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Eddie Cook, Chancerygate Foundation, Trustee

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Eddie Cook (BSc Building Surveying, 1986) is a trustee of the Chancerygate Foundation, which is supporting two new bursaries for students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds applying to our Building Surveying and Quantity Surveying BSc courses.

I always wanted to be a surveyor – I guess that’s quite unusual as childhood ambitions go! I had a cousin who was a chartered surveyor and he was probably the most successful person in our family. I really looked up to him. Plus I always had an interest in building things and putting things together. It was a pretty obvious path for me to take.

Looking back, I definitely gained my qualifications the hard way. When I left school in 1977, I initially went into banking. There was a downturn, and opportunities in the property sector were scarce. Then I got the chance to join the insurance company Liverpool Victoria in 1978, as a trainee surveyor. It meant a huge pay cut – from something like £3,500 a year to £2,000! – but I was doing what I wanted to do. I started studying for the RICS exams via a correspondence course but distance learning didn’t really work for me, so I enrolled at the then South Bank Poly for a part-time degree. That meant commuting one day a week from Essex to Stockwell and working the rest of the time. It was tough – but it meant that all the time I was learning, I was getting experience on the ground too.

Joining Chancerygate was an opportunity to put everything I’d learned into practice in an environment with huge potential for growth. I spent my last five years at Liverpool Victoria working on the fund management side – a significant change of direction for a building surveyor. By the time I moved to Chancerygate at the start of 2001 I had a pretty good understanding of building construction and of how to manage property assets as an investment. Establishing the asset management side really enabled the company to start its growth journey, from a small team working in the Park Royal area to what it is today – one of the UK’s biggest multi-unit industrial property developers and asset managers.

By 2016, I was at a crossroads. The 2008 global financial crisis had a huge impact on the business. When I took over as MD in 2010, my priority was to help turn Chancerygate into a less leveraged business and make the company more resilient. We succeeded in doing that and putting in place a new business plan. I realised it needed five or ten more years of my time and I didn’t have that to give. The business also deserved someone new at the helm, with fresh energy and ideas to take it forward. I stayed on for a year to help find my successor, before retiring at the end of 2017.

Now it’s time for me to give something back. It’s something I’ve done throughout my career, through mentoring and finding placements for young people. Personally, I’ve always found that very rewarding and it’s nice now to be able to devote a bit more time and energy to it as a trustee of the Chancerygate Foundation, alongside my consultancy work.

A more diverse profession is a more dynamic profession. It’s fair to say the property sector is pretty much dominated by white middle-class males, and there’s a lot of nepotism too. I believe that greater diversity opens businesses up to new ideas and fresh perspectives. It stops everything being so one-dimensional.

There is much more to the bursaries we’re offering than just financial support. As trustees, we’re already looking at what else we can do to help students, including after they’ve graduated. After such a long time in the industry, I’ve got a pretty good network of contacts. Now I’m leveraging that to try to find opportunities for work experience and internships – things that will make our students’ CVs stand out when they’re applying for jobs. That’s such an important part of what we do, along with going out and talking to pupils and students in schools, colleges and universities about the sector. I want more people to know what a great, rewarding and enjoyable career this can be.

This is just the start of the journey. We’re not going to fix this issue overnight, but you have to start somewhere. My hope is that over time we’ll build a kind of web of support for greater diversity and inclusion. Our students will hopefully be inspired to go on and give something back themselves, and of course, they’ll provide role models for the next generation.

Find out more about the Chancerygate bursary.

Amanda Walker, Chancerygate Foundation, Director

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Amanda Walker is director of the Chancerygate Foundation, which is supporting two new bursaries for students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds applying to our Building Surveying and Quantity Surveying BSc courses.

It might seem hard to believe, but the real estate sector is actually less diverse than the House of Commons. There’s a report recently published by the Bridge Group that makes for sobering reading. The perception is that real estate is a world where it’s still very much about who you know, and the evidence backs that up. That’s exactly what we are hoping to tackle through the work of the Chancerygate Foundation. We want to inspire people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who would not have considered a career in this sector – and to encourage them to believe that it’s possible.

The Foundation is based on the idea that the best way to increase diversity is through education. Andrew Johnson, the founder of Chancerygate, believes passionately that everyone should have the same chance to access a good education. Having the opportunity to realise your potential shouldn’t be a privilege that’s reserved for the few.

Financial support can make a huge difference to students – I’ve seen that for myself. I’m a single parent with two daughters at university, and I can see how difficult it is for them to get by. Students at LSBU have to contend with the high costs of living in London. Even if they’re not paying rent, things like travel costs can be a huge barrier. I know for example there are students living in the outer zones who struggle to get to their lectures on time because they can’t afford a peak Travelcard. That’s just another source of worry and anxiety to pile on top of the other pressures they’re already dealing with.

With these bursaries, we want to offer more than just money. It’s important, of course, but there’s so much more to supporting students than just handing over a cheque. Our goal is to build a long-term relationship with the Foundation students, providing mentoring and ongoing support, and leveraging our network of contacts to give them the best possible chance of finding work when they graduate from LSBU. I’m a year away from qualifying as a counsellor and I think that’s going to be enormously helpful in terms of working with the students, and maybe recognising the signs that someone could do with a bit of extra help.

For me, this role brings together so many of the things I’m passionate about. I’ve spent much of my career in education, helping young people and – increasingly – focusing on their mental health. In my last role at Oundle School I was liaising with the community, finding ways that our pupils could support local people and local initiatives. So the idea of giving something back really resonates with me too.

We’re so excited to be launching these bursaries. I can’t wait to start working with the students on this potentially life-changing initiative. In future, of course, we hope to be able to help more people but for now the focus is on making sure we can walk before we run, and on ensuring that we are providing high quality support and building strong relationships with our students. That’s the priority.

Find out more about the Chancerygate bursary.