Student stories: Surveying apprentice Ottilie’s tale of work, studies, world-class kayaking and being shortlisted for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year

Posted on: 2020-02-05

Completing your studies as an apprentice while learning to master your job requires plenty of determination and dedication. On top of this, our Level 3 Surveying Technician (Residential Survey pathway) apprentice, Ottilie Robinson-Shaw, is a freestyle kayaking World and European champion and was shortlisted for last year’s BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.


How does Ottilie find time to fit everything in? Here, the 18-year-old summarises how she manages to flourish in the worlds of surveying, academia and sport, and reflects on her SPOTY experience in our latest ‘Student stories’ blog…


Surveying workOttilie Robinson-Shaw

I work in a small practice that looks after private clients and specialises in prime central London residential valuations. As such, our work hours tend to be very much client-driven meaning we often work out of hours and weekends but we will likewise often have free days midweek.

I therefore have to be flexible in my training schedule but will usually be able to fit in a gym or kayak session most days.

We don’t really do job titles but officially I’m a trainee Valuation Surveyor. I assist with all aspects of valuation work from understanding and confirming instructions, meeting clients and undertaking inspections, calculating floor areas and analysing comparable evidence to preparing reports and advising clients. I’m lucky to see some of the finest London homes on a regular basis and meet some of the nicest clients.

I really enjoy my work. I have always enjoyed an interest in property and especially find the valuation process very interesting.

Studying with UCEM

The combination of online and face-to-face workshops works really well for me. I enjoy being able to work at my own pace with the online studying and take time to further research when necessary. The face-to-face workshops allow me to check in with my tutors, ask questions and to learn through a different style.



Ottilie sat in her kayak Ottilie kayaking

I started Kayaking when I was 11 years old at a local swimming pool. I really enjoyed learning to paddle and progressed to white water and freestyle when I was about 12. I have been very fortunate seemingly meeting just the right coaches at just the right time in my development and I really appreciate the importance of training at the best possible level. I have recently begun coaching myself and am enjoying the new challenge especially working with ladies and youngsters keen on the sport.

BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year nomination

Nominations are made by sporting national bodies; in my case, British Canoeing. I was nominated as reigning Freestyle World and European Champion.

Ottilie on the podium with her gold medal

Ottilie receiving her recent gold medal at the 2019 International Canoe Federation (ICF) Canoe Freestyle World Championships

I didn’t hear anything for quite a while and I assumed I hadn’t made it to the final shortlist of 10 athletes, so when I received the call I was super excited and very much honoured.

As part of the process we filmed some freestyle for the BBC at Lee Valley White Water Centre, home of the 2012 Olympics.

The Young SPOTY winner was announced at the BBC Teen Awards on Radio One. I sadly didn’t win but all the shortlisted young athletes were invited to attend the main BBC TV event which was held for the first time in Aberdeen at the P&J Live arena hosted by Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan.

We made the decision to drive and arrived in Scotland on the morning of the event. Whilst thousands poured into the arena, we had the opportunity to attend the VIP pre-show event where we shared the red carpet with many of the world’s best athletes and sporting heroes, including Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson. After the pre-event, the main event raised the bar still further with live performances from Lewis Capaldi and Emeli Sandé together with all the awards.

A couple of years ago, I was watching BBC SPOTY and concluded that one day I just wanted to go to the event. I never thought a few years later I would go as a VIP, get to sit alongside so many World Champions and be invited because of what I had achieved as an athlete. It felt amazing.

What next?

Kayaking-wise, 2020 is my first senior year and I’m focused on the European Championships in Paris this October and my first senior World Championships in Nottingham in 2021. Work-wise, I’m focused on achieving my Associate RICS and then hope to either continue working in London or perhaps a move to Nottingham to ideally combine work with training for the 2021 World Championships.


Are you also interested in becoming an apprentice? Have a look at our range of apprenticeships to find out more.

If you are a current student or apprentice and would like to tell your story, email with your idea and our team will get back to you.