027 Valuation and Diversity with Roy Albert

Roy Albert is a Chartered Valuation Surveyor at the Valuation Office Agency, where he has been working for the past 16 years in different roles. He is also an APC Ambassador at LionHeart, as well as The Surveyor Hub admin.

He shares with us his journey from a small village in Dominica to building a career in the surveying industry in the UK.

Working at the Valuation Office Agency

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is an executive agency that gives the government the valuations and property advice needed to support taxation and benefits. Roy starts by explaining his role at the VOA:

“I got qualified as a Chartered Valuation Surveyor on May 22nd 2020. Since July 1st 2020, my new role is part of what we call the Check, Challenge, Appeal Team in Bristol, and it’s a new appeal system for business rates. I’m new in the role, just getting involved in the process there. Originally, I was part of the SVT – Statutory Valuation Team based in Bristol, which covers a number of different tax works, such as inheritance tax, capital gains tax and stamp duty land tax. So I’ve been thrown across a new role now, which is obviously broadening my experience.”

Falling Into Surveying and Valuation

Roy takes us back to the beginning of the story of how he got into surveying and valuation:

“I’m from the Caribbean, from a very small village in the Commonwealth of Dominica which has a population of 70,000 people. Ever since I was growing up, I associated England with lovely buildings, especially the Queen’s Palace, and I was always intrigued by how your buildings looked very different to what we had in the Caribbean. On the other side, we’ve got a lot of hurricanes happening in the Caribbean, which absolutely destroy properties, so it’s about trying to find as resilient properties as possible.

When I moved to England, the first place I went to was the Queen’s Palace of course. I was thinking how people built this with the lack of modern technology, no scaffolding, no cranes, and it was just so interesting to see the architecture.

Initially I started working in an admin role at The Rent Service. It was about property, valuation and setting rents for housing benefit purposes and what we call the Fair Rent. Then a vacancy came up for the Rent Officer role, so I got that job, and it took me to little towns in the UK. So there I was from a Caribbean village, and ended up having more local knowledge than someone who actually lived in England. So then I thought, well, let’s try to advance that, and I applied for a Level 4 Valuation NVQ, got through it, and then I applied for what is now called AssocRICS. When The Rent Service amalgamated with the Valuation Office Agency, I found out that VOA was one of the biggest employers of Chartered Surveyors, so I started looking into how I could get to the next level from AssocRICS to MRICS. So, initially I had no interest in becoming a surveyor, but I kind of fell into it,” Roy says what so many other surveyors say when asked about how they got into surveying.

Balancing Work, Studying, Health and Family

Roy took the apprenticeship route through the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust, and the Valuation Office supported him, though it was a high-pressure path as he admits.

“On the apprenticeship route, you go through the degree, and two years into your degree, you start your APC structured training. After two years, we assume that you’re going to get the degree, so if after four years you didn’t get it, your two-year structured training was pretty much in vain. For me, it was highly pressured in the fact that I was expected to get the degree, to go to APC and then do everything else, my job, my family, so a lot of things were running alongside each other, a lot of planning and commitment was involved. I’ve doubted myself a few times during my course thinking I couldn’t do it. In 2016 I was playing football, and I had what was potentially a cardiac arrest. That was just about 18 months into my degree. It came out of the blue, I was playing sports for a very long time and then there I was in the hospital. The UCM were very supportive, they asked me to defer my learning if I wanted to, and they would support me through it. But in my mind, I just set a date, a start time and end time, and nothing’s gonna stop me from that. So I said no, I will carry on, and I did my assignment from the hospital. It wasn’t the best piece of work, but I did it.”

The Issue of Diversity and Minority in the Surveying Industry

On his career path, Roy didn’t experience any setbacks related to his Caribbean background. However, he did want to break the mould and bring diversity into the surveying profession.

“There aren’t really many Chartered Surveyors from the Caribbean, and I wanted to get in there. If I’m being brutally honest, my initial understanding was that being a surveyor was for the middle aged white person in a tweed jacket. Whenever I was faced up against any experienced Chartered Surveyor, it was that kind of a guy. It was always the same dimension, and there was a lack of diversity from my initial Inception into becoming a Chartered Surveyor.

Looking at it now, I understand that the RISC isn’t the one holding back minority or diversity among the people. I think we are, because of what we see. On the front line we see white surveyors, and think that’s probably not for us, we don’t belong here, because there are not enough people of colour on the forefront. But I’ve never experienced anything where I felt I was different. I always felt as part of the group, either being on the APC route or sitting in for my interview.

This may sound like a high-pressure thing, but we need to remain relevant after we become qualified, we need to remain seen on whatever platform there is and make sure that we say to the people that they too can do this. You could be a woman, a man, whatever your religion, you can do it. And I don’t think there’s any resistance from the RICS,” Roy concludes.

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