Rufus Ashley, one of our talented senior building surveyors at Tetra Tech, has achieved Chartership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). We interviewed him to ask about the process for completing the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).
Like many, Rufus completed his undergraduate with an air of uncertainty. He graduated in business. He just couldn’t see his career in it. By happenchance, he picked up work as a letting agent renting out houses. Some aspects of it never appealed to him, but what did was solving problems that inevitably cropped up in houses. Some houses were too cold, some way too hot, others had damp, etc.
Perhaps it was trivial to note, but those differences fascinated him.
“Sometimes, I’d get involved in doing one up, and it was interesting to see how things could change from house to house, how you could get good value for money, and how much better the end result would be for tenants once you’d finally done the new kitchen or whatever it was,” Rufus said.
After spending time around building surveyors on the job, Rufus saw a career path he never even considered before: “As with loads of jobs, you don’t even realise it exists when you’re at school.”
How did you sign up to become a chartered member of RICS?
To start that process, you need a degree certified by them. Since Kingston University has a RICS-certified master’s programme, that allowed me to start the APC process after joining Tetra Tech in 2015. Then it was 48 hours of continued professional development (CPD) a year, working towards showing I had the right competency in different areas.
What competencies does the APC programme teach you?
The programme prepares you for properly responding to a client. They might tell you “I’ve got this building, I know there’s something wrong with it, and I want to make improvements, but where do I start?” You advise them on potential solutions.
There are other things you learn too, like GDPR, anti-bribery laws, professional indemnity insurance, CPD schemes, complaints handling procedures, etc. But you also learn about legal compliance, like building regulations, fire, the equality act, or disabled access, which you need to understand if you’re advising a client. The variety is something I enjoy a lot.
What is the process like?
There are three competency levels you must reach: Level 1 means you know the theory; Level 2 says you’ve done it; Level 3 means you’ve done it to a high standard and advised the client. But the process isn’t tied to a rigid syllabus where you must know ‘these 10 specific things.’
There’s a schedule: you meet with a senior mentor from within the business about getting competencies ticked off. One of them I had to do was teamwork, a Level 1 competency, but some are more difficult, so you start with the easy ones, then move to the next level.
At the end, you do a case study and present a report on a past project. Then in an interview, you answer questions pertaining to competencies you need to have reached. Before that, you do mock assessments with your mentor as if you’re sitting before a real judging panel.
Many of the competencies can’t be reached without relevant experience, so the building surveying management at Tetra Tech tasked me with work to build my experience in the required areas. We have an APC Pathway Training Platform that provides the framework for development of candidates over 24 months and includes a range of study packs for candidates to work through alongside gaining experience through their work activities. I will probably draw on it for the rest of my career.
What was the biggest appeal of pursuing the chartership?
It’s like the saying, ‘the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.’ You find an area you think you know a lot about, but then you learn there’s a whole extra section you never knew about. One of the main things I learned was to know the limits of your knowledge and where to look for more information when you need it.
How do your clients benefit from your chartership?
With chartership, you could be sent somewhere to do a job from start to finish, and you know what to do. The benefit to the client is they know you’re bound by RICS rules. It’s like an insurance for them of getting someone who knows what they’re doing.
How have you benefitted from chartership?
The APC teaches you to consider why you’re doing things. When I started, my drive was always, ‘go here, do this, report back.’ And you just do it. You don’t think about ‘‘what research do I need to do’ or ‘do I have the expertise the client requires’?’ The assessment makes you think more about finding easier ways to bring greater value to clients. It made me more interested in the details, and that’s good for everyone in the long run.
To learn more about the APC route to RICS membership, visit https://www.ricssbe.org/programs/advantage-rics-sbe/become-chartered-