Social mobility and the career ladder
Is the world of work becoming less fair, especially for younger generations? Dr Andrew Knight of Nottingham Trent University explores the job market.
2 APR 2019
Meet Rider Levett Bucknall associate quantity surveyor Laura Collins MRICS, the RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year, 2018.
Laura Collins MRICS has crammed more into seven brief years as a chartered surveyor than she could ever have dreamed. Not least because she had absolutely no idea which career direction to take when she finished school.
“But one day,” she explains, “my mother was on a flight when she got into conversation with a recruitment agent specialising in quantity surveying, who suggested I look into the profession.” It was a chance encounter that would change her life. “Because of that advice, I entered surveying as an apprentice when I was 18. I became chartered five years later.”
Since then, Collins’ career has flown along at lightning speed, resulting in her being named RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year for 2018. This award recognises not only a young professional’s success in their role and sector, but also their unwavering commitment to inspire the next generation and improve the wider industry and profession.
I find it fascinating to see how other countries and cultures approach construction, and to expand my knowledge and experience.
Laura Collins MRICS
Rider Levett Bucknall
By the age of 27, Collins had become the youngest person ever to be promoted to associate director at the construction company Mace. In 2017, she joined Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), where she remains as an associate mechanical and electrical (M&E) quantity surveyor. Her recent successes include helping to deliver the landmark Salesforce Tower in London, and her reputation has led to global clients asking to work with her specifically.
“I guess it’s because they know I love getting involved in complex projects,” she says. “For example, I’m currently lead consultant on a major office project in Amsterdam for an Australian client, whose chief financial officer is based in Hong Kong. So most days I’m liaising with multiple people across four time zones. It’s tough, but I really enjoy it. I’m not content to sit in the office making costs plans all day – I like getting out into the world and into the nitty gritty of M&E quantity surveying work. I find it fascinating to see how other countries and cultures approach construction, and to expand my knowledge and experience.”
When it came to the RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year Awards, the judges were impressed by Collins’ commitment to attracting and retaining diverse talent in the industry; her work as a mentor, encouraging colleagues to progress their careers; her influential role on RLB’s Futures Board; and her work with the Prince’s Trust to help introduce a wider range of disadvantaged people to the sector.
Uwais Paderwala joined Gardiner & Theobald as an apprentice in 2011. After gaining a first-class degree and passing his APC, he became RICS’ youngest-ever qualified chartered surveyor.
Although Paderwala is still in his early 20s, senior members of Gardiner & Theobald have confidence in him to lead client meetings and deal with the daily running of projects.
He is now keen to share his experience of apprenticeship with the next generation of surveyors. He often gives presentations and has also championed the apprenticeship programme at industry events.
In her capacity as a member of the RLB Futures Board, she attended last year’s RICS Construction Conference, providing suggestions on how the profession can increase diversity and raise the number of women in the industry. She is passionate about helping to shape the next generation of surveyors, and works to promote ways to make the future of quantity surveying more innovative and efficient.
“Last January, I founded an M&E academy within RLB,” says Collins, “and we now have six apprentices, all school leavers, working with the team. In June, we hope to partner with other firms across surveying, architecture and engineering, to offer two-week training periods where GCSE students can gain even greater insight into the lifecycle of construction projects.”
In 2017, Collins returned to work from maternity leave, and she says she is working harder since having her daughter than ever before. “But it’s all worth it, as she is my inspiration. I want to do all I can to show girls and young women that the construction industry can be a fantastic career choice for them, particularly if they are able to get great support from firms such as RLB, who have offered me flexible working options as a young mother.
“It’s certainly not easy, balancing busy work and raising a child, but having that support allows me to flourish in my career, and helps me give something back to the firm. I have friends in other lines of work who find it so restrictive to juggle a career and a family, but I think our industry is really getting ahead of the game.”
Collins was one of the youngest chartered surveyors in the world at the age of 23. Now, at 31, she has her sights set on becoming one of the youngest Fellows of RICS. “I’m part of the Women in Surveying: MRICS to FRICS group,” she says. “Later this year, I’m planning on applying for my fellowship. We’ll see how it goes – it would be an incredible honour to be recognised by RICS at that level.”
The head of the awards judging panel, Anna Keys MRICS of Calfordseaden and chair of the RICS UK Matrics Board, said: “Laura is an exemplary professional who is ambitious, astute and a fantastic role model. Her drive and determination to succeed and to do the best work is impressive and admirable. I hope her quick career progression and commitment to inspiring the next generation demonstrates to others just what can be achieved in our industry in a short space of time with motivation and initiative.”
This article originally appeared in the Good Issue of Modus (April 2019), titled Fast out of the Blocks.