RLB UK Managing Partner, Matt Summerhill Shares His RLB Journey During National Apprenticeship Week

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  • RLB UK Managing Partner, Matt Summerhill Shares His RLB Journey During National Apprenticeship Week
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Matt Summerhill


Matt Summerhill


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With 161,900 apprenticeship starts in the first two quarters of the 2020/21 academic year* and having an established apprenticeship programme within RLB UK, we know the value of apprenticeship schemes in helping us identify, nurture and grow great talent within our industry.

We have fully supported the Government Apprenticeship Levy Scheme since it came into force in April 2017, and were supporting apprenticeships long before that, since the beginning of the company. Currently RLB UK has 35 apprentices covering most of our UK offices. The subjects we cover range from cost management, building surveying, project management, HR and marketing.

As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we speak to Matt Summerhill, Managing Partner of RLB in Yorkshire and Humber, who joined us in 1996 as an apprentice quantity surveyor. Here he shares his apprenticeship journey at RLB.

How and why did you decide to become an apprentice?

I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do after I had finished my A Levels. I answered an advertisement in the local newspaper for an Apprentice Quantity Surveyor and thought getting into employment was the right option for me at that stage – I didn’t even know what a Quantity Surveyor (QS) did when I went for the interview! Getting experience of working alongside studying was the perfect combination for me and meant that I was getting structured training outside of my University degree, which helped me understand the theory much better.

Why did you choose to do it with RLB UK?

I spent a short time working for a small practice of just five people in Sheffield and saw an advertisement in Building Magazine for a role with Bucknall Austin. My uncle, who was a QS himself, had a huge amount of respect for David Bucknall and told me that if I wanted to go anywhere to really develop that was the place to go. I was still in the earliest stages of my degree, so it was a big decision to move to a different company and continue my learning elsewhere, but it was absolutely the right choice and my development increased enormously by having so many strong professional people around me.

How has your apprenticeship experience impacted on you and your career?

I guess the first thing is that it has given me an incredible understanding of the business from top to bottom. I have a significant empathy towards apprenticeships, as they have given me such an amazing grounding in my career. Learning on the job as well as studying, meant that I was probably further ahead in my career when I graduated than those who had done the degree full time…by that stage, I had five years of work experience as well as a degree education.

When you started your apprenticeship, what were your aspirations?

When I started my apprenticeship, my biggest aspiration was to get through the first year! I guess that I have always had a thirst for learning and so wanted to soak up everything that was thrown at me, whether that was in employment or my studies. My apprenticeship degree was also the start of building my professional network – there are people that I went to University with, that I am still working on projects with now over 20 years later!

What were your opinions on apprenticeships then and have they changed?

My overriding opinion was that by working and studying, I would be able to gain experience more quickly allowing me to develop and grow in a more organic way. Getting theoretical experience at University and then being able to put this in to practice in a real environment was a great way to reinforce that learning. I still believe that today.

What do you think is the biggest benefit of an apprenticeship?

The experience of putting into practice what you are learning shouldn’t be underestimated. You really do learn very quickly from your daily experiences in the working environment. Study becomes easier, as you have a context to relate to which helps you better understand the processes of a construction project. Having someone invest in your education and development is empowering and not having the financial concerns that many full-time students have, helps you focus on getting the best out of the course.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of an apprenticeship?

I think the biggest misconceptions are firstly, that you won’t be able to cope with working and studying. You very quickly learn time management skills and prioritisation with both work and study deadlines to manage – skills that will be vital for your whole career! Secondly, that by doing a degree via the apprenticeship route rather than full time, you will miss out on the social side. I can definitely assure you that is not the case!

What is your one piece of advice to any future RLB UK apprentice?

Embrace being able to learn the theoretical and the practical. Each challenge is an opportunity to grow as a professional and will be a foundation for your whole career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – both lecturers and colleagues in the office are desperate for you to be successful, they want to help you on your journey!

If you’re interested in becoming an apprentice at RLB, or to find out more about our apprenticeship programme, please contact recruitment@uk.rlb.com

Pictured L:R David Bucknall and Matt Summerhill (2005/2006)

*House of Commons Library, Apprenticeship Statistics, 30 March, 2021


Matt Summerhill
Matt Summerhill

Managing Partner - Yorkshire & Humber