Andrew Williams’ article “The QS’ apprentice” (19 November, page 33) raises some interesting issues about how we train future practitioners, and will no doubt provoke much debate.

There are, of course, many potential ways in which the problems could be addressed, but we would suggest that the ideas promoted by Andrew may take a while to introduce and do not solve the problem in the short term. Andrew does however suggest that he would not be averse to “a return to apprenticeship”, a sentiment which we heartily endorse.

Many QS firms have recognised for some time that:

  • despite the best efforts of the RICS, the quality of QS graduates in terms of their skills and knowledge differs greatly from one course to another
  • QS degree courses frequently fail to equip graduates with skills that are of obvious initial benefit to the employer.

New graduates therefore generally require a period of extensive training and professional development before they can be productive members of the team. Hence the need for many firms to spend considerable amounts of money and time on in-house training programmes.

There are, however, alternative strategies available to professional practices that do not rely on graduate recruitment. One such alternative is recruitment at A level. Employees would then undertake a programme of structured distance learning supplemented by on-the-job training. This way the firm can grow its own tailor-made professionals at minimum cost. Or, in the words of one construction company I met recently, they can“recruit for attitude and train for competence”.

One problem is that school-leavers with good enough A level qualifications to meet the RICS’ requirements are hard to find, and quantity surveyors face considerable competition from apparently more attractive sectors. There is also a perception among school-leavers that a qualification in disciplines such as law, media studies or business studies will give them greater flexibility and choice when they do enter the job market. The message that there is an alternative to a full-time degree is not getting through to these school-leavers.

Sandie Lee and Adrian Smith, College of Estate Management