New infrastructure will be the biggest challenge facing all economies in the next 20 years and an increasingly diverse profession of chartered surveyors will be needed to solve it. “The world needs to invest as much in infrastructure over the next 18 years as it has invested in infrastructure today,” says Sean Tompkins, Chief Executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). “Chartered surveyors will be critical to shaping this new world but these new challenges require a new level of thought diversity, which means building a more diverse profession.”
At present chartered surveying is largely white, male and middle class. In the UK just 13% of chartered surveyors are female and while that rises to 28% among students and trainees, it still leaves chartered surveying trailing behind professions like law, where 47% of solicitors are female, and accountancy, where 44% of full-time accountants are women.
“This has to change. Organisations within the industry recognise that greater diversity of thought is likely to be their biggest business advantage in the future. One of the problems is that influencers, such as teachers, parents and careers advisors are not aware of the broad range of surveying careers. They think it is limited to the construction industry and they tend only to suggest that to boys,” says Tompkins.
As the CEO of the world’s largest professional body which sets and enforces standards across land, property, infrastructure and construction, Sean believes industry must engage with schools to foster enthusiasm among young people.
“Young people need to know that chartered surveyors can literally help shape the future, and that it is an international career, because the RICS designation is recognised globally” says Tompkins.
Tompkins is keen to see more women and minorities get into the pipeline towards board level, which is what RICS’ new campaign, ‘Surveying the Future’, aims to tackle.
Surveying for the Future will also encourage companies to offer mentoring and coaching.
“In the last few years we have seen more organisations striving to make more talented people available for selection for higher management. We need to discuss how to remove barriers that may, in some cases, have been erected by the candidates themselves.”
RICS already offers a variety of ways to swap into the profession, making it an option for people who want to change careers. “There is a significant and growing demand for chartered surveyors and the new entrants need not be limited to young people with surveying degrees,” says Tompkins. “We are opening and encouraging people without surveying degrees to swap into the industry.”
Female role models can help. The election of Louise Brooke-Smith as the next and first female RICS President should help to shatter stereotypes. Brooke-Smith is Managing Director of Birmingham-based planning and development consultancy, Brooke Smith Planning, and a previous regional
Chairwoman of Women in Property. Above all, our profession needs a greater diversity of talent to help it grow, and RICS is taking action to make that happen.
Name: Louise Petersen Age: 40
Employer: Petersen Associates Ltd
Role: Director of Petersen Associates Ltd
‘Surveying certainly wasn’t something that ran in my family. However, I think it was my parents’ influence that sparked my initial interest in surveying as a potential career. As I come from a farming background, I was brought up to have an interest in land and property. In fact, as a child, I remember when my parents sold some land for development and the process they had to go through to secure the eventual deal really fascinated me. I think this really influenced my career decisions in later life.
‘Geography, in particular the study of urban spaces, was one of my favourite subjects at school. Taking this further I eventually began studying Land Management at De Montfort University, Leicester, before starting a graduate placement with a large organisation where I completed my APC and went on to become an Estates Manager.
‘The skills I’ve developed as a surveyor have really opened up a world of opportunity to me. For instance a large part of my career saw me travelling all over Europe as the leader of a European property team with a large international property company. What’s more, my skills have also allowed me to set up a company which specialises in high quality property management across the UK. I absolutely love being my own boss and the flexibility it brings.
“Anyone with a passion for meeting and working with different people from all professions and walks of life will really get a great deal out of the surveying industry”.
As the director of my own company, no two days are ever the same. One minute I can be planning company budgets, the next I can be helping the tenants I look after to solve problems in their office space.
By encouraging the creation of a diverse workforce, the industry will almost certainly become richer in terms of its skills base and overall ability to solve the problems each and every organisation is faced with on a daily basis.’
Name: Kate Corrigan Age: 32
Employer: Turner & Townsend
Role: Director, Infrastructure
‘Surveying wasn’t something I’d initially had in mind when considering my future career plans. In fact, my interest in the built environment came about as the result of the trips I made into the City Centre of Birmingham, where I was studying for a degree in Mathematical Sciences at Birmingham University. Having seen the redevelopment of the area – especially the Bullring and its surroundings – I was really inspired to find out how I could become a part of the industry.
‘I’m currently a Director in Turner & Townsend’s Infrastructure Department, which sees me drawing on a wide variety of the skills I’ve gained as a Chartered Surveyor. On a day-to-day basis I’ll be advising on the management of contracts, managing project costs, seeking efficiencies, undertaking tender evaluations, procuring contracts and mentoring graduates and RICS APC candidates. It’s certainly a very varied role and one which sees me dealing with a huge number of people from different disciplines and roles.
‘What’s more I get a real sense of pride when I think about some of the past and present projects I’m working on. Although surveying isn’t always glamorous, we really do make a huge impact on the built environment that surrounds each and every one of us. For instance, I’m currently working on the Thames Tideway Tunnel programme which will be a vital part of London’s infrastructure for generations to come. In terms of industry diversity, businesses need to be pro-actively engaging and developing strategies to people from all areas bringing more women, as well as other diverse groups into the industry.
“This needs to be at a graduate level, and also at the middle and senior management levels too. By doing this we can ensure, that as an industry, we can improve and enhance our performance.”
What’s more the encouragement of greater diversity will drive innovation, which can only be a positive. After all, if everyone thought and acted the same, then the industry would become a very dull and stagnant place to work.’
Find your role in the industry visit: rics.org/uk/the-profession and follow the conversation on Twitter #SurveyingtheFuture