Graduates in Construction: Building on Successful Third Year Placement

Rob Badham
I became a building surveyor after several years as a carpenter. I’m based in Faithful+Gould’s Bristol office.

I arrived at my building surveyor career via a circuitous route, chalking up plenty of varied experiences along the way. As a keen rugby player I’d done a sports national certificate course after GCSEs. I wasn’t sure what to do next, but I’d enjoyed woodwork at school, so when a local carpenter suggested a carpentry apprenticeship I decided to go for it, enrolling at Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest. During my third year of carpentry, I started the HNC in construction management, at my tutor’s suggestion.

Carpentry gave me really good site experience, from large commercial sites to smaller domestic work. However I wanted to take my education further and the two-year HNC in construction management helped me to move forward and to work out what I really wanted to do. I explored a few degree courses, but building surveying appealed the most, with its on-site and office-based mix.

I chose the University of the West of England (UWE) and moved to Bristol with my partner. University was quite easy compared to life as a carpenter! I was used to early starts, long days and hard graft. I was older than average – 24 when I started the course – but I fitted in and enjoyed it all.

I’d heard of the Atkins group, so when I discovered the Faithful+Gould opportunity on our university portal, I immediately sent my CV.

The third year was an industry placement and I was keen to connect with a large business. I’d heard of the Atkins group, so when I discovered the Faithful+Gould opportunity on our university portal, I immediately sent my CV. I was asked to do online maths and comprehension tests – the maths was fine but the comprehension was unexpectedly tricky. Next step was a phone interview with HR, followed by a face-to-face interview with Faithful+Gould’s regional head of building surveying and my future line manager.

The second interview focused on finding out what experience I had, how I handled problems and what I was interested in. My carpentry background was very useful as I could draw on my site experience. We also talked about my construction technology experience – I had used CAD as a carpenter.

I’d recommend careful preparation for the placement/graduate selection process. Obviously not everyone will have had years of experience already, but figuring out what you gained and learned from any experience will stand you in good stead. You could spend the first year summer holiday working in something building related – maybe a contractor or a building surveying firm. You can then refer to examples from this work during your interviews.

I was offered the placement and my 16 months at Faithful+Gould in Bristol went well. I worked on lots of different projects, including Post Office Ltd, Royal Mail Group, Ministry of Defence, Modern Housing Solutions, BAE Filton (Bristol) and BAE Broad Oak (Portsmouth), and schools for Rhondda Cynon Taff Council. Colleagues were very friendly and helpful and I learned something new every day.

I returned to Faithful+Gould in 2014 after graduating and quickly settled back into the same team as before...

Before the end of the placement, my line manager suggested I apply for the graduate development programme and I didn’t hesitate. I returned to Faithful+Gould in 2014 after graduating and quickly settled back into the same team as before, with the same line manager. It felt very motivating to work with these inspiring people again. The Atkins graduate induction at the Park Hotel, Heathrow, introduced me to colleagues in the wider group and got us all off to a great start.

Back at the Bristol office, this time I could hit the ground running, and make a contribution more quickly. I’m now getting plenty of varied experience, attending client meetings, and taking on increasing responsibility in the building surveying team. The past year has again provided me with varied project experience, including University UWE’s Glenside Campus, Royal Mail Group, Interserve, and schools projects for Somerset County Council.

Faithful+Gould is very supportive of my progress. I find that the more proactive I am, and the more I contribute, the more help I’m given. This extends to the APC, where there’s a structured process for covering the necessary competencies. We have a study group of building surveyors, quantity surveyors and project managers, meeting up to practise exam question responses. This shares the load, and it’s very useful to get the perspective of those other disciplines too.

Faithful+Gould is very supportive of my progress. I find that the more proactive I am, and the more I contribute, the more help I’m given.

Becoming chartered is my big focus for the immediate future. I expect to complete the APC in 2017, after making an early start on my APC diary during my placement year. Right now I’m getting as much experience as possible, and improving my knowledge base. I love being a building surveyor. I feel I’ve come a long way from my days as a carpenter, and I use my head more than my hands these days, but I really value that early experience as an important part of my journey.