Locked-down learning

Elizabeth Taylor is a graduate commercial surveyor with chartered surveyors Carter Jonas

Covid-19 has wrought much the same level of disruption within the surveying sector as it has across most other sectors and some businesses have felt it more keenly than others. I feel very fortunate that I have only experienced disruption to my training – the situation could have been far worse. 

There are several routes to becoming a chartered surveyor, the career I embarked upon in September 2018. The most common route, and the one I have selected, is from graduate, or entry level. Candidates must undertake 24 months of structured training before sitting the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in one of two windows per year, spring or autumn.

I am hoping to sit my APC in either May or November 2021, but it is important to feel ready, so I am as yet undecided. 

This article was first published in the Dec/Jan 2021 issue of The Construction Index magazine.  Sign up online.

The APC examination process can be thought of as a two-step process. The first involves submitting a document to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) which essentially details my experience and justifies how I have achieved the levels of competence required to be accepted into the RICS. 

Trainees must also submit a case study of an instruction they’ve led on and in which they’ve provided advice and guidance to a client. Throughout my period of training I will also have completed 48 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) which has to be documented and included as part of my submission. 

The second step is an hour-long interview in which candidates are examined and questioned on their knowledge of both practical and ethical elements required for the role of a chartered surveyor. 

Candidates begin the assessment by presenting their case study and subsequently undergo 10 minutes of questioning from the panel. Candidates are then quizzed on their submission and knowledge of the legislation and RICS standards that chartered surveyors act within. Finally, the candidates’ understanding of the RICS code of ethics is examined.

As with any profession, the training and studying required to pass is rigorous and very demanding. 

But, due to Covid-19, I was furloughed for four months from April to August. Although this was unsettling to begin with, I quickly understood my employer’s strategy and I likewise took the long view, ultimately feeling happy with the decision. 

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The four months out provided a good opportunity to undertake some revision and consolidate what I had learned so far, although I felt there was still a long way to go and my outstanding knowledge was only obtainable through actual work experience. 

Some of my fellow graduates have felt the same and Covid-19 has meant that some of us will delay our APCs on account of the time lost out of our 24-month schedules. Clearly this situation is happening at many practices and is not unique to Carter Jonas. Inconvenient as this is, there’s nothing I could do about it except hope that this short-lived disruption proves to be a small bump in the road to what I hope will be a long career. 

Like many other jobs, surveyors have by and large been able to adapt well to working from home and in some ways I feel that team collaboration has increased. Most teams in our business have a video call every day and have introduced WhatsApp groups which keep us connected. 

CPD has also successfully transitioned online. Pre-Covid, I would attend around two lectures per month at the University of Westminster; the RICS has moved these online very successfully – in fact, it feels like there are more sessions available than ever. 

I use a number of desktop apps to stay in touch with colleagues and these have replaced the office chit-chat and routine personal interactions with my colleagues and mentors. 

As a graduate, though, there is much to be said for learning in an office environment. We are coached by our senior colleagues on everything from report-writing skills down to email and telephone etiquette – things that can’t be learned so easily from home. I think that the 2020 intake of graduates and trainees – in any industry – will struggle if they are deprived of this interaction with more senior and experienced colleagues.

For me, the disruption to my training caused by Covid-19 has delayed my APC assessment by at least six months, which is regrettable since once qualified, my earning potential increases. But I still have a job; those in other sectors have not been so lucky.

Personally, I am relieved by the RICS’s announcement that APC assessments will from now on be done online via video call. The RICS used to examine candidates at an assessment centre and the waiting to go into the examination room sounded to me almost more nerve-racking than the actual interview! 

Graduates will now be able to focus on their exam, which they can take from anywhere they feel comfortable and without the extra stress of travel and an unfamiliar environment. To me this is certainly a benefit which may have taken far longer to come through without our shift towards remote work. 

This article was first published in the Dec/Jan 2021 issue of The Construction Index magazine.  Sign up online.

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