First Built Environment experience
The year was 1982 and the UK economy was still struggling under Margaret Thatcher so the jobs market wasn’t exactly booming.
I applied for various jobs and was successful in applying to become a Trainee Surveyor at the Open University in its Estates Division in Milton Keynes.
I worked in a drawing office dealing with minor works such as pathways and landscaping features. The job required basic skills but it chimed with my interest in the wider environment around us.
After 12 months, I returned to Bristol to work for BT and began my career in IT utilising my computer skills and later going on to train people. My career in IT saw me work in the UK and in Canada and I worked with a wide variety of people which gave me a good grounding in knowing how to work with all manner of different characters.
I worked in IT for 25 years but felt there was unfinished business in the Built Environment, harking back to my time in Milton Keynes.
Moving back into the Built Environment sector, I felt architectural technology was the best match for my skills with the dual function of being creative and finding solutions.
I enrolled at the University of West London (UWL) onto the Architectural Technology course. I was 44 at the time so I can relate to any student returning to higher education to gain the skills needed for a career change.
My Course Leader was Paul Fitchett who is now a Tutor at UCEM so it was nice to see at least one friendly face when I joined the institution!
The degree was very informative and I really enjoyed it. I graduated in 2011 which, in a gnawingly familiar twist of fate, was a time of recession in this country and echoed the difficult job market I entered in 1982. Once again, jobs were hard to come by but fortunately, I was offered a part-time teaching role at my alma mater.
Move into academia
UWL was short on staff and felt I possessed the requisite skills to do the job. I ended up doing seven hours’ teaching on my first day! I was teaching to roughly 25 people and delivered a session on health and safety in the morning and a lecture on professional development skills in the afternoon. By the end, I was hoarse and had no voice left!
I was thrown in at the deep end and I learnt a lot in that first year of teaching, from academic rigour to assignments and exams to marking and feedback. I have stayed in academia ever since and find it an always-interesting environment to work in.
Whilst at UWL, I became an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy which enabled me to become a lecturer. I also gained a certificate in personal and professional development. I was then offered the chance to study for a PhD and for this, I had to do a postgraduate certificate in research where I looked at research methodologies and understanding what research is all about. I have started a PhD on thermal analysis simulation which involves adapting 1930s buildings for both heat retention and cooling in a warming climate.
I have learnt as much from the students as they have learnt from me. At the moment, I am involved in a lot of project work – marking and overseeing it – and I get a kick out of that. It’s very much a two-way relationship with the students – developing a conversation and understanding each other’s point of view.
There are all sorts of opportunities within building surveying. The profession is changing all the time so if you are willing to learn, we can help you. For example, the use of drones is one area which is developing at a fast rate. Their use in building surveying potentially means surveyors won’t have to go out on site visits but can interpret multiple surveys from their office location fed back by on-site drone operators. There’s a vision of the future for you!
Change is a constant in building surveying and if you like challenging yourself in a fast-paced environment then our BSc (Hons) Building Surveying programme can launch your career, or consolidate your skills, within the profession.
Jon is a graduate in Architectural Technology from the University of West London (UWL) and continues to study there for his PhD in ‘Sustainable Built Environments’. Jon has worked in academia since graduating in 2011, having previously worked in the private sector for more than 25 years. Jon also gained a postgraduate certificate in research and is passionate about doing the best for his students. For more about the BSc (Hons) Building Surveying programme, click here.