In July, 110 post A-Level students gathered at Henley Business School at Reading University. In front of 40 industry peers, each took it in turn to present their case supporting or objecting to a development proposal, as part of the Pathways to Property summer school.
The scheme they worked on for four days, taking on the roles of planners, developers, or environmental activists, was a real live project situated in the heart of Reading town centre.
“Some of them are remarkable,” says Simon Horner, partner, GCW. “As a 17 or 18-year-old to be doing that on something you have no knowledge of when you arrive, then by the end of the week, they are able to stand and give a presentation, is incredible.”
This is the objective of Pathways to Property, which GCW has been a core sponsor of since its launch in 2012. Led by the Reading Real Estate Foundation at Henley Business School at the University of Reading, the aim is to encourage young people from more diverse backgrounds to enter a career in property, while raising awareness of the varied range of careers available within the sector.
And the success rate numbers speak for themselves: 22% go on to study or participate some way in property. “We’d always like to increase it. We never want to stay still,” says Tom Woolmer, senior programme delivery manager at Henley.
“For me, it starts with the young person knowing what this is like, and what the opportunities are, and if it’s not right for them they can go off in a different direction. But they’ve had the experience and can make their decision.”
GCW’s involvement came from numerous team members having gone to Reading University. “Quite a few of us have been through Reading, and it was David Gooch [GCW founding partner, now retired] who was instrumental in forging that connection,” says Horner.
At the summer school, students get an overall introduction into the property world with set tasks, spread over the course. “At the end of the week, a lot of them I talk to say they never knew there was so much opportunity they just thought of property as estate agents,” says Horner.
“During the four days their eyes are opened to career opportunities in project management, planning, building, quantity surveying or environmental consultancy to name just a few. Something you see a lot of interest in is sustainability.”
As well as the summer school, GCW are also doing the October Careers Fair at Reading. “For GCW it's about going there to showcase what we, as a company, can offer both in terms of an internship and graduate scheme,” says Callum Stephenson, associate director, GCW.
As for Pathways future, it is set to grow, says Woolmer: “We want to keep working with our partners to think about how they can get involved in different ways. When you see the impact it has on the young people, who have come along and taken part in our programme, to build and grow currently, it shows there’s a strong future ahead.”