The APC in Modern Times

15/07/2020

Senior Building Surveyor Chris Kemp, of Kendall Kingscott discusses performing the role of an APC Assessor for the RICS during times of COVID-19

When I went through the period of structured training at the beginning of my career, I was lucky to have had a fantastic mentor, guide me through. Having someone take the time, often elongating their working day when they could otherwise be at home with their family, to help shape me and provide the skills that I needed to establish my career, is something that I will be forever grateful for. 

That early support motivates me to be involved in the APC process, to help and support other candidates and hopefully have a similar positive affect on them and their careers. 

I have been an APC Assessor and Counsellor for candidates who are undergoing the APC for nearly 5 years. If the APC isn't something you've come across before, it is the process which candidates go through in order to become recognised as a Chartered Surveyor. Often after obtaining a degree and undertaking what is usually a minimum of 2 years’ work-based training.

It is a tough old process. The profession which we work in can be demanding and long work hours can be the norm rather than the exception. So to have the added requirement of going through the APC; revising, keeping a log book and diary, completing enhanced CPD and trying to learn your craft, whilst also delivering on the day job for clients and your business, can be quite arduous.

Having been through it, I have a respect and empathy for candidates who have chosen to take on this challenge in pursuit of establishing a career. The knowledge of their efforts also motivates me to provide them with my best during the assessment.  

Pre COVID-19, the format of interview consisted of 2 assessors and a chairperson sitting in a small room, often at a sports ground or conference centre. The candidate would sit opposite and a discussion would take place for an hour regarding their knowledge and experience. It is tougher than it might sound. Questions come thick and fast, with potentially quite nuanced lines of questioning from a broad range of potential subject areas. 

Having that close proximity in a room allows a connection to be formed between the parties within the shared environment. If there is a noisy air conditioning fan in the background it affects everyone. Feedback is gained through body language and this helps the assessors as much as it does is the candidates. 

COVID-19 has forced the APC assessments into the realm of video interviews. The RICS have often talked about the affect technology might have on the future of our profession (I felt that their concern was that we might get taken over by robots), I doubt anyone could foresee the benefits it might have in assisting candidates continue on their career path without delay during a pandemic. 

The new interview format involves the assessors and chairperson meeting in a virtual room via the Skype platform. An IT technician facilitates the call and helps oversee any technical issues which might arise. The candidate joins the call but sits in a virtual holding room, waiting to be admitted by the technician. When the assessment panel are ready the IT technician lets them in to the virtual meeting room. 

The structure of the interview is the same as it always has been but everyone needs to adjust to the new medium. 

Broadband speeds, barking dogs and Amazon deliveries are all additional things that the collective may need to contend with. 

My experience was positive with no real exceptions. I received a thorough briefing package from the RICS in advance of the call and support from their Assessment Support Manager when I had an 11th hour IT panic the day before. 

On the day, I was joined by a more experienced assessor and chairman, both of whom had sat on a panel interviewing candidates the week before so had already assessed via an electronic platform and were able to give me a few pointers. 

The candidates all seemed au fait with the technology and processes. There were some technical issues during 2 of my 4 interviews, during one; a candidate's video stream started to break up during the interview and during another, a distracting echo was formed with the audio when people spoke. In both cases, the technician intervened and resolved the matter quickly and the chairman provided reassurance to the candidate that the interview duration would be adjusted accordingly. 

Reflecting on the experience, I was wholly impressed with the RICS for being able to set up the new methods of assessing as quickly as they did in response to COVID-19. 

Despite them being able to join from the comfort of their own homes, which may have certain advantages, I was also impressed with the candidates for being able to deal with what surely must be enhanced stress caused by the new medium. 

Is it the future? I think it must be. Reduced costs associated with travel and room booking, time savings and improved environmental footprint are all benefits I think anyone would struggle to argue with. I was encouraged to hear the pass rates have been consistent with those of previous years which indicates a fair process for the candidates.  

I suppose ultimately that is the acid test, if everyone can take the same value from the day, on a level playing field with a reduction in costs and a better affect for the environment then why wouldn’t it be implemented? The RICS have recently come to a decision that this method has been successful and have confirmed that all future assessments will use a virtual platform. 

I feel pleased to have been part of a point in history which has changed the future for the better however saddened it only came to fruition through such a challenging and difficult time.

Chris Kemp, Senior Building Surveyor