From admin assistant to trainee building surveyor

Posted on: 7 February, 2024

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


Name: Sophie Ollerton

Job role: Trainee Building Surveyor

Company: HWM Surveyors

Category: Apprentice of the Year (Undergraduate)

Before Sophie joined HWM Surveyors as an admin assistant, she “didn’t even know what a surveyor was”. She certainly never expected to develop a strong interest in joining the profession herself – but that’s exactly what happened.

“I used to type up reports and dictations, that kind of thing, and when I was writing them I was really interested in the things they were describing – going into houses and looking at how they’re built.”

Sophie spoke to her director about her desire to learn more about building surveying, and they started looking into apprenticeships together. “It’s all funded by the Government so you don’t have to take on a load of student debt.”

Sophie is now in her final year of her building surveying degree apprenticeship at UCEM, and has found the experience has “really complemented” her role as a trainee building surveyor. “I’ve been working while I’ve been studying, getting out on site with our surveyors and doing reports with them. And on the studying side, there are lots of activities that are self-directed like taking a photo while you’re on site and explaining what it is. The tutors really encourage you to apply what you’ve learned each week to what you’re doing at work.”

Balancing work and studying is never easy at the best of times, but Sophie faced some additional challenges when events in her personal life demanded her attention. She credits the support team at UCEM with helping her stay on track and manage her workload: “I’ve got a support plan in place that includes extensions to some of my deadlines to make sure I can carry on and finish my degree. The support team always try to make it work because obviously everybody’s human, and things happen. But they’ve never once suggested I shouldn’t carry on – they’ve been a massive support for me when things have gone wrong.”

Sophie describes her nomination for Apprentice of the Year as “a standout moment”, adding that she “never thought all [her] hard work would pay off like this. My plan was never to go into surveying, but I’ve fallen into the industry and now I’m doing something that I absolutely love.”

Visit the awards webpage >