Currie & Brown made the decision to launch an apprenticeship scheme in order to tackle the skills shortage that is currently so endemic across the built environment sector. For Currie & Brown, bringing in young talent is a fundamental part of our growth strategy, and complements our ‘best in class’ APC programme, whereby we recruit circa 25 cognate and non-cognate graduates each year.
We partner with the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) to attract and train ten apprentices each year. We provide each apprentice with the appropriate support and development to further their professional career within our organisation. UCEM is a leading provider of supported online education for the built environment, with nearly 100 years’ experience in delivering the highest quality learning opportunities for the industry, and is now the largest provider of apprenticeship training for surveyors.
We achieve this in a variety of ways. All apprentices work across a variety of different departments during their two-year apprenticeship with us. This not only gives them exposure to different ways of working, but also allows them to gain new skills and to start to build the network which will be important throughout their career. To support this steep learning curve, we provide bi-monthly training sessions with an external consultant, in areas such as self-confidence, communication skills, report writing and other elements that complement their on-the-job learning. A formal business mentor is on hand to offer guidance and help whenever the apprentice wants someone to speak to. Having a support network is key for staff who are new to the working environment, and this is why we assign an ‘apprenticeship mentor’ – an individual close to their own age, with whom they can confidentially discuss any problem or concern.
The apprenticeship is only the start of a career with Currie & Brown, as we map out from day one an eight-year programme to achieving chartership. Having this visibility of the future helps an apprentice to understand our expectations, and also to set themselves realistic and achievable goals. We provide every apprentice with a document outlining the competencies we expect them to achieve as they move through the organisation. This is used in their own development planning, with managers and mentors, to assess how they are progressing.
All of this is part of an approach to treat the apprentices as the highly valued employees they are. From day one we give them access to our excellent benefits, such as a company pension scheme, annual RICS subscription, an annual healthy living subsidy of £400, a commitment to being paid the living wage and a twice-yearly pay increase!
This apprenticeship scheme saw us recognised as a ‘Top 100 apprentice employer’ by the National Apprenticeship Service
We believe there has never been a better time to invest heavily in apprentices. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy, although much maligned in some quarters, means there is genuine commercial benefit in developing apprentices, as the training is now fully funded. The business case is not purely commercial, however. The switch from frameworks-based to standards-based apprenticeships, means that course content is now designed in conjunction with employers and, therefore, has never been so relevant. The result is that the learning itself is bespoke to the needs of the industry, and we see apprentices far better equipped for the challenges of a multi-faceted and changing business such as ours.
The number of individuals considering apprenticeships continues to rise year-on-year. We have the chance to persuade young people in schools and colleges that a career in the built environment is one that deserves consideration. We are now attracting a broad and diverse range of applicants.
For Currie & Brown this presents a compelling business case to invest in young people, recognising the advantages this provides our long-term business strategy.