We talk to Mark Wilson, head of subject for surveying, construction and project management for the School of Built Environment and Engineering at Leeds Beckett University, about the range of construction-related courses it offers, who they will appeal to, and the career prospects they may lead to in the industry.
Hi Mark, please tell us a little about yourself, your connection with construction, and Leeds Beckett in general.
I am a chartered building surveyor with over 25 years’ experience in the industry and more recently in academia. As a building surveyor, I have a keen interest in building pathology, specifically with timber and damp defects and issues. I studied here at Leeds Beckett and wanted to return to the university to give something back to the world of academia and to engage and inspire the next generation of surveyors.
I got into the industry as it offers something different every day, with new challenges and opportunities that provide interest in working life. The industry enables us to build something we can look back on and think ‘I was part of that’, and it will be there long after I have gone. I enjoy the building defects element of my role as this gives me the opportunity to look into older buildings and investigate how they have been constructed, what previous people have done to them and then specify work to maintain them for future generations.
What construction courses do you run currently, and what qualifications do people need for them?
We currently offer a wide range of construction-related undergraduate and postgraduate courses within our School of Built Environment and Engineering from; Architectural Technology, Building Surveying, Construction Management, Facilities Management, Project Management, Real Estate and Property Management and Quantity Surveying at undergraduate. We also offer these courses at postgraduate and a Masters and LLM in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution.
For our undergraduate courses, A-Levels or the equivalent of 112 UCAS points will secure you a place. There are no specific subjects to study as the construction industry is specialist and not generally taught on the school curriculum. Students will learn all they need to know when they join us. With the postgraduate courses, usually a degree, 2:1 or higher, or other work-related experience would be considered to have an interview with our course directors.
Do these courses attract a diverse range of students?
We are becoming more diverse in the areas of ethnicity and age, and although most of our students are male (as is the case across the sector), we are seeing more and more females applying to our courses. This is something we are working on as a School through widening participation events at local schools and colleges. The female students we have perform excellently and last year our prize for best building surveying student was won by a female (Rachel Gunns) who has gone on to work for a large international company.
Which are the most popular courses and are there any that you’d like to see more people consider?
Our most popular course is the quantity surveying course, which attracts students who are interested in the financial and legal side of the construction industry. As a building surveyor, I would like to see more students on the building surveying course as it offers an excellent grounding and transferable skills for all students. Our architectural technology course has had great feedback from students and has an excellent employability rate − this course would be ideal for more students to consider for a technical career in the industry.
Do you have strong ties with housebuilders re work experience and finding jobs for the construction students?
Our ties lie in the industry and not always with housebuilders. We send students to work on a range of placements from multinational companies to local SMEs. We have also had students work on the Crossrail project and in New York, with a varied mix of employers covering contractors and clients. We regularly have industry speakers from construction companies and developers who will come in and speak to our students, providing them with an opportunity to network with industry experts.
We recently spoke to Andy Fancy, a regional MD at Countryside, who mentioned the Building degree he got at Leeds Beckett many years ago − does this university have a heritage and good reputation for the variety and quality of its construction courses?
The university has been delivering construction-related degrees for a long time. We have always had great feedback from students and employers on our student’s abilities and the suitability of the course for their work. Our Architectural Technology course celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and we are planning to invite alumni to come and meet current students. It is always good for our students to see where their previous counterparts have ended up in their careers and what they have managed to achieve. We have alumni in top positions in large companies and institutions, of which we are very proud.
What can be done to improve the construction sector’s image in order to bring on board the number of talented people it needs?
The sector needs to become more public on how it is now managed and the opportunities that exist within it. Programmes that reflect the work currently being delivered have a strong influence on public perception, and positives should be considered instead of focussing on areas such as cowboy builders and companies trying to defraud people. These companies are few and far between and the overall attitude of the sector is one of pride in its work and the opportunity to make a mark on the landscape that will outlive the people making it.
For potential future students, what’s the timetable for investigating and applying for a place at Leeds Beckett?
Courses starting in September take applicants from the November the year before right up until the week before they commence. The guidance is to consider the course and location of study for at least a year before application, to fully consider all the factors of starting higher education and the possibility of moving away from home. The best thing is to call one of our course directors for a chat about what we offer and how we can help you make a decision on an exciting career on the construction industry.