One Month As A Graduate Apprentice Building Surveyor

Posted by on Aug 16, 2023 in Building Surveying, Education

One Month As A Graduate Apprentice Building Surveyor

After applying for building surveying through full time university, I figured learning on the job and gaining practical on hand experience would suit myself much better than learning from a slideshow, lecture after lecture. I investigated the graduate apprenticeship route which included part time, block release, university and working full time for a company. Learning on the job with a long-established successful company, resulting in obtaining a degree, was the best career route for me and GLM was able to provide that superb opportunity.

The thought of transitioning straight from school into a full-time job was a daunting one, however, no regrets come from taking on that challenge. Starting much earlier than my first university block, at Edinburgh Napier, towards the end of August, means that I can settle into the working environment and understand how the company works rather than experiencing both situations at the same time. In August, December, and May, I’ll be completing my 2-week blocks at Napier which will provide me with the theoretical side of construction and the built environment. Work will also be provided to complete over the course until the next block begins.

Already, only one month into the apprenticeship, I’ve been able to visit old castles, great halls, and townhouses across country, including Argyll and Bute, Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, and Edinburgh itself. I’ve attended design meetings, progress meetings and even been provided with the opportunity to learn parts of the administration side of the company which gives me a deeper understanding of how sales and the running of the company work. This has certainly shown me that GLM is the company I need for me to develop a range of skills and knowledge about all the various aspects of Building Surveying and even parts of other disciplines in the practice.

During my first week I was able to go on four different site visits, all with different activities to complete. On day one I went to Fettes Row, a B listed flat, where myself and, Architectural Technologist, Taylor, met with Interior Designers who needed statutory consent advice on their proposals. One of the issues of the discussion included ventilation of the flat leading to the attic. The next day I went with Helen, Senior Architectural Technologist, to Doune Terrace where we did some measuring, looked at different techniques of plastering and electrical issues. Mid-week I met Finn, a Graduate Building Surveyor, at Royal Circus. During the visit we were on the roof observing the repairs and looking at drainage systems. We then spoke about the processes of tendering and shared repairs whilst taking in the amazing views of Edinburgh! Thursday was an early start, with a visit down to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway to a private house. We met a render specialist and Main Contractor for an update on works prior to the clients moving in. The rest of my time on the first week was filled with meeting everyone; finding out what they did and the projects they were working on, admin tasks and reading SOPs which give a good insight into how the company deals with certain procedures. The week was finished with a team lunch which was enjoyed by all.

After a tiring first week, I was able to understand the various roles and responsibilities within the company and the amount of work that goes into providing the best quality of work possible, something I did not appreciate before starting.

Within GLMs multidisciplinary team, it is key that the five principles of balance, communication, trust, diligence, and passion are followed to ensure each profession can work together towards the same outcome. It is very clear that each team works exceptionally well together and can use different ideas from the technical side of Building Surveying, the design side of Architecture and the directing aspect of Project Managers. I’ve learnt that these different roles can support one another throughout projects, from start to finish, contributing to the finest standards provided by GLM.

Week two included a site visit to Knockderry Castle, in Argyll and Bute, with Finn. The castle was built in the mid-19th century with 3 main phases from different architects. The castle is A listed due to later additions from architect, William Leiper, in 1896. Some of these additions included intricate carvings, a music room with celestial designs and a hydraulic powered lift. So far in the project, GLM have provided the clients with a pre-acquisition survey, drawings of the castle and detailed architectural designs. Finn and I went to the castle to meet the window specialist and discuss the proposed plans for the building warrant with the council planners. We then had a meeting with the client about the next steps for GLM in the domestic project. Further on in the week I attended a design meeting for St Johns in Edinburgh. During the meeting, fire risk plans were weighed up and the matter of making the building accessible was looked at through planned drawings. Later on that day I headed back to Fettes Row for a measured survey where I sketched out some of the rooms and learnt some symbols for the electrics. My week ended with a CRM task, setting up my LinkedIn account and catching up with emails.

After another busy week of exploring more projects, I was able to see the range of sectors GLM is involved with. From large estates containing castles and country houses to commercial projects involving hospitality or educational facilities. The scale is vast. The importance of sustainability is key to GLM, and the different projects can be seen to change certain construction methods or designs to improve this, making projects more environmentally conscious. I’ve already been able to observe the processes of reinstating part of a building or even just a door. No matter how big or small the restoration is, it all contributes to making the built environment more sustainable.

Onto week three, I felt like I was starting to settle in much more which boosted my confidence a lot. Monday included headshots for the website and a CPD. Throughout the week, I read through a condition survey and researched words and processes I was unable to understand. Another mid-week visit included a drive just over the border to Longtown where we visited Netherby Hall. I shadowed a progress meeting which included talks about fire doors and signage, drainage systems, parapet walkway designs and progress of the new staircase.

Already throughout the weeks, I’ve been able to see different stages of a project such as the planning permission and building warrant prior to starting work on site, progress, and design meetings during the project and what happens towards the end of a project.  

I’ve had firsthand experience that apprenticeships aren’t talked about enough at schools and it should be considered a career pathway the same way university is. Throughout school, you are constantly asked what you plan to study at university and not provided with enough information about other career pathways. After telling my friends, family, and teachers that I was going to do a graduate apprenticeship, a lot of them didn’t know what building surveying was or how the apprenticeship scheme worked. I feel, at school, only the well-known employment opportunities are encouraged, and little support is given to those who want to do something a bit different. In sixth year almost everyone is expected to apply for university and many of my peers still had multiple, very contrasting career ideas.  In a way I had done the same and, after receiving my university offers, I realised I didn’t want to feel like I was in school for another 4 years and wanted to experience what ‘the big world of work’ was really like. That was when I sent out my CV to different companies around the central belt and after receiving an offer from GLM, I was able to switch from the full-time university course to the block release course. I can now value the mix of being in the office and getting out and about to site visits or meetings, a much better experience, I feel, than learning from slideshows! To improve this matter, I think companies with professions that aren’t well known should send offers to schools to hold a workshop or even just a quick presentation. This would definitely help lots of kids looking for the right career route for them or even just work experience.

My last week of the month consisted of some admin tasks, reading recommended books, and researching previous surveys. On Tuesday I went with David Johnson to Perth where he gave some architectural advice for a client before a possible purchase. Further on in the week, I went to a nearby property, with Michael, to help with a measured survey and, on Thursday, a fire inspection at Mary Erskine’s school took place. The week finished off with a creative crit which consisted of a walking tour around some of the new and older developments in Fountainbridge. During the walk we discussed why some designs work and why some don’t and whether this came down to the particular style, materials, landscaping, details, or any other aspects impacting the buildings.

Everyone at GLM has given me the warmest welcome and always offers help with anything I’m working on or researching. The team works very well together and seems more of a family rather than just your regular colleagues! From what I’ve seen, GLM doesn’t just focus on the projects and work they complete, their own staff are important to them and mentoring for each member takes place regularly to support their career and goals.

As Ian said on a whole team call “You’re here for a good time, not a long time!”. Overall, the first month working with GLM has been the best start to my apprenticeship and I can’t wait to explore new projects and find out further what it takes to become a building surveyor.