Taking the first step in a career in building control

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To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Charlotte Turner shares her experience as a building control apprentice on Assent’s Degree Apprenticeship programme

Charlotte onboarded to Assent’s Degree Apprenticeship programme in September 2020. From a young age, Charlotte knew she wanted a career in construction and found that the opportunities in building control to be an ideal fit for her. Through her apprenticeship, Charlotte is able to study her BSc (Hons) degree in building control at University College of Estate Management (UCEM), at the same time as working for a professional building control company.

How did you first learn about Assent’s Degree Apprenticeship programme?

I first came across the opportunity online, which prompted me to attend an open evening for degree apprenticeships at Sheffield Hallam University. Once I was there, I got to speak with Jane Keely who is a director at Assent. She talked me through what a typical day looks like for a building control professional, and that was when I knew this was the career for me. As someone who thrives in a fast-paced work environment, learning new skills and interacting with different people, the role of an Approved Inspector ticked every box for me.

What has your experience of an apprenticeship been like so far?

My time as a building control apprentice has been extremely rewarding so far – I’ve loved every moment of it! Within my first week, I was accompanying a senior surveyor on site, where I got to see first-hand the importance and responsibility building control surveyors have. I love that I’m developing a wide range of technical knowledge which is constantly evolving as I progress further with my training.

I spent my first semester of university studying Law and People and Organisational Management which helped me to understand some of the legal aspects in construction, as well as studying how an organisation manages effectively. Now I’m looking forward to the Construction Technology and the independent design-based modules, which I think will help with critical and innovative thinking. I’ve also been able to start carrying out inspections independently which has given me confidence in writing my own site reports and building valuable relationships with clients.

What have you found most challenging about your first role in building control?

Of course, being a woman stepping onto a construction site is challenging in its own way. Particularly when dealing with builders that haven’t always been used to seeing female building control officers, so it can be tricky for them to take me seriously in the role. Often people will underestimate my abilities because of this and assume that I don’t know the answer to certain queries. This is something that I know I will be able to overcome over time, but it’s also something that the construction sector needs to facilitate change in, to help attract more women to the industry.

Often people don’t know the difference between a building inspector and a building control surveyor and that can prove to be challenging. Sometimes when we do a site visit, people get confused about what the role of building control is, this leads to them asking questions that don’t actually come under my remit. For example, they might ask me something to do with planning or materials.

What attracted you to a role in construction?

I had my heart set on a career in construction from a young age. All of my family work in construction which is what led to my love for architecture and design. I get a buzz off exploring how buildings are designed, created and composed. I think there are so many valuable opportunities for young people to go into a career in construction, and I hope that by sharing my experience I can inspire others to pursue this career path, the same way Jane did for me.

What do you like best about working for Assent?

As I said, I am deeply interested in the construction process and love being a part of a project from start to finish. Working for Assent allows me to see how projects are carried out, from plan to construction and to the end result. Because Assent is a private-sector business, it enables me to become a core part of the team throughout the build processes, providing the client with a much more customer-centric approach, as opposed to just coming in at the end of a project to sign it off. It’s a journey that I get to play a fundamental part in.

What is a typical day for a building control apprentice?

In the morning, I’m usually carrying out site-visits – this can be anything, from a domestic extension to a school, warehouse or office building, accompanied by a senior surveyor. Then, I spend my afternoons completing any project administration, checking plans, arranging future inspections, and continuing with my studies. While it may sound formulaic, every day is different with new problems to solve and skills to learn. That’s what I love so much about it!

What are your next steps beyond your apprenticeship?

The great thing about this apprenticeship is that it gives me a fast-track route to the building control industry. Once I complete it, I will be fully qualified and ready to ready to apply for chartership with RICS. I’m so excited to take the next step in a career that allows me to work with a range of different people, that allows me to constantly build on my knowledge and that gives me the opportunity to positively impact society as a whole. I hope that further down my career I can inspire other young people, particularly young women and girls, to consider a career in this industry.

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