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'If I can do it, so can you': an APC journey

Roy Albert Quote (1) (cropped)

It was one of the proudest days of my life to receive a congratulatory email in May 2020 confirming I was now a chartered surveyor - but getting there was definitely not without its hurdles.

My name is Roy Albert and I come from a very small Caribbean island called Dominica - population around 76,000 and an area of 750km² (yes, I have worked out that the population could fit into Old Trafford football stadium!) Coming from such a small island makes me even prouder to call myself a Member of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The journey to getting chartered is a challenging one for most of us. For me, it included juggling work, study, my family and a brush with serious illness. Then along came Covid-19 which meant no chance of face-to-face mocks, and the prospect of an online final assessment.

I share this to show other people if I can do it, so can you - and what helped me along my way.

"It would be a long road"

I moved to the UK in 2002, at the age of 24, and first became involved in the property sector in 2004 as an administrative officer for the Rent Service, now part of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). I took every opportunity presented to me to further my knowledge in the built environment, beginning my journey by enrolling in the NVQ level 4 valuation course which led to my AssocRICS qualification in 2014.

Without an accredited degree to pursue becoming a chartered surveyor, I longed for the opportunity of an alternative route. Finally, the VOA advertised the chance to join an apprenticeship programme through the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust.

I jumped at the opportunity - with the understanding that it would be a long road.

The programme was new for the VOA and very testing for myself. Juggling work, family, a degree and the APC structured training was a challenge I'll never forget.

The first step was to get an accredited degree so I began my studies at the University College of Estate Management in 2015 with financial support from the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT).

The VO provided significant financial support as well as learning and emotional support. Just over 12 months into my degree I had a blip which meant I had to re-do some Maths and English exams because the ones I had done in the Caribbean were not recognised. Fortunately, I was able to do this swiftly without too much trouble.

"I was minutes from death"

My biggest test came in late 2016 when I was said to be just minutes away from a cardiac arrest whilst playing football. This came as a shock as I was healthy, sporty and very active - but my life was saved by those very facts. I was diagnosed with an underlying heart condition, and underwent surgery to fit an ICD.

I carried on with my studies and will always be grateful to UCEM who were there to support me if I chose to defer my learning. I completed one of my assignments at the hospital and passed.

I had moments of doubt where I wondered if I should be spending more time with my family and friends before my time ran out. I thought of my children and wondered whether I was making the right decision to continue my studies instead of maximising my time with them, even though they were actually the motivation for all this hard work. But my motto was "never quit": I wanted my children to know that I never gave up and thanks to the best medical assistance I ever imagined I was able to carry on pursuing my dream, finishing my degree and proudly graduating in December 2019 with a 2:1.

The most difficult period came from year two of my degree when I began preparing my APC structured training. Doing the two simultaneously was a test of greater commitment, planning, motivation, fortitude and - of course - plenty of procrastination. Adding APC to my work life, degree, family life and the social aspects of my life made it my biggest challenge.

My current role which includes statutory and Red Book valuations with the District Valuers (DVS) within the VOA was my final rotation in preparation for my APC.

There is not one 'right' way to approach the process, however, I kept my APC diary up to date and focussed on completing my degree before dedicating more time to the APC process.  Leading up to the case study preparation and getting my submission up to standard I relied on colleagues and friends to look over my submission.

"Covid-19 - a whole new hurdle"

The Covid-19 lockdown created a whole new hurdle which meant face to face mocks and Q&A were out of the question. The idea of an online final assessment was new to us all, but I had to swiftly adjust to the idea. I called on every friend and colleague to be my sounding board and I think I must have presented my case study over 100 times (this included Skype presentation to friends/ colleagues, to my bedroom mirror, bathroom mirror, my son, my daughter and my laptop video...) My plan was to get my case study nailed on just within 10 minutes, which I felt would get me in a good position for the rest of the interview if I had perfected that.

I found being part of various groups very helpful, including RICS Matrics, Property Elite, Surveyors Hub, and groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as regular visits to the RICS updates.

This will always by my advice to anyone on this path > Stay current and stay connected.

Whilst there were a number of hurdles to overcome, I promise nothing will feel sweeter than opening ARC or your email to see the words 'Congratulations, you have passed!'

Roy Albert MRICS is a dad-of-three and surveyor with the VOA, based in Bristol. He has signed up to become a LionHeart APC ambassador to pass on his experiences and insights to others on their APC journeys. 

  • Find out more about LionHeart's APC Support here

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