Property industry steps up to capture more talent

28 Aug 2018

Published in Estates Gazette this week, our Chief Executive Melanie Leech discusses diversity in the industry, and how the sector is making great efforts to reach out to a wider range of young people.

Over the past few weeks, GCSE and A-level students have opened their results envelopes, and those doing diplomas and technical qualifications have jumped another hurdle on their journey. Students who have completed their degrees are able to dress up in anachronistic finery and shake hands with whichever luminary is presenting their certifications.

These young people, who have often not yet begun their working lives, are bursting with creative energy. The world is very much their oyster – and they have high hopes and expectations for their working lives ahead. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: how many of them know about what the property industry can offer, and how can we attract their skills?

While (I would hope) we are seen as a respected industry and as operating in a highly professional way, we don’t quite have the same “brand recognition” as medicine, law or accountancy.

To some extent, the reasons for this are clear: the commercial property industry is inherently less public-facing, and most people will pass their lives without having direct contact with many parts of our sector, even as they live, work and relax in the places that we have built. If asked for an instant reaction to “the property industry”, the common thing might be either to think of an estate agent or of a rental experience that often left a lot to be desired.

Best and brightest

However, we are an industry that offers a much broader range of careers and one that wants and needs the best and brightest; and we provide opportunity for such people to stretch themselves, to learn continuously, and to make their mark on the world.

It’s up to us to ensure that young people from a wide range of backgrounds know our door is open to them – something I think we all know has not necessarily been true in the past.

There are many people and organisations striving to change the current state of affairs. Businesses in our sector are making great efforts to reach out to a wider range of young people and to provide new entry points and ways of building a career in property.

Pathways to Property is an excellent example of how the industry can work collectively in partnership with academia and the third sector. Through the work of the Reading Real Estate Foundation, 16- and 17-year-olds from state schools participate in a summer programme at Henley Business School at the University of Reading. They get the chance to meet, learn from, and present to those at the apex of their careers. Soon we will see the first crop of Pathways students graduate from university, many already committed to a career in real estate.
There is more to be done, though, and the British Property Federation has every intention of rising to the challenge. The first of a series of BPF best-practice guides will be published next month, with a focus on socio-economic diversity. In it, we identify the most-effective ways companies can promote our industry to those who would never traditionally consider it an option.

After all, we are an industry that serves all sections of society. We can’t do this well if we don’t have all sections of society represented within our ranks