Back to UCEM for a Master’s after 20 years

Posted on: 8 February, 2024

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we’re profiling each of the shortlisters from this year’s UCEM Built Environment Apprenticeship Awards.


Name: Leanne Conroy

Job role: Surveyor

Company: Vail Williams

Category: Rising Star

Leanne recently entered her 40s, but she’s been in the property industry since she joined a firm of commercial surveyors as an office junior aged 17: “I quickly learned that property is a really interesting field to work in.”

Without A-levels, Leanne couldn’t see a clear path to the APC, but when she was 23, she enrolled on a Diploma in Surveying Practice at UCEM. “The plan was to do my Diploma, then the degree so I could do the APC, but once I got married and had my second child, with a husband away a lot in the Navy, I needed a less pressured role. I remained at Vail Williams (who I’m still with today), but my surveying career took a bit of a break as I took on a more administrative role for a few years”.

By last year, Leanne’s husband had taken a more shore-based job within the Navy – “it works perfectly because although the children are a bit older, he is on hand for school runs and dinners!”. The time seemed right for Leanne to start pursuing her goal of becoming a chartered surveyor. She spoke with the development team at Vail Williams, and they suggested enrolling her on a Master’s degree apprenticeship at UCEM.

“I’d never even heard of apprenticeships for people like me”, says Leanne. “I just thought they were for people straight out of school.” However, learning that apprenticeships come with a legally required study day was a game-changer for Leanne: “When I did my Diploma, I was working full-time and having to fit my studying around that, which was challenging even without kids, but with the apprenticeship, your employer has to give you a study day each week. That makes it manageable.”

Leanne is in a unique position of being able to compare UCEM’s teaching models from the past and present: “20-odd years ago you used to have to come into the university once or twice a month for face-to-face lectures or tutor meetings, but now everything’s at the click of a button. That makes it so much easier for me now, with work and kids, being able to do the whole thing online.” She also comments that while there was a portal to contact tutors in the early 2000s, “it’s so much more advanced now”.

Leanne is “really touched” to be nominated for the Rising Star award. “I really didn’t expect it. You hear the word ‘apprentice’ and you think of a ‘young gun coming through the ranks’, so it’s really lovely to be recognised as a mature student who’s juggling work, kids, and study.”

Visit the awards webpage >