwide.

An RICS ambassador influences students' career decisions, not only through workshops and presentations in educational institutions but also insight days at RICS offices and other workplaces.

To find out more about RICS' early engagement strategy, contact Sarah Noble, head of early engagement and enrolment at RICS.

Looking to the future is best part of role

One of the things I most enjoy about the role is running sustainability workshops. These allow us to engage with students for a few hours and demonstrate the wide range of careers in surveying. I love when students ask me questions about the opportunities available and show a genuine interest in the sector.

As part of the workshops, students are asked to design a sustainable building and then present it to other participants. With environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns becoming increasingly important to the construction industry, we are constantly looking for ways to be more sustainable in all our projects. It is therefore terrific to see that young people are devising some very creative ways to make buildings more sustainable. 

I also enjoy presenting to all-girls schools, because most of the time the pupils will rarely have considered a career in surveying. Data from RICS shows that, in 2022, women made up less than 11% of the total global workforce in construction, while women own just 13% of construction companies and hold only 14% of executive positions. Having the opportunity to help bridge the gender gap is therefore particularly rewarding.

Events that I recently led across the Black Country and Birmingham include a mock interview session at Ormiston Sandwell Community Academy, providing students with the opportunity to develop their interview skills.

I also recently attended a careers event at Pedmore High School and gave a presentation at Dormston School in which the students were asked to design a sustainable building for 16–18-year-olds for recreational activities.

When presenting at Hillcrest School for girls, another surveyor and I spoke about our role over the course of a development project so pupils could better understand how various professionals contribute to design and work on projects.

'I love when students ask me questions about the opportunities available and show a genuine interest in the sector'

Open-plan collaborative seating and tea point © Thierry Cardineau

Presentation at Dormston School © Khumehra Mohammed

Four-person privacy booths with AV © Thierry Cardineau

Presentation at Eden Girls' School © Khumehra Mohammed

Ambassadors central to sustainable profession

The profession needs to be more inclusive and diverse to create a more sustainable built environment. Furthermore, with 25% of the current RICS membership being over 60, the current skills shortage is only likely to get worse.

As a result, we need RICS members to promote the surveying profession to younger generations, to illustrate the impact they can make on our world. What better way to achieve this than becoming an Inspire Ambassador?

'We need RICS members to promote the surveying profession to younger generations'

Khumehra Mohammed MRICS is senior project manager at RPS Consulting

Contact Khumehra: Email

Related competencies include: Sustainability

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