According to research released by RICS earlier this month, we are facing a skills shortage of such proportions that it will threaten nearly 30,000 new building projects within the next five years.

Open plan diversity

Whether this is because property is not seen as an attractive career by young people, or because it is financially unattainable for many, or more likely, that our message is just simply not getting through, not enough young people are choosing to embark on a career in property. Talent gaps in certain skills within the profession are a real issue and we should also remember the growing demand from overseas for our services puts further pressure on the talent pool.

Attracting the best young talent into our industry is vital to ensuring its continued commercial health. As real estate markets recover around the world, a strong pipeline of young talent and skills is essential to making sure that they continue to flourish.

We are all responsible for making this happen and while it is very encouraging to see the many new initiatives that have been kicked off by the industry, we need to continue to look for ways of making a career in property more accessible and to widen the pool from which we draw our talent.

Apprenticeship programmes are a great way of introducing young people to the industry and provide valuable work experience. Many of the skills of our business lend themselves to experience-based learning and with higher education costs proving prohibitive for many talented and driven young people, apprenticeships provide an excellent alternative route into the industry.

Changes to government funding of apprenticeships from 2017, which shift responsibility for apprenticeship provision to employers, will also give the industry a massive opportunity to shape the future of those wanting to pursue a career in the property profession.

The issue of apprentices in surveying has the highest level of attention as evidenced by the recent meeting at 10 Downing Street attended by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT) and a number of major employers and higher education providers.

DTZ, along with many other major employers, has joined the Surveying Trailblazer steering group, which is defining a new standard for surveying apprenticeships. This steering group will agree the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for the future surveying workforce.

Our own apprenticeship scheme saw its 2014 intake commence in September. In line with our drive to improve diversity in the workplace and encourage talent from the broadest possible background, our five new apprentices were recruited through the CSTT. The trust supports 16 to 24-year-olds to become qualified surveyors, regardless of their academic, social or financial circumstances.

This complements our well-established graduate programme, which saw a record intake this year, alongside a record number of internships, providing the business with an important talent pipeline to help us succeed in the future.

As a business, we are committed to encouraging and promoting a representative workforce and have set up our own EMEA-wide platform, the Curzon Group, to generate ideas, provide practical solutions and prioritise initiatives to further improve all aspects of diversity and inclusion within DTZ. But, while it is important that we keep our own house in order, I firmly believe it is in our best interests as an industry to come together with a joined-up approach to address these key issues.

To this end, our Curzon Group seeks to join up with wider initiatives such as the RREF Pathways to Property initiative, RICS’ Surveying the Future, the Association of Women in Property (WiP) and Property Week’s Open Plan Campaign.

Additionally, the efforts of the Changing the Face of Property initiative are bringing together firms in a coordinated and supportive manner. All these initiatives are doing much to generate momentum around industry-wide action to address the imbalance in gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and socioeconomic background in our sector.

As an industry, our best chance of attracting talent is to improve our connection with young people and to widen the net from which we recruit. We have made great progress in improving accessibility and diversity through many excellent cross-industry initiatives. It has been immensely encouraging to see even the fiercest of competitors sharing best practice for the greater good. Our challenge now is to ensure that this enthusiasm and activity translates into more talented young people entering the industry.

Colin Wilson is head of UK & Ireland at DTZ