As part of National Apprenticeship Week, GLM’s Rebecca Courts tells us about her role as a Graduate Apprentice Building Surveyor.
Q1. What path have you taken to become a GA Building Surveyor?
I first heard about Building Surveying in my Fifth year at school. This was after a local firm came into school to discuss various roles available within the construction industry. Building surveying was briefly mentioned and, after researching more about it, I decided this was a definite career option I had never considered before.
I applied to do building surveying through the full-time university course and was successful, however, I was aware that the course could also be completed as a graduate apprenticeship. I applied to various surveying companies offering positions and speculatively emailed my CV to others, explaining a bit about the course and why they should consider employing a graduate apprentice.
Q2. Why did you choose the Graduate Apprenticeship route as opposed to a traditional 4-year degree?
Undertaking a graduate apprenticeship rather than full time university appealed much more to me as it would allow me to gain a lot of industry experience as well as engage with experienced colleagues who I could gather knowledge from on a day-to-day basis.
It would also allow me to learn on the job whilst getting out and about on site, watching projects progress over the years. The thought of being at university for 4 years, largely just completing theory-based work was not as desirable for me. However, I’ve still been able to experience the university route through my block release placements at Edinburgh Napier University and by completing modules, coursework and making friends.
Another huge bonus about the graduate apprenticeship route is that you’re getting paid!
Q3. What do you get up to in your role as GA Building Surveyor?
No two days are the same for me as a GA building surveyor. I’ve visited lots of different projects and complete various tasks related to them.
January began with a 3-day visit North where we completed a pre-acquisition survey of a Highland Castle, including some lodges on the estate. During the visit I was tasked with taking all the pictures, measurements of the rooms, damp readings, and listening to my colleagues complete the survey, gaining knowledge of what they thought of the buildings and any repairs that will be required.
Once back in Edinburgh, I was away to another project near Haddington where I assisted my colleague with a schedule of condition survey. This was one of our quarterly maintenance surveys and involved going around each property, checking for any defects and then organising any repair or maintenance work necessary.
The main task over the next week involved drawing up floor plans from my surveys on Autocad. Other tasks that I’ve been involved in recently include tender analysis work and responding to shared repairs enquiries.
Q4. How do you balance studying with working full-time?
I always give myself plenty of time to complete the coursework required for university. I’ll spend spare evenings after work completing coursework or if I’ve got a quiet spell in the office, I can use that time to work on it. My colleagues are always very willing to help which I’m very grateful for and they’ll help explain anything I’m not sure about.
The university is also usually quite fair with their deadlines as they know we’re working full time. They will usually spread the coursework out over the months we’re away from university.
Q5. What is your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job is definitely getting out to visit projects and assisting my colleagues wherever I can. I especially love the castles and towers which are many of GLMs key projects. I enjoyed completing the recent pre-acquisition survey as a lot of our projects have developed from the initial pre-acquisition survey. This means you are able to see the building from a starting point which could possibly lead to something much bigger.
Q6. What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to seeing projects which have recently begun develop over time. When I joined GLM in July, many projects were already underway, and I’m looking forward to experiencing a project from starting phase through to completion.
Nevertheless, I’m still looking forward to current projects reach their final phases. For example, I’ve visited our Chamberlain Road project for site progress meetings since I’ve joined GLM and will look forward to seeing it all finalised.
I’m also looking forward to seeing my own progress. When I look back to when I first started, I realise how much I’ve learnt and am excited to see what sort of stages I’ll be at over the next year.
Q7. What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a graduate apprenticeship?
Absolutely go for it. I’ve not had any regrets for not doing the full-time university course and, personally, I don’t think that I would have enjoyed the course as much. By completing the GA route, you gain so much valuable experience, and your colleagues are always willing to help out. And it’s fun!
If you’ve chosen to do surveying as a career route, you should begin your industry experience as soon as you can. I feel because you’re working for a company, you’re getting the realistic balance of theory and practical work. Whereas University can sometimes base everything off theory which can be difficult to put into a live context.
Q8. What advice or recommendations would you give to employers about graduate apprenticeships?
Please support graduate apprenticeships in your workplace. It is a great opportunity for employers as well as apprentices. The GA course is a 4-year work-based learning degree and can be partly funded through the Scottish Government. The apprentice would work full time for your company and would only be away at university for 2 weeks, 3 times a year. Apprentices also gain so much hands on experience from other employees and from exposure visiting site, therefore they can be very valuable additions to your team.
Learn more about apprenticeships: