Why investing in our future makes business sense

Many years ago in my leaving speech from one of the big, global surveying firms, I said to my soon to be ex colleagues “Never forget, this firm is only as good as it is because it has you all working for it. It’s not the other way around.”

This statement is something that I hold dear and as an ethos it is one of the key factors that attracted me to Carter Jonas. I’m proud to say that we hold our employees in the same high regard that we hold our clients. We recognise that the people who deliver the service are key to a successful business and good people are a precious commodity. This is one of the reasons that we invest so heavily in our graduate scheme and apprenticeship programme. As a firm we face the same challenge as any professional football club in attracting and retaining star players, but in the same way, we also look to recruit good people at the start of their careers to grow and nurture the potential stars of tomorrow.

To qualify as a chartered surveyor graduates must pass the Assessment of Professional Competence, the dreaded APC. Twice a year the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) gather panels of ‘assessors’ who interview the candidates after, generally, an initial two years of on-the-job training. Over the course of the hour, the hopefuls will be grilled on their professional knowledge, experience and ethics. It can be brutal, as it is an oral exam there is nowhere to hide, and there is no escape until the hour is up.

I know from bitter experience how tough it is to pass without support from experienced colleagues and a structured training programme. As a consequence, once I finally achieved my letters I have endeavoured to help those at the beginning of their careers, so they don’t have to go through the anguish of a referral. I am proud to say the training and support programme at Carter Jonas is one of the best of any firm I have worked for.

Trainee surveyors in the main hub offices rotate through a series of placements in different teams in order to give them as wide a range of experience as possible. As well as being supported throughout this process, in the run up to the final test they are provided with tailored guidance and advice on how to present to the panel. This process includes mock interviews and constructive feedback to help ensure they are fully prepped.

The resultant pass rate amongst our commercial surveying graduates is much higher than the 65% national average, consistently above 90%. But success doesn’t come without effort, both Partners and trainees can spend hours together, over and above the four days a year of training courses we run.

The cost of our time is an investment in the future, for which the returns are not only rewarding but beneficial to our business. If graduates have a varied and interesting two years of rotation they are more likely to identify the path that they would like to pursue once qualified. Additionally, having been supported and valued throughout their training period, they’re far more likely to stay at Carter Jonas rather than walk away once qualified.

Our clients also recognise as a strength the firm’s commitment to training. Having recently been instructed by MEPC as letting agent for Silverstone Park, Roz Bird, Commercial Director at the Park cited our investment in recruitment and our graduates, as well as our efforts to attract more women into the property industry, as one of the key factors that secured our appointment. The consideration for equality and diversity within their workforce makes business sense to MEPC.

Finally, along with all of the good business reasons in doing what we do, there’s no denying the buzz that we get from hearing our graduates say “I passed!” It’s the same sense of pride one feels after taking the stabilisers off a toddler’s bike and watching them wobble a bit, straighten up and then peddle nonchalantly off into the future.

This year the Oxford team has welcomed five new graduates: Georgia, James, Jamie, Sophie and Samuel, and I wish them every success as they continue on their journey to professional qualification.

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