At the end of last month, industry chief executives and aspiring property professionals gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of Pathways to Property, the University of Reading-backed initiative to increase the diversity of entrants to the UK’s property sector.

Paul Clark

The Crown Estate’s Paul Clark believes it is vital to attract a wider range of people into the industry

Hosted by The Crown Estate, the event was a celebration of the project’s achievements and an opportunity for those involved to think about progress to date – and what more needs to be done if the property industry is to represent wider society.

According to Pathways to Property, the industry has long been regarded as a traditional one, fostering the careers of only a certain demographic. As a result, the initiative’s founders believed not only that increasing diversity was a good aim in itself, but also something that was necessary to safeguard the future of the sector, because only by welcoming a broader range of people could the industry keep up with change and provide the properties people need today.

At the same time, Pathways to Property’s founders realised that among all but a few schools, there is a general lack of awareness and understanding of the industry and the varied career opportunities the sector offers.

Able students from less advantaged families were not being exposed to these opportunities and, quite simply, something had to be done to change that.

Pathways to Property was established in 2012 by the Reading Real Estate Foundation at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School. At the heart of its work is a programme to promote the career opportunities presented by the property sector to year 12 students in UK state schools and colleges.

The initiative holds events throughout the year, such as talks in schools, and organises work experience placements, summer schools and e-mentoring.

To list just some of its achievements, in the past five years Pathways to Property has:

  • Engaged with more than 10,000 students, 2,500 teachers and careers advisers and more than 600 parents;
  • Run five summer schools, attended by 410 students; and
  • Set up real estate work experience placements across the UK for 175 students.

The first summer schools have led 73 attendees to go on to study real estate at university, with 25 students embarking on the real estate and planning course at Henley Business School.

Pathways to Property is stepping up its efforts to increase diversity among industry entrants; as well as celebrating the past five years, the event also marked the launch of the initiative’s free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which it hopes will enable the programme to reach even more students throughout the UK.

Below, key figures from Pathways to Property, leading supporters and students reflect on the scheme’s past and continuing impact.

>> Alan Froggatt, chair, Pathways to Property project board

“This will take a generation to change, but we will pick up more momentum as we go along, especially as more of our students go out into the profession. If you had told me five years ago that by now we would have 9% of the year’s undergraduate intake coming from our programme I wouldn’t have believed you – but that’s where we are.

“We have had fantastic and increasing support from the industry, which sees us getting things done, but we are acutely aware of how much more there still is to do. School engagement remains the critical challenge and we are hoping that the launch of our MOOC this year will be transformational in that regard.”

>> Paul Clark, chief investment officer, The Crown Estate

“It is more important than ever that we increase diversity, in all forms, and attract a much wider range of people into the industry. Pathways into Property has had five hugely successful years and, as a trustee, it was a personal privilege to host its anniversary celebration.

“But the real measure of success are the students themselves – they have transformed their careers and lives, and are making a vital contribution to the industry.”

>> Bradley Walker, Pathways to Property Summer School participant and graduate surveyor at British Land

“My journey into the property industry began with the Pathways to Property Summer School back in 2013. The four-day experience at the University of Reading opened my eyes to the various career options available in the sector and really sparked my interest in property.

“Following the summer school, the help I have received from Pathways to Property and the Reading Real Estate Foundation has been invaluable. The scheme provides a platform for students who have had little previous exposure to the industry and is a great stepping stone for all its participants.”

>> Ellie Hartland, Pathways to Property Summer School participant and student at Henley Business School, University of Reading, studying real estate and planning

“Before attending the summer school, my knowledge about chartered surveyors and the real estate industry was minimal. The opportunity to spend four days at Henley Business School, staying in halls, was extremely exciting.

“I learned all about what the real estate degree entails and the different sectors in the industry, but most importantly you have the chance to meet industry professionals. Having this opportunity to discuss what they do day to day is very encouraging and influential.

Ellie Hartland, Aurora Barrett and Bradley Walker

Ellie Hartland, Aurora Barrett and Bradley Walker, speakers and Summer School participants

“Completing the real estate degree and APC during your graduate job is training you to become a professional, a chartered surveyor, which is hugely inspirational. I’d say the biggest lessons I learned on the summer school were how directly linked this degree is to the industry and that there are so many career opportunities available to you once you finish the degree.

“The support from Pathways to Property is exceptional; I was given the opportunity to spend one week with BNP Paribas in its property management department, I have a mentor from the industry and I also fortunately received a bursary for my accommodation in the first year. I have benefited so much from Pathways to Property and if I didn’t attend its summer school in 2015 it is most likely I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

>> Aurora Barrett, Pathways to Property Summer School participant and student at Henley Business School, University of Reading, studying real estate and planning

“Since being introduced to the property industry, I’ve been infatuated with the built environment: the skill, structure and dedication of the profession. Most of all, coming from a non-property background, I’ve become aware of how fun and empowering the activities of surveying, asset management and property law really are.

“It’s incredible how once you immerse yourself in the experience of the industry how much more you want to see, and be a part of the beauty of the constantly changing environment.

“I still go back home and people mistake this career choice as being an estate agent, when really real estate is the conceptualisation of development and what you are is a pioneer for the life of your community.

“I never dreamed of joining this industry; I just wanted a week in summer where I wasn’t home and was doing new things. But I fell in love with the aspirations, the commitment and the macrocosm. Pathways to Property led me to fall in love and be enamoured. Property is a broad field, but it gives me direction.”