CABE’s Apprentice of the Year described as ‘astonishing’ by judges

Assent Building Control says Assistant Building Control Surveyor Adam Griffin has shown exemplary professionalism, commitment and conduct since joining the nationally approved inspector in September 2020. Recognising this, judges of the CABE Built Environment Awards were impressed by his CPD portfolio, describing it as ‘astonishing for an apprentice’, which made him a clear winner of the Apprentice of the Year Award earlier this year. Building Engineer found out more.

Adam Griffin CABEIt has been a steep, albeit rewarding, learning curve for Adam Griffin. By his own admission, he didn’t really know what building control was when he first saw the position of apprentice surveyor advertised on a government website in the summer of 2020. 

Perhaps, though, it is fitting that he should choose a career in construction because both of his uncles are joiners, and his granddad was a builder.  

Intrigued by the advert, Adam decided to attend an open day at Sheffield Hallam University to find out more about the apprenticeship with the nationally approved inspector. 

“I spoke to Dan Norris who explained what his position [as Building Control Surveyor at Assent Building Control] was and how he works with clients, homeowners, architects, local authorities, water authorities and fire authorities,” he says. 

“He looks after lots of different projects and it all sounded interesting. He inspired me to be honest.”

Adam adds that he was particularly drawn to the apprenticeship because he liked the idea of working while studying for a qualification. 

The academic side of the training is a four-to-five-year BSc Hons degree in Building Control with the University of Estate Management, which is all completed through distance learning. 

“It is one of the degrees in the country that is accredited by CABE,” he explains. “It covers everything from contract law to estate management and health and safety.”

Because it is an online course, Adam can complete each module around his work schedule. Generally, he averages around eight hours each week. 

Covid-19 challenges

Having successfully passed an interview panel with two other apprentices who became part of his training cohort, Adam started the apprenticeship in September 2020. It was a more challenging year than most because of ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic.

“When we first started, there was a very short period of going into the office and then we were plunged into lockdown two,” he recalls. 

“Thankfully, we had Teams and Zoom and plenty of training sessions. The only benefit was that construction had somewhat slowed down, so the amount of work the building surveyors had reduced. Therefore, they could spend more time training us during that period.”

Adam points out that one of the unintended benefits of the lockdown was that all of the apprentices learned to become independent because they had to use their own initiative when cracking on with work. 

Also, in terms of building up his knowledge and understanding, if he had a simple question and was in the office, he’d ask one of the surveyors. When this wasn’t possible, he had to search where to find the relevant information.

“In the long run it has meant that I have learnt a lot quicker than I would have done,” he feels.

Adam adds that developing this skill has really helped him with his building control work. 

“We work with regulations, a set of approved documents and the Building Regulations 2010 so the fact that we’ve learned to find information on our own, means that if someone asked the question again, I’d know where to look.”

Learning on the job

In so far as how he starts his day and completes his assignments, Adam explains that his day-to-day role is generally the same. In the morning he goes out and does site visits. Then, in the afternoon, he writes up the inspections and project manages. The type of inspections, however, has varied considerably. 

“Right at the start of my career we were looking at simple conservatory re-roofs and small extensions. That then progressed into looking at a one-off house or a two-storey extension,” he says. 

“Now, I will do inspections on housing sites, look at multiple plots and do some commercial work, like small warehouses, and office and shop fitouts. The actual projects differ massively. You are looking at different regulations for different projects. It gets quite technical.”

Initially, when Adam started, he was also assigned a mentor who would support him when he did site visits. Looking back, he feels having a mentor who guided him through the process at a constructive pace was hugely beneficial.

Challenges and rewards

So, what has he found most challenging about the role? On reflection, Adam feels the most difficult part of the job is dealing with home owners and advising them on what they can and can’t do, then explaining the reasons why. 

“It’s having conversations with people who might see a financial burden or you trying to change something on their plans, and they don’t understand why,” he says. 

“I’ve always found that if you are respectful of people, explain the regulation and why it’s there, most people are quite accommodating.”

Another challenge is getting to grips with and learning a large set of regulations governing surveying. 

“The part that a lot of people get scared about with the role is you go into an office where the surveyors have been doing the job for 25-30 years and you think, “How do you retain that level of information?” But you soon learn to take it all on-board.”

It’s clear from speaking to Adam that he finds the role hugely satisfying. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect is when projects have been completed and signed off. 

“Not every project is smooth, so when you have finished a project that has been more difficult than others and everyone is happy and has got everything that they need, it is a rewarding feeling,” he explains. 

“It is rewarding to feel you have built something that complies with the regulations, is safe and is constructed well.”

He also likes the independence he has, the trust his superiors place in him and the responsibility he is given to deliver these projects. 

It will be four years since he joined Assent Building Control in September and Adam is pleased with the progress he has made. 

During this time, he feels he has taken on more difficult projects and a greater number than would be expected for someone at his level. 

CABE award

His achievements are reflected in the judges’ remarks who said that “Adam shows passion, drive and determination [and] a willingness to go above and beyond”.

Adam admits he wasn’t aware that his employer had put him forward for the CABE award and feels honoured to have won the accolade for the apprentice category. 

“The judges said they hadn’t really seen anyone before with the experience I had gained from the apprenticeship and the level of the projects that I have worked on,” he says.

“We also record hours of training as part of our CPD. The judges did specify that one of the things they’d seen was my level of CPD and that it was exemplary.”

Looking to the future, Adam feels he would like to move more into the larger commercial side of building control. 

“There is a lot of room in the industry for surveyors and a lot of opportunities for someone in my position,” he concludes. 

“The commercial work is quite technical, and a lot of people oversee certain projects, so it would be nice to be able to involve myself on projects that are outstanding. We cover lots of commercial projects in Manchester and it’s interesting to see what the individuals involved do day to day. It’s definitely something I’d like to do.”

The CABE Built Environment Awards 2025 will be open for applications in July. Keep an eye on https://builtenvironmentseries.com/awards/ for updates.

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