SECRETS OF THE APC: Core Competencies with Alexandra Redmond


Host:  Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast, Building Surveying for Professionals giving you a detailed and technical view of the world of building surveying.  In this episode we are going to add to our mini-series on the APC by continuing our chat with Alexandra Redmond a Director at Cardoe Martin.  It’s going to be all about the core competencies of the Assessment of Professional Competence.  You might be familiar with it from our previous Podcast but if not make sure to go back and check out the first episode.  They’ll be something for everyone interested in the built environment of course but it’s going to be especially useful for anyone considering becoming Chartered wondering about whether to do building surveying courses at University and also for those who are already deep in the process of building their submission.  (0.46)  Alex why you don’t take a minute to tell us more about what you do in Cardoe Martin.

AR:            Thanks James and thanks for having me on the Podcast.  I’m a Director at Cardoe Martin specialising in commercial property but relevant to the APC I am an Experience Supervisor to APC Candidates both here and at previous employers where I’ve been Supervisor to many candidates in the past guiding them through the process of the APC with the RICS.

Host:        (1.13) Now that is just in building surveying you’ve done other professional areas too.

AR:            Yes not many times I’ve not acted as a formal supervisor but I’ve definitely been mentoring people on the project management and planning pathways as well so I’ve got experience with the other pathways as well.

Host:        (1.35) Well that is great thank you, well it’s good to have you on board.  So join us now for a journey through time and materials as we reveal even more secrets of the APC.  So Alex what are Core Competencies? we’ll start there

AR:            Core competencies are essentially defined within the Pathway Guidance Notes published by the RICS, they vary from pathway to pathway but specific to the building surveying they are the competencies which relate to the day to day common source of works that we get involved in so it will cover things like building pathology, contract administration, design and technology, all of the things that are the bread and butter of building surveying and similarly on other pathways that will be the sort of types of work that you will commonly carry out as part of your day to day role.

Host:        (2.27) That is useful thank you.  So do I find out, presuming here I’ll put myself in the usual situation of working on my APC how do I find out which ones are relevant to me?

AR:            The ones which are relevant to your pathway will be set out in the published Pathway Guidance which the RICS publish for all of the numerous pathways which qualify for Chartered status under the RICS, you can also look online, the RICS Assessment Resource Centre known as ARC has a lot of resources as well which can help you understand a bit more about the competencies and which ones relate to your pathway and also how to interpret them.

Host:        (3.12) What are the differences between the different levels then?

AR:            Yes each of the competencies you’re expected to achieve Levels 1,2 or 3, because these are the core competencies a lot of them you will be expected to reach Level 3 with the optionals which are part of the core competencies, these are the ones that you get to pitch, are two of the full set of core competencies, those ones are expected to reach Level 2 for and the three levels that you have to achieve are Level 1 which demonstrates that you know about competencies, that’s just based on knowledge, the legislation which applies and just a general understanding of what the competency is.  Level 2 moves onto a more thorough understanding by showing that you’ve done elements of work which relate to that competency so perhaps for building pathology you may have carried out a defects analysis survey so you’ll be explaining what you’ve done as part of that competency to prove that you’ve got experience within it and Level 3 is the highest level in the competencies and relates to advising people and clients on the competency so again using pathology as an example this would relate to examples of where you might have advised the client on what to do following an inspection where you’ve identified some defects.

Host:        (4.37) That is useful.  Looking at Level 3 then so how can I show that I’ve reached Level 3, as I’m not Chartered I don’t advise clients, is this a catch 22?

AR:            No not necessarily I think that’s quite a common misunderstanding where you’re not Chartered so particularly at big companies you might not be the person who is talking to the client on a day to day basis or the persons whose preparing or signing your final reports but in many instances you will find that you are advising clients in almost everything you do, so looking for examples where you’ve given some advice, and that might be part of a larger report that you’ve submitted a section for, so perhaps you’ve looked at the interior of the property and a senior colleagues’ looked at the exterior of the property then you would have been advising in that instance on the condition of the property and perhaps remedial works which are required, but in other instances advising can come in all manner of ways of communicating with the client in terms of options available to them in projects for instance where you might have advised the client their options relating to a variation in a contract for certain works that they might want to consider, that’s also considered advising as part of the RICS APC.

Host:        (5.53) So it sounds reasonably complicated, I have got to think about this it’s complicated isn’t it or is it an everyday job that I’ve just got to input properly?

AR:            I think it comes down to how you interpret how you do your job you might think that you’re just doing a project, your just inspecting a site, but you’re not just inspecting a site there might be an instance where prior to inspecting the site you’ve done your desktop review and you’ve seen that the property is derelict or unoccupied and you’ve advised the client at that stage that there may be a Risk Assessment required or you might need some information about how to access that property and that it’s potentially dangerous because it’s unoccupied, you don’t know if there might be some issues with the interior of the property, maybe squatters, potentially invested with vermin, so you’ve advised the client on something like that and you may not consider that advising but that is considered to be advice.

Host:        (6.50) What should I be saying then, I do not really know where to start?

AR:            Again this is quite a common issue for when you’re starting to look at the core competencies for the APC it’s difficult to know where you should start thinking about the competencies and how to organise the work that you have done into relevant examples so in terms of where to start the best place to start is with the works that you’ve been doing over the last couple of years whilst you’ve been carrying out your APC diary, so reviewing your job load, projects that you’re working on at the moment, projects that you’ve completed in the past and going through them in quite some detail just to understand exactly what you did during those projects, what challenges that you faced during those projects and where you did give advice to the client so breaking it down from the experience that you do have and then really picking out the bits that are relevant to the three levels which are knowing, doing and advising and you’ll find that pretty much every job you’ve done will have some element of all of that and the good part about keeping it relevant to your experiences you know it quite completely because it’s yours, you’ve done it and you can talk about it with some confidence when you sit your APC Assessment Panel because it’s things that you’ve actually so you’re not talking about it anecdotally, you’re not talking about it from another perspective, it’s all work that you’ve actually physically done and you can talk about in that manner.

Host:        (8.17) That is useful thank you.  So I haven’t actually done that many jobs, say for example I’m relatively new to this, I’ve just finished Uni and I’m in that period in between thinking about this does that matter?

AR:            No not at all, I mean if you’re working then your obviously busy everyday you’re not going to work and twiddling your thumbs, the reason that a lot of people don’t have many projects to talk about in their APC is because they might be working on really big projects that take up a lot of time, it’s something that’s quite common with the project management pathway for sure because they’ll be working on huge projects which are usually running for a really long time so you might be heavily involved in two or three projects like that where you are just doing elements of a much larger project, so it’s not a problem.  What you have to do is then look carefully about what it is that you’re doing within those projects and also break it down to the various stages of the project so you might have a feasibility stage, you might have a specification stage, you might have a procurement stage and then you’ll have the construction phase so you’ve got actually a lot of mini projects and mini elements which you can then talk about separately even though they’re part of the same project, so you’ve actually got quite a lot of talk about even though you’ve only done several jobs.

Host:        (9.31) That is a good useful way of looking at it so actually you are just as a credible as someone who might have done reasonably short projects but…

AR:            Absolutely.

Host:        …much more interesting.

AR:            Yeah you get lots of people who’ve done only a handful of projects who are just as capable of passing the APC with those with people who do hundreds of small projects.

Host:        (9.49)  Following a little bit on from that then, say for instance I’ve worked for a previous company, I’ve got loads more opportunity there in terms of the smaller things that might be good examples, at the newer company maybe it’s a global consultancy and I’m doing exactly what you’ve just said it’s bigger pieces of work and longer term, might be a huge contract admin piece that’s say spanning 12 months can I use jobs from past employment as examples?

AR:            There’s no reason why not but the main thing to remember is that they need to still be relevant, so if you did these jobs more than 2 years ago then you might want to consider whether you’ve got something more recent because as we know in property the legislation’s always evolving, technology’s always evolving and as time passes the things that you did on those jobs become less relevant to what advice that you would give to a client after you’re Chartered so the best thing to do is to focus on the projects that you’ve completed within the last 2 years before you sit and really just look at the detail of those jobs so that everything that you’re talking about is relevant and current and don’t rely too heavily on lots of past experience because that tends to be less relevant and it doesn’t sort of, it doesn’t help you out when you sit the exam to have lots of content that’s very old it’s more that you want to come with current content and current examples of jobs so that the panel can see that the things that you’re doing now show that you’re a safe pair of hands and a competent surveyor so that they will consider passing you to become a Chartered Surveyor.

Host:        (11.18) And I guess there is that distance makes the heart grow fonder type thing, the longer away these jobs you’re forgetting the bad bits of it, you’re forgetting detail, so I’m guessing it comes down to if you’re then in front of the panel and you’ve got to talk confidently about how you’ve done things, it could really impinge on it couldn’t it?

AR:            Definitely.

Host:        Because you are not going to really remember all the bits and bobs that could add up.

AR:            No exactly it’s very easy to get tripped up when you’re sitting the final assessment and they’ve picked, the panel have picked up a specific wording or detail that you’ve listed about a job that you did maybe three or four years ago and yes it fades over time, so if they’ve picked up something that you’ve written and then you can’t recall what actually happened, even though it might have been a perfectly normal or fine situation the fact that you hesitate or the fact that you can’t recall or give a coherent answer is less desirable then if you were to do something that you can quickly and easily recall from recent experience which shows that you are a competent surveyor.

Host:        (12.16) Thinking from a writing point of view how much should I be writing?

AR:            Well as you’ve probably gathered from the Pathway Guidance there is a word limit for your core competencies so you need to use your words wisely, now as we picked on earlier there are three different levels of the core competencies, the majority of them you are looking to achieve Level 3 and the panel will be assessing you on the quality of your more advanced answers so the logical approach is to dedicate as much word count to these Level 3 competency answers then to say your Level 1’s or 2’s, which will not be showing you to the best standard, so I’d recommend keeping it short and sweet on the Level 1 competencies, you just need to show a basic grounding and knowledge of the competency and sort of legislation that applies to it and any sort of other background information but keeping it very brief.  For Level 2 add a bit more detail because you’re explaining your approach and how you do your job but obviously don’t dedicate as many words to the Level 3 answer where you’ll have to demonstrate how you advised the client, so it’s up to you how you split it at the end of the day but I definitely recommend having your Level 3 answer with the majority of your word count.

Host:        (13.33) That is great thank you.  Any final tips that, anything that kind of stands out that can help listeners really succeed here?

AR:            Definitely I think with everything with the APC the key to a success is to ask a lot of questions, to be curious, to find out what’s going on within your organisation and join focus and study groups with your colleagues and if you work at a small company where you’re not working with anybody who is currently sitting the APC then reach out to other companies or to people on Linked-In or perhaps people you went to University with who will probably be sitting the APC at a similar time to you and meet up regularly to discuss your experience, any challenges that you’re facing in putting your documents together.  The peer groups are extremely helpful because you’ve also got some support there as well, also looking at the RICS and the online resources that are provided.  The RICS has got some fantastic resources if you go onto ARC, there’s lots of video tutorials, lots of documents you can download which will explain the process for setting out the documents and give you good clear guidance in terms of what the Assessors will be looking for on the day and how they will interpret the responses that you put into your documents and also reaching out to your experienced colleagues in your company and making sure that you tap them up for any knowledge but do bear in mind that if you’re dealing with older colleagues who aren’t quite up on their CPD that their knowledge may not be as good or as relevant and current as yours so don’t be afraid to correct any colleagues who you think might be wrong because learning is a continual thing and one of the main things that I like doing the APC is because I think it helps me keep current because I’m staying in touch with what everybody’s learning at the beginning of their careers and it’s hugely important to share that knowledge.

Host:        (15.23) Modus Magazine is well constructed, isn’t it?

AR:            Definitely.

Host:        And its good quality and well made is it useful?

AR:            Definitely, definitely, I mean Modus for anyone who doesn’t know is an RICS industry publication for members and associate members, it’s essentially a magazine which gives a lot of useful current and relevant articles and topics relating to construction and property industry and the articles in there have a lot of very interesting insight so it’s not just about what you know, it’s also about how considered you are in terms of your environment and the pathway that you’re following.  So if you’re doing building surveying you’ll obviously want to keep current on what’s happening in the industry, what big developments and technology improvements are happening and what the future of building surveying is and all of that can be found in Modus every month.

Host:        You have been tuned into Cardoe Martin’s Building Surveying for Professionals Podcast, thanks for listening and thank you very much to Alexandra Redmond for joining us today.

AR:            Thank you very much.

Host:        And for sharing her knowledge about core competencies of the APC.