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Five minutes with... 12th June 2023

Having started at Workman in September 2018 via our Apprenticeship Scheme, Harry Blakes graduated with his BSc in Building Surveying from UCEM four years later. He is now preparing to sit the APC. 

What three words describe Workman?

Supportive, friendly, varied.

What was your key learning during your apprenticeship process?

The Apprenticeship process has allowed me to gain key industry knowledge at an early stage in my career versus the traditional route of going to university. Exposure to clients, undertaking surveys and projects – all while learning the background knowledge – has added to my skillset, enabling me to be very well prepared for the APC and competent in my job role.

Why do you think the apprenticeship approach is important for the industry as a whole, and why would you recommend it to others?

The scheme is important to fill the skills gap emerging in the surveying industry. While university would take multiple years before an individual can be employed in the industry, an apprenticeship allows the hiring of new surveyors who can immediately start contributing to their employer, their clients and the wider industry.

One of the most compelling reasons to undertake an apprenticeship is you can achieve a university degree while having no student debt, which is particularly relevant with the proposed changes to university funding.

How are you putting your newly developed skills to their best use at Workman? 

I’m currently utilising my skills in undertaking a project at the Boardwalk Shopping Centre in Port Solent, replacing the first-floor paving system with new porcelain tiles and rail support system. Managing the various stakeholders’ interests during the project has been challenging. Ensuring the scheme meets the design requirements of the centre, are cost effective, and undertaken efficiently all while ensuring means of escape and disabled access is maintained.

Tell us about your role within Building Surveying, and why this is important to the firm and its clients?

My role consists of undertaking and supporting on various instructions within the Bristol Building Consultancy department, advising our clients on their queries, surveys and projects relating to the built environment. I feel clients and the firm value and trust expertise which has been built up over numerous years of personal experience by the team.

How do you hope to develop your role in the coming months and years?

In the near future I will be submitting for the APC and sitting the interview shortly after. Hopefully after what will be five long years of studying, I can finally have my evenings and weekends back. Following the APC I’m looking forward to further progressing my career and have greater responsibilities within the firm.

What has been your standout moment at Workman so far?

Travelling to Italy to undertake a PPM survey of a retail property was a great experience. In the evenings we managed to sample the local cuisine and beverages, and once completing the survey, we also managed to spend some time exploring the country.

What more could the property industry be doing to ensure that progress is made within Building Surveying in general?

I feel a review of the requirement for a traditional degree should be undertaken and consideration into a more streamlined approach of signing off the competencies should be made. A tailored five-year APC process working towards each level-1 competency as part of a university module could’ve been much more beneficial in assisting the knowledge for the APC.

What change would you make to the wider property sector? And why?

I would like to see a greater representation of apprenticeships as a first choice, not just as an alternative to university, within schools. This is particularly applicable to the construction industry where the skills are largely experience based. From my experience, university was the promoted next step when leaving school, and without my own research I wouldn’t have discovered the opportunity to undertake a degree apprenticeship in the real estate sector.

It’s often said that fresh talent is the future of the property industry. In your experience as a relative newcomer to the industry, what are the most important aspects of coaching and developing younger staff?

The key to supporting young staff within firms and the industry is ensuring senior members of staff are always available to answer queries, no matter how small they may be. I feel having approachable colleagues has been a great asset in preparing for the APC.

What are your spare time pursuits and how do they feed into your role at Workman?

As my colleagues and friends will know, I regularly play rugby at a local club, Frampton Cotterell RFC. The ability to have something to focus on outside of work is great for relieving stress and provides a good topic to discuss at lunchtime in the office.

What is your favourite building worldwide and why?

My favourite is a group of buildings, Queen Square in the centre of Bristol. The area consists of a park surrounded by cobbled streets and Georgian properties. I’ve chosen it because it’s a beautiful area which includes historic architecture and is located in my hometown of Bristol.

What first led you into the property industry?

I decided that I didn’t want the student debt associated with going to university, so began exploring other options. As several my family members are involved in the property industry, I quickly began researching my options in this field, which lead me to an apprenticeship at Workman.

What podcast do you recommend?

My favourite podcast at the moment is The Wolf and Owl, hosted by Romesh Ranganathan and Tom Davies, which was actually recommended to me by another colleague called Harry. The podcast provides a good laugh on the way to a site visit or work, particularly some of Tom’s stories.

To find out more about our Apprenticeship Scheme, visit: