Lesson plans

UK commercial property offers exciting career opportunities, from surveying and research to asset management and urban planning. And they are well paid too. EG’s 2016 Salary Survey revealed that average pay was nearly £54,000 – almost double the average British salary (£28,213) – while the average bonus bumps up take-home pay for property personnel by over £10,000.

Of course, if you are reading Estates Gazette, you almost certainly know this already. And you are probably also aware of the sector’s diversity problem. The picture is slowly changing, but the image of “men in pinstripe suits driving Bentleys” continues to linger.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is a balance that the Urban Land Institute aims to redress through UrbanPlan, a classroom-based one-day workshop for A-level students of geography and business. The programme, which has been delivered successfully in the US for more than a decade, was introduced to the UK last year. It teaches 16- to 18-year-olds about the intricacies of urban property development and regeneration, while extolling the positive aspects of a career in real estate to an audience that otherwise might not consider them.

“It came at a moment in the UK when there was a real need for the property industry to be doing more to reach out to young people and promote it as a career path, and also promote it to a very different demographic to those that we’ve traditionally seen entering the industry,” says Amanda Keane, project director at ULI Charitable Trust, during an UrbanPlan session held at Bishop Challoner School, London, E1, in November.

“It’s great to work with young people in schools to enrich the curriculum, but also to focus on those who perhaps don’t get these sorts of opportunities.”

The workshop is very hands-on. Sixth formers are split into teams that act as property companies, bidding to redevelop an imaginary city centre site based on proposals issued by a fictional local authority.

The students use 3D-printed models and an app that measures the financial impact of their ideas before they pitch their bids, while ensuring that students have considered everything from affordable housing to creating employment opportunities and facilities for the community.

Vital to the success of UrbanPlan is the support it receives from the property sector. Major developers, including Land Securities, Grosvenor, British Land and Hammerson, help fund the project, and industry volunteers attend the workshops to offer professional advice one to one or in small groups, before acting as the council, listening to the students’ proposals, providing feedback and ultimately selecting a winning team.

For the young participants, it is certainly an eye-opening experience. Isabella Outhwaite, a student at Bishop Challoner School who took part in the recent UrbanPlan workshop, says: “I didn’t realise how much thought went into regenerating these areas that you see. It was very tricky to make everything work together and reach all the goals we wanted to achieve. I hadn’t considered a career in property before; I definitely
would now.”

She is not alone. A number of students from her school who took part in the workshop in 2015 have since gone on to study urban planning and geography-based courses at university level.

“This is our second year in a three-year programme and the first year’s feedback was incredible,” says Keane.

Workshops have been held or are scheduled for schools in Birmingham, Sheffield, North Lanarkshire, Chester, Edinburgh, Southampton, Liverpool and Broxbourne, as well as many in Greater London.

“Our plan for this year and next is to be in 40 schools and, we hope, reach about 1,200 students and 200 volunteers,” adds Keane. “But if we raise more money, then we’ll get across the country to connect with more young people in more schools.”

For more information, see http://urbanplanuk.uli.org/