From building enthusiast to real estate professional

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: Dontae Francois

Job role: Junior Flexible Office Consultant

Company: Workthere

Category: Rising Star

For some people, a career in property is something they discover later in life – but not for Dontae. “My passion for property started from the beginning,” he explains. “I’ve just always been fascinated by buildings, but my career in the built environment really got going when I was in college and I was thinking about what route I wanted to take.”

During discussions with his career advisor, Dontae realised the traditional university route was not for him, and he started looking into apprenticeships. “I just started searching for all kinds of apprenticeships in property, but although I got to the final rounds in a lot of them, nothing came through initially.”

After a stint in retail, where Dontae learned some valuable sales and people skills, he renewed his search for a real estate apprenticeship. Once again, he reached the final stages without being selected.

However, a manager of an apprenticeship scheme later contacted Dontae to inform him he’d achieved one of the highest scores in his group, and offered to refer him to Workthere (powered by Savills). “Lo and behold they offered me an apprenticeship and it was actually higher than the one I originally went for, because that one was a Level 3 and this one was a Level 6!”. Dontae’s perseverance had paid off.

Dontae is finding the online teaching at UCEM to be a good fit with his natural learning style: “It’s all laid out and structured for you. It’s broken down into weeks so you can pick a particular topic, work on that, and then come back to it later if there’s anything you need to go over. If it was in an actual lecture hall where I was sitting with 60 or 70 other students, they’d just be blitzing through everything and I wouldn’t be able to touch back on areas that I didn’t understand the first time.”

The availability of tutors is another plus point that Dontae is keen to emphasise: “Knowing that I’ve got that safety net of being able to contact the tutors when I need help is great. And they’re really great at sending us emails when deadlines are coming up – that can be really helpful!”

Dontae is enjoying the opportunity to apply what he’s learning on his apprenticeship to his role at Workthere. “I got to see one of the spaces called Templar House while it was being built. It was amazing to learn about the construction side of real estate, like what type of materials they were using, and what processes they were following. Thanks to what I’m learning on the course, I was able to talk to the construction team and understand what they were doing.”

Dontae has been nominated for the Rising Star award this National Apprenticeship Week: “It means a lot to be recognised for this award in the industry I’ve always had a passion for. It’s a great feeling to know my team and the wider business appreciate my efforts.”

Visit the awards webpage >