The concept of entering the jobs market is always a daunting affair for newly emerging graduates, keen to find themselves and an opportunity to excel beyond their wildest dreams. In fact the day-to-day challenges of seeking, securing and maintaining a professional career is a life-long complexity for everyone, but particularly acute for those from the BAME community.
It was during the November 2018, 150th Year anniversary celebrations, held at RICS HQ in Parliament Square, when DCS Chair and Founder, Bola Abisogun OBE FRICS was approached by Keith Agar FRICS, who sits on RICS Governing Council. Keith began to share the industry experiences of some of his previous students that had graduated and left, seeking 'entry-level' employment, as a BAME professional. Naturally the conversation grew and centred around some of the common themes, challenges and experiences, being voiced by some of his current students. Then came the outright question, which went something like “based on your own experience, would you mind coming upto Nottingham to have a chat with some of our BAME students?”. How could we say no? The mission statement at DiverseCity Surveyors refers to 'achieving' individual potential - and a key component of this pursuit is sharing and hearing the journey of other professionals, all of which remains an integral part of our commercial and socio-economic offer.
Fast forward to mid-March 2019. We arrive in Nottingham and prepare to deliver a conversation at Nottingham Trent University ‘NTU’, complimented by a visual aid exhibited via PowerPoint, giving context and perspective on what the UK property and construction industry could provide by way of cultural challenges and career opportunities.
On the whole, the audience, including the teaching staff present, were very receptive to and wholly appreciative of the insight into Bola’s journey post-grad, post-qualification and post-OBE. Rebecca Goodall MRICS, Senior Lecturer at NTU, commented “Thanks for your inspiring and insightful talk today. The students really benefit from seeing good role models, so your time was well spent, they loved you”. Great testimonies were also received from many of the students who engaged in the conversation.
The secret to any successful engagement is the relevance of the subject matter to the intended audience. In true market movement fashion, less than three weeks following the NTU discussion, Building Magazine published an article on 5 April 2019, which was almost verbatim. The article itself, see here, not only captured the sentiment of the discussion at NTU, but also demonstrated that when contrasted with another headlined article, produced by Building, back in May 1999 see here, it would confirm, rather regrettably, that very little, if anything, had changed in almost two decades. Some of the statistics quoted in the April 2019 survey were absolutely soul-destroying but the industry does, at last, finally recognise its myriad and multi-faceted failings towards this group of both experienced and emerging #nextgen talent.
Building Magazine reporter Will Ing, confirmed that “Black people and disabled people were also more than twice likely to have been discouraged from entering the industry, with almost one third from each category having been advised against construction.” Conscious bias was cited as being rife amongst industry leaders. Mary Pierre-Harvey, Oxford Brookes University’s first black female estates director went onto say “my experience is that line managers have attended training on diversity and inclusion because it was mandatory but that has not been enough to change their stereotypical views”.
In an environment fraught with uncertainty and indecision, the UK industry owes it to both fee paying clients and the available talent pool, both of whom desire to deliver the best projects in the shortest possible timeframe using the most innovative design processes, procured at the most cost-effective price(s) – to provide genuine, career opportunities for all. The social impact [both intended and unintended consequences] of a continued and well documented lack of appreciation and inclusion, towards the BAME talent pool, simply doesn’t bare thinking about; particularly given that the UK desperately needs ‘everyone to pull together’ in the same direction, of sustainable progress.