As we celebrate Black History Month our Black colleagues are sharing with us their journey into the property industry and how we can build a more inclusive environment. In this blog surveyor Jerome Solomon from our Project & Building Consultancy team tells us about his heritage, how he got into the sector and the advice he gives to graduates.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History month is a reminder of the sacrifices and contributions made by forefathers and ancestors of Black people across the world. The many stories provide great insight into the rich history of these individuals and is a reminder of the achievements and legacy of these trailblazers. Black History Month provides a time of reflection to acknowledge and celebrate the actions and decisions of those who paved the way, so that I can have the opportunities and experiences that I have today.
Can you tell us about your heritage?
My family originate from a small island famous for great food, music and record-breaking sprints. That island is of course Jamaica. My family migrated from the Caribbean to the UK in the 1960s when my grandfather and grandmother came to the UK, as part of what we now refer to as the Windrush Generation. They settled in Birmingham where my grandfather worked in manufacturing and my grandmother worked in a hospital until retirement.
My maternal bloodline descends from a group of people known as the Maroons who played an important role in the history of Jamaica and its liberation from slavery. The Maroons fought for independence of the people of Jamaica from slavery, with many sacrificing their lives in the struggle for freedom. Today the Maroons are honoured in Jamaica with Nanny of the Maroons displayed across the island as a national heroine, with her image appearing in places such as the island’s currency.
The theme of Black History Month in 2021 is ‘Proud to be’, what are you proud to be?
I’m proud to be a positive example to the younger members of my family and community. I am proud to be able to represent my culture and disprove the many misconceptions around young Black men.
Family and community have always been an important aspect of my life and I've always strived to be a positive example to the next generation. Through my own experiences of the education and work system I have been able to engage and provide direction to those growing up around me to steer them away from negative influences.
I’m proud to see the younger generation following in my footsteps within my family and community pursuing studies or beginning careers in areas such as software engineering, architecture, engineering and law. I’m proud to say my culture and heritage has taught me the importance of versatility, resilience and relentless drive in pursing my goals.
How did you get into this career?
Growing up I had a passion for business and completed a degree in business and marketing.
I’ve always had a fascination with buildings and when travelling or exploring a new area, buildings have always captured my attention. Whilst working in a sales role in residential property I met two building surveyors. I talked to them about their jobs and what a typical day as a surveyor looked like, they provided great personal accounts and encouraged me to research the opportunities and review the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ website.
I completed my masters degree in building surveying in 2017 and after successfully passing my Assessment of Professional Competence, I became a chartered building surveyor in 2020.
What advice would you offer to young Black people considering property as a career?
Property is a great industry to work in, there is a diverse range of specialisms available and I would encourage any young person who has a passion for property and architecture to consider the industry. I would encourage them to utilise social media channels such a LinkedIn to engage in discussions and connect with individuals who are already in the industry. Property has the potential to provide a rewarding and varied career and there is a need for diversity in the workforce.
Knowledge is important and I would recommend developing an understanding of the different modes of entry, such as university degrees and apprenticeships. Whilst studying, try to gain as much experience as possible and don’t be afraid to reach out to individuals to ask for work experience.
What can Colliers and the wider sector do to improve diversity and inclusion?
I think this needs to be approached at grass roots level within educational establishments and within local communities, particularly inner-city areas which are likely to have a larger demographic of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students and communities. Awareness needs to be generated around the different roles available within the property industry and the avenues available for entry.