‘Desperate’ students unable to gain a placement turn to unpaid work
Almost half of architecture students looking for work experience in their year out would be willing to work for free, according to the AJ’s State of Architectural Education survey.
With almost two-thirds of students still unable to find suitable work experience, the AJ’s online study of more than 400 students revealed that 46 per cent of those seeking placements would not demand payment. Over 70 per cent said they would try to find paid work elsewhere to subsidise their architectural experience.
Jessica Noel, a third-year student at Strathclyde University, said an ‘air of desperation’ was forcing aspiring architects to offer themselves for nothing.
Noel said: ‘Some students feel desperate after finding that the university is unlikely to take on students into fourth year if they are unable to gain a work placement. Others are willing to work for free because they want to get through the system as quickly and painlessly as possible.’
But the RIBA said the trend was ‘potentially damaging’, both for graduates and for the profession. David Gloster, the RIBA’s head of education, said: ‘Although unpaid work can have value as experience, it is essentially exploitative if the relationship becomes protracted.’
Stuart Piercy of Piercy Conner Architects agreed: ‘I am fundamentally against working for nothing. It is clearly a very privileged position for the lucky few whose parents can afford it, devalues what we do and sends the wrong messages to our clients.’
But Lorenzo Dwyer, a sixth-year student at Sheffield University, defended the decision by some students to work for free.
He said: ‘Non-paid employment is one of the few real options now remaining for out-of-work student architects. Free work is a strategic, long-term move to secure future paid employment and advance one’s architectural know-how.’