Historically, a traditional route was followed to enter the property market but this doesn’t always have to be the case, as Paddy Allen, head of operational capital markets at Colliers and chair of Pathways to Property, explains.

How did Pathways come about?

Pathways to Property is now in its 11th year. It was set up as an initiative in 2012. We raised nearly half a million pounds to get everything going and the whole premise was around trying to increase levels of representation and inclusion across the across the industry.

How much of a problem is diversity in the sector?

Real estate industry is not alone in facing issues over lack of diversity, whether it’s politics or finance or law there’s certain issues but we are passionate about the built environment because we feel like the built environment reflects people. It’s where people live their lives, it’s where they work, it’s where they play. And it is so important that as guardians of the built environment we are taking on diverse and inclusive views rather than have the views of the few affect the many. The view was that we had to focus on the pipeline and make sure that we are really working to bring the next generation through and that the next generation is more representative. What we needed to do was facilitate that and make sure that there was fertile ground for the seeds to grow. In addition we wanted to make sure that we’re marketing the industry as somewhere that people want to be. There’s no point in finding diverse talent if the industry just isn’t very attractive to them.

What is Pathways and how has it evolved?

Pathways main flagship initiative is a summer school, which runs for three/four days at the University of Reading, with lots of interaction and facilitation from many groups around the industry. That has evolved over the last 10 years. It was a historically a very academic summer school. We taught students about property, the planning process and development. Now we focus on helping young people build their soft skills and networks and meet people in the industry. We’ve made it super interactive now and really diverse. They learn about the industry, but they also meet lots of people and get a chance to speak with them: graduates, CEOs, HR, people who’ve built their own businesses and so on.

In addition, we now have mentoring, facilitating and work experience placements. We’ve got a community, which we manage, but the biggest thing we do is give financial support.

What is the most important message within Pathways?

The really important thing is that this pathways not pathway. We’re not trying to tell people the only way to get in is to go to the University of Reading. The University of Reading is important because we need somebody to facilitate it and to open doors. But with Pathways we encourage whatever the students feel comfortable with, so that might be apprenticeships, they might want to do a degree in football and then decide to come back into the industry. We give them ways and means in which they can do that. But if they do decide they want to do a real estate degree and study real estate, we have bursaries for them to study at the University of Reading, but we also have bursaries that we managed through the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors for them to study real estate at any UK university. Finance and lack of network shouldn’t be a barrier.

Has Pathways been a success?

I won’t feel real success in this project until I see somebody who’s attended summer school on a senior management board. That’s when we’re going to get real change. This isn’t a three-year or four year project. We’re 11 years in now. Our first cohort are turning 26 or 27 years old. They’re qualified and finding their feet. As an initiative we still need to be there for them at that point and our alumni and other events are focused on making sure that we can nurture people throughout. It’s not about just getting the graduates in or the young people in on apprenticeship. It’s about making sure they can actually grow and having a roadmap for them and giving them the support that they need along the way.

Is there a criteria students must meet to be eligible for the summer school?

Students must be academically strong and from socially diverse backgrounds. We prioritise students whose parents don’t work in the industry or haven’t been through higher education, or students who are on free school meals. We look at postcodes and state schools. Off the back of that we get a lot of diversity within race and gender and very representative of inner-city communities today.

What would you say to the sector about recruiting a more diverse workforce?

Pathways is the instigator of the change; you can help support the change but really the change is going to come from companies. Pathways is not the employer of tomorrow or today, that’s going to come from the industry. What we are here to do is to help facilitate the conversations. But ultimately, it’s down to the industry to make sure that they are opening their doors and making sure that they are recruiting as representative groups as they can.

Case study 1:Aurora Barrett attended Pathways Summer school 2016


Aurora Barrett

Why did you join the summer school?

I started my journey into Real Estate in 2016 via a small leaflet that I saw in the careers office at my sixth form. I still remember it, it read along the lines of:

“Join a four-day residential Summer School, this is a great opportunity to get a real insight into the property sector and learn about different career routes into the industry. This is founded by the Reading Real Estate Foundation, a charitable organisation of the Henley Business School, part of the University of Reading. We will provide a free, all-expenses paid experience including travel and accommodation to the campus…”

That was it, as soon as I saw the word ‘free’, I latched on!

Were you considering property as a career before taking part in the summer school and, if not, how did it change your mind?

I went on the Summer School and as a cheesy romantic, I can say I fell in love with the opportunities and experiences shared. The projects I was able to work on and present with my team and the genuine excitement and passion you could feel from all the individuals involved.

Then the cherry on top of the cake was finding out that enrolling in the degree could provide bursaries of up to £30,000 as well as £1,000 welcome bursary, which was a great help to me, as I was able to obtain a Hardship Grant while at the university I attended, after I enrolled on the Investment and Finance in Property BSc, a small but relevant factor to my decision.

What did you learn from summer school?

I like adventure and what I learnt from the Summer School was a burning desire for adventure and ambition.

I learnt about how multi-faceted the career is and that it is more than just being an estate agent. I was sold a dream of being a visionary for placemaking, to having an impact and to pursuing a purpose that is to positively impact the way that we work, live and relax. It fascinated me how landowners, consultants, surveyors, agents and a whole load of stakeholders could have an impact on the spaces around us and how we could use them.

My interest was also peaked by the lending market for real estate and the global circuits of international funds. It was a whole language I didn’t know that had a major impact on my everyday life. Like Disney’s Ariel, I wanted to be part of that world. I could see myself doing the placemaking, management and design that the amazing execs and directors that sponsored the Summer School and networked with us talked about, I could see myself doing what they do in 10 to 15 years’ time.

How do you think the summer school has helped you to date?

The Summer School was a turning point in my life. It was one of those experiences where I can clearly say, I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. I wouldn’t know any of the amazing friends I met at university. I wouldn’t have had great exposure to the industry through work experiences and internships, including at Savills, then Oxford Properties and Tesco Pension Fund, while at university, followed by work experience at the Crown Estate, Helical and Savills Investment Management.

All of these connections have inevitably supported me in my personal growth and in my career.

What would you say to people considering taking part?

There is no harm in joining in. Get some experience about university because it isn’t for all of us, and it’s a great opportunity to find out if it is for you. If not, there are plenty of real estate firms that offer apprenticeships through the Apprenticeship Levy.

Since there are only a certain number of slots each year at the Summer School and as it gets more popular, Pathways to Property also run a free online course available to everyone via the FutureLearn platform, which gives a good insight into the industry. They also run an online programme called ‘Spring into Property’, where students can undertake a project, hear from industry and current students and engage in career sessions as well as some Regional Insight Days.

Do you feel that this has helped you get ahead in your career?

Most definitely, the networks I have joined and the people I have connected with are invaluable. There are also many graduates I have spoken to, that did a Real Estate postgraduate degree that have said that if they had known about the industry sooner, this would have been their undergraduate major. I believe my age of 24, gives me more space to take up challenges and riskier opportunities at work.

Case study 2: Schaun King took part in the Summer School programme in 2022 and has just completed his A Level exams this summer

Schaun photo

Schaun King

Why did you join the summer school?

The idea of real estate was always appealing and a recurring thought when asked the big question of “What do you want to do?”, due to how tangible it was. I researched opportunities in real estate/property and the summer school naturally sparked my interest. I applied to gain insight into real estate, the processes and how it would be taught at university.

What did you learn from it?

The summer school explored the nuances of real estate, breaking the stereotypical view I had of the industry. I found that there was more to just buying and selling houses, there were a variety of roles such as building consultancy, asset management and valuation.

We learnt the skills needed to excel in the industry, taught via workshops such as social pitching and introducing ourselves to others and building relationships. I learnt the importance of networking and maintaining a network to use it to your advantage, as well as how to write an email, CV and resume. All of which are skills needed to flourish within a professional environment.

Would you recommend it to friends?

Absolutely, it’s an informative and fun experience, packed with activities both property-related and group activities to help develop relationships with your cohort. For those who are keen on having a career in the sector or even an interest in property it is beneficial since it helps to provide an insight early on in your career journey.

Joining the summer school will connect you with like-minded peers who also have a keen interest in property. This common interest can lead to a strong rapport, forming long-lasting networks and relationships. The activities at the Summer School are engaging, allowing you to develop skills such as communication and problem-solving, which is vital in a people-orientated industry.

How do you think it will help you in the future?

The workshops held among group work, where we acted out scenarios, gave a realistic insight and allowed us to develop skills that can be transferred into and be used in the future, increasing our potential and opportunities within the industry and making it easier to settle into a professional environment.

Were you considering property as a career before and, if not how, has the school changed your mind?

I have always considered a career in property and the Summer School give me vital insight and professional tips. Although, a property career has always been of interest, finding out the various roles that exist has given me insight into what role would specifically suit me within real estate and has changed my mind about what I’d like to do in the future.